The Privacy Benefits of Living Full-Time in an RV
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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 currently (as of this writing) deductible as mortgage interest on a primary home!
Initially you will have a “privacy” issue when you purchase your RV. The RV dealer will need to collect your name and address in order to register the sale with the state (and thus place the licensing requirement to you). 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.
Alternately, if you purchase your RV in a different state from that in which you reside, the RV dealer will not contact your state for licensing. However, they will still need to collect your name and address to do a “Report of Sale.” And, your name may still get sold to campground memberships unless you scream and holler and stamp your feet. If you purchase your RV out of state, it is your responsibility to register the RV and pay the appropriate sales tax to your own state.
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 I have seen happen is for a company 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! Or, some people use their grown children’s address as a “physical” address. 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. Upon joining Escapees, you can optionally get a Texas physical address. Escapees provides mail forwarding support (for the cost of the postage) 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! (The good news is that Texas has no state income tax!) 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.
If using a Texas address is not to your liking, then Florida and South Dakota (two more states that have no state income tax) have options. You can set up a contract with a mail forwarding service in either of those states, and it is your “legal” address. Again, you will have to deal with registering your vehicles, obtaining a driver’s license, and registering to vote. This web site (http://rvroadtrip.us/library/mail.php) provides options on mail forwarding. I personally use the UPS Store ( http://www.theupsstore.com/Pages/index.aspx ), as this business is available in most states; and they claim that they can give you a legal address. (United Parcel Service purchased the former Mail Boxes Etc. franchise in 2001, although some remaining stores may still use the Mail Boxes Etc. name.) However, check with your preferred state to see if UPS Store can be a legal address. When I signed up in 2011, it was not a big hassle. The branch I use did not require any “physical” address although I did provide one.
Yet another option is to use the address of an RV park that you might stay with for awhile. There are various RV resorts that cater to “full-timers” by providing mail slots for you to use. This gives you a good “physical” address if your state requires one for your driver’s license and car plates. However, if you move around every six months or so, then you will be constantly changing addresses.
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. I have a cell phone; and I also have a “wireless landline.” The wireless landline service involves plugging an existing telephone into a router. (This is different from the “Vonage” service, which requires an internet connection.) Verizon was the first to introduce this in 2011. Since then, other companies, including Wal-Mart, are offering the service. This telephone option is considered “wireless” service, and is subject to the laws. However, if you ported your number from a regular land line to a wireless service, it may be difficult for telemarketers to realize your number is a wireless number. It’s a good idea to register on the Do Not Call website. However, before selecting a telephone carrier, you may want to research articles similar to this one (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/administration-law... ) if this is a concern to you.
Another communication option is to carry a cell phone on the cheapest plan you can get (Prepaid Plans may be a good option) for friends and family to contact you, but set up a “message number” (which is technically known as “remote access to call forwarding” but could also be known by different names, depending on the service provider) for banks and credit card companies. This is a number that doesn’t ring anywhere (except somewhere in the phone company’s system), 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 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. I’m aware that Frontier and AT&T had the “remote access to call forwarding” service at one time. If you want this service, you may have to be persistent and ask for a customer service rep that has been around for a few years, as younger customer service representatives may not be aware of it. The cost will vary, depending on your location and the service provider.
One thing to note: telephone companies will 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. The current exception that I am aware of is Verizon. Verizon currently reports monthly to the Credit Reporting Agencies. Because of this, Verizon will not remove your Social Security Number from their 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
- Retire to an RV: The Roadmap to Affordable Retirement by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alyce Zyetz
The above books can currently be ordered from online booksellers such as the Amazon.com web site.
[Note: There are no Privacy Rights Clearinghouse endorsements implied in the author’s naming the companies discussed in this article.]
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