Subj: How to Create a New Identity, Opt Out of Social Security, and Go Off-Grid
Maybe you think social security is one big Ponzi scheme.
Maybe you want to start your life fresh in a new town due to debt/spousal abuse/harassment/mafia ties/etc.
Or maybe you’re just a big Jack Reacher fan and want to experiment with living off the grid for a bit.
How exactly would you go about doing it?
I’d like to begin this article by saying that I’m not a crazy conspiracy theory guy who thinks the government is tapping his phones, or an anti-government anarchist who lives in a cabin out in the woods. I’m just a guy who likes coming up with clever solutions to problems. So while the subject matter of this article may be somewhat provocative, it’s written more as a hypothetical think-piece.
If you wanted to create a new identity, this is how you’d do it.
How to Create a New Identity
Step 1: Change Your Name
Depending on what state you live in, changing your name is a fairly simple process.
In California all you need to do is fill out a Change of Name Petition, then bring it down to the courthouse for submission. Once you have submitted your petition they will require you to place a notice in a local newspaper declaring your intention to change your name. This will cost about $70.
Once the declaration of name change has run in the paper for a few weeks the petition will be submitted to a judge who will either approve or deny it.
Even though it may seem unusual to us, judges see change of name petitions all the time, and they usually don’t even think twice about approving them. People change their names all the time for a number of reasons (marriage, divorce, adoption, etc). Judges don’t even lift any eyebrow when they come across these petitions, so they’ll usually approve them unless there is a very good reason not to (you are a pedophile, criminal on the run, etc).
Step 2: Terminate Your SSN and Opt Out of Social Security
Most people don’t realize that social security is a completely voluntary program. You are not required to be enrolled in it, and you can opt out at any time.
“But without a social security number how will I get a job/open a bank account/enroll in school/etc?”
These days it seems like you need a social security number for everything. Just the other day I had a phone company ask for my SSN when I went to purchase a cell phone plan.
It’s like you can’t get by in American society without one.
But is this really true?
Legally speaking, no.
You are not legally required to give out your social security number for any reason other than to receive social security benefits or file other paperwork specifically related to social security. In fact it’s actually a felony for a business to refuse you service for failing to provide one.
Social security numbers were never originally designed as a way to personally identify individuals, but due to the fact that all citizens are given one when they are born, and the fact that almost nobody opts out of it, a social security number is extremely convenient for that purpose. And because of the practice has become so commonplace, nobody even questions it.
Regardless of what you do with the rest of this article, opting out of social security is one takeaway which everyone can use.
Social security is not sustainable. As surely as 2+2=4, social security will eventually collapse. It’s a mathematical certainty.
Imagine being able to invest that money how you saw fit, rather than relying on a giant Ponzi Scheme to secure your future.
So here’s how you opt out of social security.
Call up your local social security office and inform them you would like to terminate your involvement in social security and ask what the process is.
As of the date of publication there is no official form you need to fill out, instead they will give you an address and instruct you to send a letter indicating that you would like to withdraw from social security. You will also most likely need to return your social security card.
Step 3: Get a Driver’s License without a Social Security Number
Now that you have a new name, you need to establish a history of residency which isn’t linked to your previous identity. This step is pretty straight forward. Find a community college in the state of Washington and enroll as a student using a Washington address. (NOTE: When you fill out the enrollment form, do not provide a social security number. They will allow you to enroll without one.)
Why should you do this?
Because on May 17 of 1993, with the passing of HB 1444 (Chapter 452, Laws of 1993), Washington became the first state to allow non-US citizens or those without social security numbers to obtain a driver’s license. The only thing which the applicant was required to show was that they had established residency in the state. This proof could take many forms, from utility bills and car titles to college transcripts and other school documents. Pretty much anything is allowed, as long as the document shows the applicant’s name and current Washington residence.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Vermont all have similar laws which allow someone to obtain a driver’s license without the paperwork normally required; however California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maryland, Utah, and Vermont law specifies that these driver’s licenses cannot be used as identification, Hawaii requires you to be an illegal alien, New Mexico requires you to provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and Nevada requires you to prove your identity and age.
So stick to Washington.
(NOTE: You will have to retake your driving test.)
