RV Full-timing and Privacy Protection (Dippel)

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Copyright © 2006-2016
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Posted December 1, 2006

Contributed by J. J.replace

Contributed by J. J. Dippel 

If you really want to go “underground” and avoid junk mailers, living in an RV can help you achieve almost invisible status.  To do this, you need to sell your house, give your furniture and other furnishings to charity (and take a tax write off!), put any treasured belongings that you can’t bear to part with (but have no room in your RV), into storage, and take off! 

Once you live in an RV (and have sold your home), you will no longer be listed on a property tax web site, for all junk mailers to see and to come after you!  Further, you will no longer need accounts with utility companies, as RV parks provide the utilities.  And, even better, since the RV is your primary residence, the interest (if you financed it) is deductible as mortgage interest!

Initially you will have a “privacy” issue when you purchase your RV.  More than likely, your RV dealer will sell your name to businesses who offer campground memberships.  You will need to scream, holler, and stamp your feet by insisting that your name is not to be sold, rented, or otherwise proliferated in any manner to any entity outside the RV dealer (unless it pertains to a specific repair)!  Alternatively, find an RV dealer that has a reputation for not selling names. 

Keep in mind, car (and RV) dealers are not obligated to comply with Gramm-Leach-Bliley.  This law pertains to financial institutions.  Usually, auto/RV dealers will offer opt out as a courtesy.   If they don’t, ask for it!  On the other hand, if the RV dealer offers in-house financing (such as credit and payment plans, or leasing options), then, the RV dealer is required to comply with Gramm-Leach-Bliley on the financing part!  Further information is available at http://business.ftc.gov/privacy-and-security/gramm-leach-bliley-act .

Another area where you will need to fight for your privacy rights is proliferation of your name by RV service dealers to third parties who are “acting on behalf” of your RV dealer when you go for service.  What is becoming standard practice is to hire third parties who will contact you “on behalf of” your RV dealer to ask if you were happy with the service.  This is legal because the third party is “acting on behalf.”  However, your personal information has still been provided to another entity (and another database to hack!) without your consent! To get around this, when you go for RV service, tell the dealer to enter only your name, city, and state.  In the “street address” and the “phone number” portion, have the RV dealer enter “junk” information (or leave it blank).  Then, ask the RV dealer to place your phone number in “comments.”  Whether or not the service provider actually needs your physical street address is up to you.  If you decide to provide it, ask for that information to be placed in “comments.”  It is difficult to prevent an auto/RV dealer from passing your name on for this purpose.  However, if you try this technique, more than likely, if the RV dealer does hire a third party service to “act on behalf,” they either won’t provide the “comments” section to the third party, or the third party will ignore the comments, as their software won’t know what to do with it.

Now that we have sold our home and given away our worldly possessions, it’s time to go underground!  Keep in mind, we are not trying to “hide,” per se; we are merely trying to stand up for our right to keep our privacy from being invaded.  The best way to do this is to have a friend who will rent a corner of their property to you, complete with electrical hookup! However, this may not be possible for everyone.

RV “full-timers” swear by an organization known as Escapees (www.escapees.com).  Joining this organization can be helpful if you don’t want to stay in any one place very long, but just need a “base” address.  There are various RV resorts that cater to “full-timers” by providing mail slots for you to use.  Upon joining Escapees, you can optionally get a Texas physical address.  Escapees also provides a free email address and mail forwarding support to where ever you happen to be.  If you choose to use the Texas address, the down side is that you will need to make a trip to Texas to register all your motor vehicles and obtain a driver’s license.  

If the specific jurisdiction requires, you may also need to make a trip to Texas every year or couple of years for a vehicle inspection sticker.  (And Texas requires your Social Security number to be recorded on your license records!)  You will also need to file your income taxes as a Texas resident!  Some states “frown” on people who have their auto registered in one state, their driver’s license in another state, and file taxes claiming “residence” in yet a third state.  The various state laws on this may be somewhat obscure and hard to find. 

Whether or not you choose to join Escapees, if you don’t need the Texas address, or you would like to stay in one place for awhile, then the best option is to use the RV Park address.  This gives you a good “physical” address if your state requires one for your driver’s license and car plates (and won’t accept a PO Box).  However, for your credit cards and bank statement, you could sign up for a PO Box if you wish.  The Post Office will ask you for your physical address; you could give them the RV park address, or any other address you want to provide.  Use a Postal Service Box address for banking, credit cards, insurance, and other business you may need to transact.  Then, use the RV park address for your friends to contact you. 

If you choose to use a private mail box from a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA) such as Mail Boxes Etc., then you will have some privacy issues due to new regulations enacted by the Postal Service in 1999 to slow down mail fraud.  These regulations specify that a box used in this manner must be identified as such by using a “PMB” designation.  Therefore, your state may or may not accept this as a physical address.  Additionally, you must supply copies of identification, one being a picture ID, to obtain a box at a CMRA.  This does create a privacy issue. 

For registering your car and getting a driver’s license, you may or may not have to provide your Social Security number and a physical address.  For a “one stop review” of requirements for driver’s license and auto registration requirements in each state, visit www.onlinedmv.com.

Although most RV parks/resorts take credit cards, the best way to keep a low profile is to pay cash.  The RV park/resort would still have a record that you were there, but no one else would know if you didn’t tell them. 

RV Full-timers swear by their cell phones.  However, giving your cell phone number to banks, credit card companies, or any other company for which you transact business is an invitation to junk calls.  The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits telemarketing calls to cell phones using an automatic dialing system or prerecorded messages.  However, if you give your cell phone number to businesses, you will end up getting the “junk” calls, despite this law.  These companies count on you “not wanting to bother” with taking them to court for breaking the law.

Give your cell phone number only to friends and family.  There are two ways to keep from providing your cell phone number to businesses:

1.  RV parks with on-site phone connections   Larger RV parks/resorts have on-site phone connections.  In some cases, the RV park may have their own “switch” and can issue you a phone number on the spot.  This is the preferred option, as you won’t have to sign up with a phone company.  You will generally pay $1 or $2 a night for this option.  It’s worth it!  In other cases, the RV park/resort may have the connection available, but you must get an account from the phone company.   

2.  Message number   You can request a “message number” (which is technically known as “remote call forwarding”) from a phone company that offers local service.  The cost will vary, depending on your location and the service provider, but ballpark amount (according to Verizon) is around $20-$25 a month.  This is a number that doesn’t ring anywhere (except somewhere in the phone company’s office), but has voice mail.  Give this number to banks, credit cards, and insurance agents.  When they call, they will always get voice mail.  You access the messages to the voice mail by dialing a toll free number.  Further, you won’t have to worry about telemarketers, because generally, they don’t waste their time with voice mail/answering machines.  Although telemarketers won’t be a problem in this case, it is still a good idea to insist that the phone company not sell your address information.  

One thing to note:  If your message number is with Verizon, this company is currently reporting monthly to credit reporting agencies.  Phone companies have not previously done this.  Therefore, Verizon will require your Social Security number.  On the other hand, phone companies ask for your Social Security number in order to run a “credit check.”  Once the credit check is run, the phone company has no further need to have your Social Security number, but it’s up to you to call and strongly insist that the number be removed from the record. 

In summary, it is hard to achieve complete anonymity.  However, living in an RV can help you be almost invisible to junk mailers.  Further information on the fundamentals of living in your RV is available in the following books written by folks who “full-time” in their RV:

            The Complete Guide to Full-Time RV’Living by Bill and Jan Moeller
            Living Aboard Your RV by Gordon and Janet Groene

Both of the above books can currently be ordered from online booksellers such as the Amazon.com web site.