I've written this security tek to help those who may be new to the cultivation scene, and to help refresh those who have been around long enough to be comfortable with their hobby.
I want to grow, how should I start?
Well, unlike other hobbies, the goal that you wish to achieve is to grow! Sadly, what you're planning on growing is considered illegal in most parts of the world. With that in mind, please pay attention to what you do and say both on AND offline.
Anyone who has been successful in safely growing will remember one phraseÖ
"Tell one person, and consider it ten"
Keeping ones mouth shut is the absolute best defense you can have when it comes to protecting your hobby. Don't tell friends, family, and don't tell your "online friends" that you grow. Treat the internet as you would a city street. Watch what you say and who you say it to. I will go into this more when you begin talking to people about growing But for now, letís start with the basics.
I've found Mycotopia, etc.; I've read some teks, now I want to grow. How do I get spores and supplies?
This question is what most people new to this hobby ask. Who should I buy from? Which vendor is best? Should I worry about buying from company XYZ? These are questions that can easily be answered. When buying spores or supplies, I suggest dealing strictly with our Sponsors. Sponsors are those vendors who have been given the privilege to advertise their companies here.
These vendors are all very well known, respected and have been in business for some time. They are easy to get a hold of (via email or PM). And none of them keep any kind of customer lists. The Sponsors are here because they have proven highly competent within this community.
If you need to buy spores or supplies, please look at the following link for a complete list of Sponsors - http://archives.mycotopia.net/discussponsors/sponsors.html
I've found a vendor I want to buy from. How should I purchase my spores?
Ok, you've looked through the many websites, you've compared prices. Now its time to place that order. But wait... If I place an order I don't want some strange package showing up at my house? I don't trust any vendor, if they keep a customer list or not, I just don't trust anyone!
Thatís good. You're thinking Now go back to the first question and its answer, " Treat the internet as you would a city street."
If you meet your local drug dealer on the street, you don't give him a credit card!?!? And I don't think you'd give him a personal check. So whatís left?
Cash. Cash is King. And money orders are fine too Cash definitely doesn't leave any kind of paper trail and money orders can't be linked back to you if you make them payable to "CASH". For all you know, I could have stolen your money order and cashed it. Can you see where money orders can be useful? You can also find out if a money order has been cashed by calling the 1-800# on the back of your receipt.
Alright, you've figured out how to pay, know where to send it?? You don't want mom, dad, husband, wife, or your landlord wondering why you're getting packages. Even better, you don't want anyone to know your real address! This is where I suggest looking into a Mail Forwarding Service.
Mail forwarding services simply get your mail and send it to your real address. You'll have your letters or packages sent to the forwarding companies address, they then send it to you or your PO Box.
You live at 123 Right Street. Your mail forwarding service gives you their address, 456 Left Ave, Suite #789. You have people or the vendors send your items to 456 Left Ave, Suite #789, when they get your package they put on another label, and send it to your actual shipping address.
Your actual address can be a house, a PO Box, or another forwarding address. The point is whoever is sending you anything won't know really where they're sending it too. Below I've listed some links to a few mail forwarding services. Look them over and compare prices and features. Mail forwarding services work well becuase most of the time you can find a service outside of your state.
Mail Forwarding Services:
REMEMBER, mail forwarding ONLY works best when you're dealing with cash/money orders.
NOT with credit cards!
Due to the large amounts of credit card fraud on the internet, those buying from a vendor who pay with a credit card and gives a different bill to and ship to address are usually questioned and looked at as a potential problem. Credit card fraud usually consists of someone stealing credit card information, buying something and having it shipped to a different address than the billing address.
Don't make yourself stick out. If you really need to pay with a credit card, Contact your creditor (your Credit Card Company or bank) and ask to have whatís called an Alternate Address associated with your credit card. Many people who travel or move often may have one or two associated addresses. Itís very simple to do and it doesn't take much time. Simply give them your mail forwarding address. Now you can use your mail forwarding address as both your bill to and ship to.
Great, I know how to pay and I know where to send, but all vendors/people will usually want to get a hold of me. Or I will want to get a hold of them. How can I be contacted without being found?
Very good question! How can I be contacted without being found? There have been entire books written about this subject. And for purposes of simplicity, I will stick with only internet based communication.
Email. We've all done it and itís a very common, easily accessible medium to communicate in. You need to email a vendor, another grower, anyone who you might be dealing with when it comes to your new hobby.
So you need a secure email address or an encrypted email address. There are many free email services available like hotmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. But you should consider an email service which offers encryption. Why? Because if someone accesses your email account, like a nosy hotmail.com employee or even a DEA agent with a subpoena to access your email providersí accounts, itís encrypted! They won't be able to read it! All of your emails will look like this:
That scrambled up paragraph above filled with unreadable numbers and letters is an encrypted message that says, "They won't be able to read it! All of your emails will look like this:"
Big deal, I've seen in the movies where hackers can break a code with some kind of program. Why should encryption be any different?
In the movies they have to break the code But the mathematical algorithms used in todayís encryption techniques are VERY strong. For example, there is a very popular and easy program to use called PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and it uses a ďcodeĒ called IDEA. Read below on its strength.
"How hard is it to crack the IDEA key?