Step 4: Apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and Open a Bank Account
Now that you have a new name and driver’s license which isn’t linked to your old identity, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This number will allow you to open a bank account without a social security number.
Once you have an ITIN, approach a bank and tell them that you’d like to open an account with an ITIN rather than a SSN.
Inform them you do not have a SSN as it has been legally terminated in accordance with 20 CFR 3 A7 404.1905 because you have opted out of social security.
At first they will probably tell you that they are unable to open an account without a SSN. Assure them that they can as long as you provide valid identification and an ITIN, pursuant to 31 CFR 103.34(a)(1). Be friendly. Remember, they’re not trying to bust your balls, mostly likely they just aren’t aware that they don’t technically need a SSN from you if you have an ITIN as a replacement.
You can also cite 26 CFR 301.6109-1(c) which states that banks are under no legal federal or state obligation to obtain a SSN from you, and doing so is actually against Social Security Administration policy.
If they still refuse and you want to play a bit of hardball, inform them that according to 42 USC 408 it is a felony to use threat, duress, or coercion to try and force a person by fear or deceit to provide a SSN. (Although if you need to take things this far it’s probably best just to try a different bank.)
Interestingly, there are certain groups of people who don’t even need to provide ITINs when opening a bank account. The list is outlined in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 31, Volume 1, Part 103, Subpart C, Sec. 103.34, Subsection 3; which I have reproduced below.
(3) A taxpayer identification number required under paragraph (a)(1) of this section need not be secured for accounts or transactions with the following:
(i) Agencies and instrumentalities of Federal, state, local or foreign governments;
(ii) judges, public officials, or clerks of courts of record as custodians of funds in controversy or under the control of the court;
(iii) aliens who are (A) ambassadors, ministers, career diplomatic or consular officers, or
(B) naval, military or other attaches of foreign embassies and legations, and for the members of their immediate families;
(iv) aliens who are accredited representatives of international organizations which are entitled to enjoy privileges, exemptions and immunities as an international organization under the International Organization Immunities Act of December 29, 1945 (22 U.S.C. 288), and the members of their immediate families;
(v) aliens temporarily residing in the United States for a period not to exceed 180 days;
(vi) aliens not engaged in a trade or business in the United States who are attending a recognized college or university or any training program, supervised or conducted by any agency of the Federal Government;
(vii) unincorporated subordinate units of a tax exempt central organization which are covered by a group exemption letter,
(viii) a person under 18 years of age with respect to an account opened as a part of a school thrift savings program, provided the annual interest is less than $10;
(ix) a person opening a Christmas club, vacation club and similar installment savings programs provided the annual interest is less than $10; and
(x) non-resident aliens who are not engaged in a trade or business in the United States. In instances described in paragraphs (a)(3), (viii) and (ix) of this section, the bank shall, within 15 days following the end of any calendar year in which the interest accrued in that year is $10 or more use its best effort to secure and maintain the appropriate taxpayer identification number or application form therefore.
And while I suspect nobody reading this fits any of these categories, if you were sneaky I’m sure there are some loopholes you could exploit using this information.
Step 5: Apply for a Credit Card
Now that you have an ITIN and bank account, you can use it to apply for a credit card.
Due to the fact that your new bank account is not linked to an identity with any credit history, you will be starting off with no credit history. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your particular credit situation.
Because you have no credit history, you may need to start off with a “secured credit card.” This is a credit card in which you put up a security deposit in return for a line of credit equal to the deposit. These secured cards usually involve fees (although they usually aren’t too bad). On the bright side, they typically offer guaranteed approval even with no credit history.
After using this secured credit card for a year or so to build up a credit history, you will be able to apply for a “normal” credit card with no deposit and no annual fee.
Remember, while banks have the right to deny your credit card application because of a lack of credit history, they DO NOT have the right to deny your credit card application because you used an ITIN rather than a SSN.
Step 6: Enjoy Your New Life
And the best part is you haven’t broken any laws.
You LEGALLY changed your name. You LEGALLY opted out of social security. You LEGALLY obtained a new driver’s license (with your new LEGAL name). You LEGALLY opened a bank account. You LEGALLY applied for a credit card.
All you have done is ensured that the information you’ve given these agencies isn’t linked to your (now defunct) old social security number.
You can now start fresh with a new identity.
Use it wisely.
Until next time,