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Tradecraft and the Web


There was an interesting notice or ad, I am not sure of the exact term, in a well-known web classified ad site a few days ago; Interesting, and surprisingly suspicious. This site, and its competitors, have never been known for any ads or notices at all suspicious.  Right.  The notice is still up, at least when I wrote this. Apparently the NSA does not actually read much of the stuff it is grabbing from electronic media.

Anyway, someone is seeking a person for what seems like an easy assignment.  The person needs to have an address in the 20005 area code in Washington D.C., one of the prime area codes in the DC business district, a couple of blocks from the White House, not far from George Washington University, with its 15,000 students. Ideally, as the ad put it, the person should be planning on living in the area for the next few years – so probably would not be a college student. For $10 a month, all the person needs to do it receive some mail, just a few pieces per month, mostly solicitations and a few invoices. Forward this mail, in self-addressed envelopes supplied by the hiring party, to the hiring party. Easy, right? How much work can this take?

Is this ad suspicious? Very suspicious? Very, very suspicious? Yes. Yes. Yes. One can go on and on, adding adjectives.  But what is the motive? Washington DC is not noted as an easy place to run a business.  So if there was some form of tax or regulation dodge going on here, someone would be more likely to look for an address in Virginia, just across the Potomac, an easy and comfortable subway ride away.

Is someone looking for a more impressive address within DC than a post office box or where they might live? Are they too cheap to rent office space or one of these services that rents an address? This may be most likely. Under the rule called Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is probably correct. This may be the most logical explanation. But this is no fun at all.  This is Washington, a city of conspiracies equaled, perhaps, only by New York City. And there are points on which to hang the conspiracy theory.  Though next thing you know I will start worrying about the Federal government is reading our e-mail.  (In my own case, I am probably putting them to sleep).

The notice mentions the “occasional invoice” among the mail. Someone seems to want to hide a real address from vendors from whom they are purchasing products. At least this appears to be the case. Of course, they could just as easily pay cash when they want to hide their address. Even stores that ask for addresses when you buy something are not going to ask for address ID for cash.  This letter forwarding is complex, probably. And not 100 percent safe.  Why not just ask for invoices right then? Most places will be glad to give you a bill immediately, as they get paid faster. Explanations may be simple, but people can be very complicated and illogical.

Bruce Brager is an experienced freelance writer and ghost writer with an extensive record of publications. His most recent major piece is an e-book on the Texas Revolution and the Battle of the Alamo. Mr. Brager's e-book Texas Revolution and the Battle of the Alamo can be found at

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