PGP uses IDEA as the conventional cipher. The key for IDEA is 128 bits. We can calculate the brute force key space with 2^128 = 3.4E38. A special hardware based key cracker for IDEA that can try one billion (1E9) keys per second will take 1.08E22 (approximately 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to go through all possible keys. You can expect to get most keys in about half that time which will take 5.39E21 years. It is estimated that the sun will go nova in 1E9 years. Since the algorithm is secure, the cryptanalyst has to go after other things like RSA or your passphrase. It is currently beyond our technology to crack an IDEA key by brute force."
So encryption is strong. But itís only as strong as its weakest link.
If you sign up for one of the free encrypted mail services I've listed below. REMEMBER, they only work fully on their own network. This means that if your email address is [email protected] and you email someone outside of hushmail, for example [email protected] your message will not be encrypted. The reason being is because yahoo doesn't have an encrypted connection with hushmail. If you email a vendor, their email may not be encrypted.
Encrypted email services are free, just as easy to use as non-encrypted, and provide a little more security than most. Here is a list of a few poplar free encrypted email services.
Free Encrypted Email:
I know how to pay, I know how to have my items sent, and I even know how to get in touch with a vendor. What else is there?
Much more ? But getting your spores and equipment is half the fun.
REMEMBER! Unless you live in the states of Georgia or California, spores are perfectly legal. Also, all mushroom growing equipment is legal. Everything from brown rice flour and vermiculite to extraction and preservation tools. So donít get too uptight if someone asks why youíve ordered a bag of perlite
If you know your tools and supplies, youíll easily be able to adapt a reason for having each one. With that thoughtÖ Lets go into the section of adaptations.
1. I donít have much money to spend right now. Is there any other way I can get my items without having to pay for a mail forwarding service?
Yes. You can simply just get a PO Box and have your items sent there instead of your home. You can and should get a Post Office Box at your local Post Office. A PO Box is the first thing you should get when youíre ordering spores/supplies. Donít have items shipped to the place where youíre growing! PO Boxes are cheap, in most cities they are around $45.00 for 6 months, cheaper in other areas. If you canít spend the money for a PO Box, then save up!
2. I donít want anyone to know about my hobby. But I donít think I can get a PO Box. I can afford it, but donít you need some kind of identification? Isnít there an age requirement?
Yes you will need two forms of identification. And as of this writing the following forms of ID are acceptable in obtaining a PO Box:
ďa. At the time of application, applicants must present two items of valid identification; one item must contain a photograph of the applicant. Social Security cards or credit cards and birth certificates are unacceptable as identification. The following are acceptable identification:
(1) Valid driverís license or state non-driverís identification card.
(2) Armed forces, government, university, or recognized corporate identification card.
(3) Passport, alien registration card, or certificate of naturalization.
(4) Current lease, mortgage, or deed of trust.
(5) Voter or vehicle registration card.
(6) Home or vehicle insurance policy.
b. The identification presented must be current. It must contain sufficient information to confirm that the applicant is who he or she claims to be and must be traceable to the bearer.Ē
If you drive, you should have an insurance card for your vehichle. If youíre under someone elses car insurance you can and should have your own card made up. A passport is easily available and its very easy to get a non-drivers ID made. The cost is minimal but will work.
Also, contrary to popular belief, anyone of any age can get a PO Box. You donít need to be 18 years of age. Children with divorced parents, high school students waiting for college transcripts, or young adults having problems getting their mail (lost or stolen) can get a PO box. The thing is, if you're under 18 it may be hard to get two forms of ID? Look at the statement below:
"Post office box service may be provided to a minor (a person under 18 years of age) unless the minorís parent or guardian submits a written objection to the appropriate postmaster."
So unless a parent or gaurdian submits a written objection to the postmaster, you will be able to get a PO box. If the postmaster comes and speaks with you and tries to deny you, simply print up The Domestic Mail Manual Section D910 as seen here - http://pe.usps.gov/text/dmm/D910.htm#Xbr4476 and tell him that youíll only need it for 6 months until your grades or drivers license comes! If you want it for longer, all you need to do is renew your box by paying for it, you wonít need to show any ID if youíre renewing your PO box.
3. Iím really broke and I canít afford any spores/supplies, what should I do?
The best advice for this is to check out the Marketplace Forum
You can trade, enter contests, look for free things, and search for deals from time to time from Mycotopian sponsors. Although unlike buying from a vendor who has a company, a name to uphold, and a level of credibility to maintain, if you trade with someone treat it asÖ. Well, I shouldnít have to say but,
Treat the internet as you would a city street.
If youíve openly traded video games and computer parts on a sidewalk in your neighborhood, not much to worry about. But if youíre trading spores/seeds or anything thatís ďquestionableĒ. Try to find out if who youíre trading with has a good track record. There are many people who have excellent feedback ratings when it comes to trading, some who donít. Stick with references and do some homework. Look at your potential traders past threads/posts. Spending 15-20 minutes looking at someoneís posts can really give you an idea on how well they hold up to their end of the bargin.
4. When I get online, how do I know if Iím being tracked or being safe enough?
Öthis will be covered and a tek all by itself
I hope that some of you find this useful. If so please say so. I'd like to hear your idea and comments.