They Are Watching
I know that several other blogs have also mentioned this today, but I got the link from a friend in New Zealand and had already decided to write about it tonight. I have not yet read any of the other blogs' thoughts on the matter.
The Oath Keepers organization put out information that revealed federal agents have gone to a LDS (Mormon) cannery in Tennessee "demanding" that they release their customer list. The agents were very upset that the cannery did not maintain such records and used "cash and carry."
Now, I don't know if this was a one time thing and they were looking for info on a particular person, if they were on a "fishing expedition," or what, but what if this becomes a nationwide thing? There have already been cases of FBI agents visiting surplus stores and asking them to track their customers. What can you do to stay off of the lists?
Grocery Stores: Those VIP cards offer some great discounts. But they also give the store all of your purchasing history. Some writers suggest not using them, but I say use them, but when you fill out the registration form, use bogus information, and then only use cash when purchasing. No record of you is kept. You could even have another card under a real registration that you use for your regular grocery shopping if you pay with a debit card. Just make them easily identifiable or keep them separate.
LDS Canneries: I've mentioned in the past that I plan to visit our local cannery this winter. Well, I'll surely be paying in cash and not sharing my address, full name, etc... on any forms. I think they are just fine with that.
Gear or Surplus Stores: I'd treat them the same way that I treat the cannery. Cash is king, and no one needs your address. Check for surveillance cameras and don't park right in front of the doors so your license plates won't be visible (one of the benefits if you live in a rear plate only state). If it is a video taped system they probably have reused the tapes so many times that they are almost unreadable, and they probably tape over every 30 days at the most. If it is an IP-based system, they probably don't store hard copies of every day's activities, and the hard drive gets recorded over every 14 days or so, so surveillance cameras are not a huge concern.
Mail Order: How do you order cases of freeze dried food and stay anonymous? One way to limit your history is to use pre-paid credit cards. It adds a bit to the cost, but it ensures nothing gets connected to your bank accounts. You can also use a money order from 7-11 if you are going totally by mail. But what about shipping? Do you have a friend/fellow prepper in the mail room or receiving dock at work that will know to get deliveries for your fake name? What about an elderly relative who still lives on their own? Hey, Uncle Joe... I need to order some things for the house, but I won't be home when they deliver and the neighbor kids might steal it... can I have it sent to your house? I suggest an elderly relative rather than just a trusted neighbor because, if the big search comes in a few years, there's a chance the relative might have passed by then and won't be able to tell the agents about all the boxes he got for you that time.
As recently as 10-15 years ago, you could have anonymous mail dropping services at a private mailbox facility. No ID was needed, and you could make up names and pay in cash. There was a time when I had different survival and gun magazines delivered that way and bought the subscriptions using money orders under an assumed name. Now, you need ID (although I'm sure there are some that still work on a cash/no questions basis), and unless you are a big time criminal or illegal alien, fake ID is probably not something you want to mess with. From the days before widespread computer networks, getting a fake ID was a pretty simple matter. I've got an early 90's book on the subject, and the novel, Unintended Consequences has a pretty good summary of the technique using birth certificates of dead children. But those techniques are not worth the risk anymore in my opinion.
The biggest problem, though is what you are looking at right now. Realistically, if they wanted to, the feds could track down most every visitor to If It Hits The Fan, or any other site that might be someday deemed, "subversive." The day may be coming when, to be perfectly safe, you'll need a separate laptop, bought for cash second hand, and only used for brief periods on different public wi-fi, and never with email or for anything that you buy. Some might call that idea paranoid, but it could get to the point where survivalists are declared to be the bad guys. Have a plan B, even if you never have to execute it.