There is yet more stormy weather brewing in the Bermuda Triangle of Keynesian central banking, exploding government, and the corporate-state industrial complexes — and even more violent than before. So as we go into this final phase of the economic crack-up boom and on to bust, hold on to any assets very tightly, because a lot of people are going to be after them — and the biggest member of that group is Mr. Big himself, Big Brother.
Actually, Mr. Big doesn't really care whether people hold onto assets legally or otherwise. The job of ordinary people, from his point of view, is to just pony up anyway. If he finds out they are avoiding that in a perfectly legal way, then to him that is the most annoying of all. After all, why should they get away with it, while millions of other hard working taxpayers slave away night and day to pay their fair share? He never bothers to explain how there can be a "fair share" of far too much.
As you will no doubt have heard, recently the UK and a few other places have had a spate of riots. In one of the more laughable news items was the claim that in London, it was "anarchists" spoiling a nice quiet en masse demonstration of spongers, against any and all government cuts.
After these perpetrators had first smashed up a private building, one of them climbed up the front and for the benefit of the world's news cameras, spray painted the name of the boss on the wall, followed by, "…PAY YOUR TAXES".
The whole thing was so ridiculous because the boss doubtless pays more tax than all of them put together. But he was nonetheless, a suspected legal loophole jumper. In other words, politicians dreaming up all the laws they want is no longer enough — now we are told governments should expect donations.
The other point of amusement was that these "anarchists" wanted the boss to donate more tax to government which, according to their title they should oppose. But government PR machines like the BBC like to adjust and make such words incendiary to convey the idea that without Big Brother everything would be chaos i.e. even worse than this fine mess they have gotten us into.
In reality, these were just spoilt kids who would destroy anyone that requires responsibility or doesn't give them something for nothing: heads of business, household, church, property etc. They love the illegitimate and unnatural Big Brother state because it serves their purpose of destroying those legitimate natural authorities.
The main point to note is that there are a lot of confused people out there and whether labelled "socialist", "conservative", "liberal", or "anarcho-sponger" most of them are after your money for their grand ideas. They are all hoping a new improved Big Brother will see things their way and get it for them.
But this idea in different forms has been growing for the last 100 years. The results are in, and now it's reckoning time in the West. So if you want to get through this storm or even be able to help others caught in it, then it is up to you to do something about it.
With countries, banks and currencies teetering on the brink of oblivion, every economic sage worth his salt has been advising anyone with anything worth saving, to put it into gold. The very best sages have been advising against trusting it all to the physical location of their home country.
But of course there is still the need to interact with the as yet unenlightened fiat currency world. Hopefully then, at least some readers will have taken steps to operate businesses and/or bank accounts outside their home country. Hopefully also, they have been skipping through every legal loophole they can find to protect those assets.
But relying entirely on those legal manoeuvres to save them? I hope they are not so naive.
The fact is, the moment Mr Big finds out that enough people avoid paying up, he will either change the law or just issue administrative "clarification" — often of dubious legality and sometimes even with retrospective effect.
Thus leaving the unwary like sitting ducks: all assets legally, officially and publicly registered according to the old regime — and ripe for picking off under the new. Or even if they do still comply, Mr. Big's dependants don't like it one bit and at the drop of a hat will call for creative regulatory scheming to freeze, seize, or otherwise keep the ducks and/or their nest eggs tied up in expensive bureaucratic legal wrangling for as long as possible.
Perhaps their worldly possessions are in a difficult part of the world to get hold of, but just as significantly, they themselves may not be. Case in point: the recent change in US gold storage foreign reporting regulations. Now, any significant gold overseas in any kind of "financial account" (very loosely defined) is supposed to be registered by US citizens. It's no coincidence of course that all this is happening at the same time as steps to require reporting of sales by US based gold dealers.
Who was it coined the term, "Registration leads to confiscation"? My guess is Big G himself, gleefully rubbing his hands in an unguarded moment; or it may have been a victim — after their lawyer had told them it led to, "peace of mind". The fact is, on any list of reasonable alternatives it doesn't take a lawyer to know that registration should be near the end — and there are reasonable alternatives.
