Black Bag Confidential Reader,
In this week’s mailbag, I’ll reveal the best way to hide your home address, the most important thing to look for in a bug-out bag and how to evade GPS tracking — even on your smartphone. Plus, I’ll share some good advice and valuable resources I received from two of my readers.
If you have a safety or survival tip — or question — send me an email at SPYfeedback@LFB.org.
Now let’s dive in.
I remember reading something about getting a UPS P.O. Box. I want to read again, but I cannot find it. What exactly do you recommend for protecting my home address?
— Richard S.
One of the easiest things you can do to keep your information private is set up a P.O. Box at a UPS Store. The reason you want to do this at the UPS Store (rather than your local post office) is because your UPS mailbox qualifies as a physical address. It would read something like “343 N. Main St., #432,” instead of “P.O. Box 101.”
This allows you to register your cars at that address and have that address on your driver’s license, too. This is where you should have ALL mail sent — including packages. Even if you order things from Amazon (or any online retailer), you should have everything sent to your UPS Store address.
What do you recommend for a backpack to use as a bug-out bag? I like the 5.11 tactical pack…
— Brandon G.
There are tons of different bug-out bags on the market. The reality is many of them come from the same manufacturer — they just have different branding. I agree — 5.11 makes quality gear. I would definitely give them a try.
When you buy a new bug-out bag, the first thing you should do is load it up with all your gear and go for a walk. You want to test it right away to make sure it will hold all your bug-out gear, the zippers won’t fail and the bag doesn’t fall apart.
This is an important piece of gear (that holds all your other important gear), so just make sure you buy quality no matter what.
When you tout your tactical pen, you say you carry it on planes. Since 2017, TSA says that tactical pens are martial arts weapons and are forbidden to be carried on board.
— Ed F.
That might be the official rule, but I’ve flown with my tactical pen for a number of years and I’ve never had a problem with TSA. I’ve also taken my tactical pen all over the world and never had a problem flying internationally either.
Obviously, I don’t display it or say, “Look at my cool tactical pen.” I simply put it in my carry-on bag with the cap on the business end and go through security.
I always look forward to your interesting and valuable articles. I have a hunting knife that I purchased about 50 years ago that I have never used as I felt it was too pretty and I was not a hunter. I was selling Cutco cutlery when I was in college and they sold this hunting knife that has very good metal in the blade with a Double-D edge on the blade, which is like a serrated blade. The handle is made of the same material that bowling balls are made of so it is VERY durable, and it is formed to contour to a hand so you don’t lose your grip. Will this knife be good for self-defense?
— Gerry C.
This sounds like a good knife to add to your bug-out bag. Depending on the size, I’m not sure it’s something you should carry on your body, as it may be too big. What I mean is I usually like to carry a knife that I’m able to conceal yet can deploy quickly if needed.
However, your knife sounds durable and could definitely be an added piece of gear for survival situations. In my opinion, the most critical aspect of a knife is whether it will hold up when you need it most. You mentioned the knife is 50 years old, but it would be nice to know if there was any testing done to ensure its quality.
I want to know how to evade surveillance we tend to not think about, like GPS tracking on our phones.
— Warren W.
The fact is GPS tracking is in many of the devices we use these days — including smartphones and tablets. Some older flip phones don’t have GPS tracking, which is why I still use a flip phone that’s older than dirt.
Now, I know you can turn off the GPS on smartphones. However, if the phone is hacked or compromised in any way, you could still be tracked.
One of the many reasons I recommend using a VPN on your smartphone in addition to your tablet and computer is because it’s another way to reduce the likelihood of being tracked.
For example, if I’m browsing the internet on my computer with my VPN turned on, my location would show as if I were in another state. For instance, right now, I am typing this from my office in Utah, but my location shows that I’m in New Jersey.
The VPN I use is called TunnelBear. Click here for a free seven-day trial to try it for yourself.
I spent considerable time in government working cyber issues as well as in private industry. While a VPN is great for keeping your actual traffic secure from your ISP, using Google to search the web has Google tracking you. Other search engines do the same, such as Bing. What you actually need is a search engine that doesn’t track you. One of the most popular is DuckDuckGo. Getting a browser that doesn’t track you is also important— Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome can all track and report as well. Firefox is better, but if you want to really stop the trackers, look at Epic browser, which also includes a nontracking search function. This won’t stop a nation–state from tracking you (that would require quite a bit of technical expertise to mitigate) but these recommendations will cut down on the main commercial tracking resources.
— Mike C.
This is great advice, Mike. I appreciate you sharing it. DuckDuckGo is definitely one of the best search engines you can use to protect your privacy.
I am a PR and PIO for South Orange Amateur Radio Association in Southern California. By the way, most ham clubs offer license classes for just the cost of supplies. A list of local clubs can be found at http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club. My club can be found at www.soara.org.
— Knute J.
Thank you for passing along this information. Ham radio operators are an incredibly valuable resource in a disaster situation.
The fact is in this day and age, society is overly dependent on technology. During a crisis, modern technology likely won’t be reliable and it will be more difficult to communicate. This is one of the many reasons a ham radio is a critical piece of survival gear.