But the grasping is not limited only to Mr Big; the Big gang has also bought and paid for private collaborators. Meaning, in the "offshore" world, that the buyer needs to beware of private sharks — and not just the obvious fraudsters:
A couple of years ago, one insider (tittle-tattling to the socialist "Tax Justice Network") detailed how short-sighted lawyers and unprincipled private bankers actually welcome legal uncertainty and regulatory enforcement. Their reasoning is that it serves to scare smaller clients (wholly dependent on the legal protection now gone or in doubt) on to the next expensive strategy — and all the while, lucrative multi-layer elite client strategies remain unaffected.
The big and favoured banks — closest to the central bank money printing machine — also collude with "revolving door" regulators and wholly-owned politicians to craft regulations onerous to smaller competitors. Like a rigged sports game, owned politicians can even be bribed or blackmailed into taking a political "dive" to advance powerful interests. There is no doubt in my mind this has gone on in the recent Swiss bank secrecy compromises.
But the game is not over yet. Also, honourable mention should be given here to the bankers of the Swiss canton Ticino, who have so far stood firmly in favour of financial privacy for all — while expressing their disappointment at the lack of support from some others.
Privacy as a Strategy
I find just about anything politicians or civil servants scribble on paper obnoxious — just reading it develops a kind of perverse faith in their omnipotence, far beyond any prudence or caution. So I am very glad not to be in the legal advice business; but the upshot of it all is this: No matter what asset protection measures you take — even with the utmost legality — to prevent unjust seizure (public or private) it is very much in your interest to incorporate privacy measures into that strategy.
In particular, if it involves using offshore corporate legal vehicles, financial accounts, or a gold depository, then to retain any confidentiality it is essential to incorporate internet and communications privacy.
Anyone who has been through an official investigation, even when found completely "innocent", can confirm how so not fun it is. Usually, it will all have started with a suspicion or misinterpretation of something simple that attracted attention.
Think about it: Even with the perfect strategy in place, just one home phone call to a bank or depository, and that record forever more advertises the location of those assets. It might not be enough to prove anything — but since when did Mr. Big's bureaucratic standards of evidence include having to prove anything? At the very least, it is a starting point for further enquiries.
But that is just phone communications; even postal mail is increasingly automated, reading without opening is possible, and digital snapshots are taken of the "from" and "to" addresses.
The internet offers such great potential, and yet can give even more away:
Privacy Threats Online
There are three primary threats on the internet (unfortunately, plus a bunch of secondary ones):
- Internet numbering or "IP addresses" — just like phone numbers and "Caller Line ID".
- Internet Providers — itemising and recording everything, like a phone company bill.
- Wiretaps of internet traffic — feeding massive spook data centres, in real-time.
With all these and other data sources converging rapidly; in theory at least, all Mr Big needs to do is put out a sort of "All Points Bulletin" to get a list of everyone say, logging in to a certain bank. Or, he could generate a report listing all internet subscribers accessing the secure login page of a number of banks or gold depositories — to be flagged for further enquiries.
Remember: a secure login page might keep the details secret, but it is also a very public record that a financial relationship exists.
I am sure that such perfectly coordinated, highly efficient surveillance systems are not fully in place, simply because they are the offspring of bloated bureaucracies. But things are certainly heading that way and especially with a known target, it is not very difficult to track activity. In the UK, for example, even local education officials can monitor phone calls and internet traffic.
Mobile broadband is not only just as vulnerable, but introduces the additional concerns that both activity and unique internal handset IDs are continuously located — often to within a few feet — by either cell mast "triangulation" or GPS. That's on top of the recent concerns about Smartphones secretly storing and sooner or later uploading a location tracking history file.
Here is something else to bear in mind:
Even if the recording and reporting of internet activity is not being acted upon right now, with the vast majority of US internet providers and with all in the EU, the activity history (inc. websites visited and email/call/chat/Skype contacts) is continuously accumulating at the provider and/or spook data centres, and in many cases will still be there for years to come.
So — what can be done?
Anyone even briefly or accidentally logging in without any privacy measures will leave a trail straight to their mother lode. This is like mistakenly dialling a phone number and then hanging up — a unique entry will still be on the itemised bill, and just as obvious as any other call. But there is at least one thing they could do:
Pick a number of secure bank/depository/financial websites located in the same or a similar jurisdiction. Then head to the account login pages, one by one, and just leave them open for a few minutes. It doesn't matter whether they have a username or password (that is not visible from outside) the point is they are visiting a secure login page and thereby creating a smokescreen. It is perfectly plausible and also true that they were just making a number of enquiries.
But what if they have been "securely" accessing their lode for some time, but without any thought for internet privacy?
In that case, all I can think of is to change internet provider as soon as possible (or disconnect and re-subscribe under a new name) and start thinking about internet privacy from then on. Hopefully the trail will be lost in the shuffle.
There are a number of free and low cost solutions online — generally called "proxy servers". These do have many valid uses, but are also fraught with pitfalls and often leak information around the proxy.
Note especially that a proxy server normally only conceals identity from the online destination address, but conceals nothing from the Internet Provider — almost all of whom, at some stage, will have links to BB's snoops.
The best solution, in brief, is to use a "VPN" privacy service, which basically moves your entire internet activity to the third party service's computer and away from your own. It is important to know though, that this must be set up correctly to avoid identity or activity leaks. Then there are a number of secondary pitfalls for the unwary, and on top of that are usability factors like speed, response and also jurisdictional risk at the server location.
But you can certainly go a long way towards improving things yourself, and for the practical implementation of these and other solutions, you could look at some of my other internet privacy articles. Maybe start with "Defeating the New Internet Privacy Threat" which also links to most of the others at the end. If it is all too "tech" for you, just try "Easy Internet Privacy" to get started. Some third party service and software suggestions may need updating, but if I wrote a privacy article every week, I would still say the same basics as detailed in those articles.
However, if your needs are demanding (e.g. online trading) or if there are amounts involved that matter, you could definitely use some help. In particular: if you have spent significant amounts on offshore financial or precious metals strategies, then spending on assistance to lock down the last few percentage points of internet privacy risk is just good sense.
One other thing: In finding solutions, it always helps when you understand the problem a bit better — and so that's one reason I recently put together an internet privacy tutorial in video form.
The Internet Privacy Tutorial
You will find this video tutorial easily understandable — and it is educational rather than promotional. I've been careful to use little or no jargon, but there is still something for everyone in the three main parts: "Privacy Threats"; "Privacy Solutions" and "Pitfalls for the Unwary" — the total being around 50 minutes. There are helpful notes throughout, as well as graphics where useful.
To watch, you will need the passphrase — the name of the only US presidential candidate worth listening to. As long as bandwidth holds up, you can view it free right here:
Some, who will have watched the main tutorial, will be seriously considering tech help. They can email me about the additional 30 minute "Special Services" video, which is both educational and promotional. Primarily, this details "The Internet Privacy Package" — a complete customised privacy solution, which includes some unique hardware and software as well as consultancy time, technical expertise, extensive video tutorials, updates, anonymous third party accounts and more.
It also includes a summary of the unique "Swiss Gold Storage Solution." This is in several ways the best facility I know of for smaller scale storage (<$250k say) or as a privacy conduit to and from a main depository. It is absolutely non-reportable (even under new US rules); very inexpensive; high security, etc. etc. This is a reasonable alternative to registration, wherever you live.
Obviously, the Privacy Package is not for everyone and while I never accept personal info or ID (please use first or nickname only) there has to be an approval process to avoid crooks and the fake personas of junior snoops with nothing better to do.
This is a time of crisis and therefore I believe, opportunity. But it is certainly the worst possible time to place total reliance on the shifting quicksand of political legislation or administrative fiat — even "offshore".
Governments everywhere are getting desperate, and with it more and more overtly abusive, violent and arbitrary. They will take what they can most easily see and will not let their own legalities get in the way. If it is low hanging fruit, they will pick it, eat it up and argue about the pips afterwards and at the victim's cost.
Yet, for myself and for others who are prepared, I am hopeful. Partly this is from having lived through dictatorship and hyperinflation before — in another part of the world. In a hyperinflationary environment at least governments are weakened, scorned and ineffective. While still dangerous and while "formal" freedom will be lacking and some certainly will suffer, informal freedom can also be maximized and new opportunities abound. Especially for those who still have something to invest when the dust finally settles.
One final thought: So what have you got to hide if you haven't done anything wrong? I would say, more to the point — Why would anyone want to know, if they didn't intend to take it from you?
Whatever asset protection strategy you choose, to reduce vulnerability: have a policy of privacy.
Paul Green [send him mail] supplies computer security and privacy services to clients worldwide: remotely from the UK or Switzerland, and on-site within Switzerland.