Liveaboards, Money Laundering and the Homeless

In 1990 the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering offered forty recommendations to its member countries to provide a system to help stop money laundering. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 the United States adopted the Patriot Act and the recommendations of the FATF.

One of the recommendations adopted by the Patriot Act requires financial institutions such as banks and brokers to perform “due diligence on all new customers to verify their identity.” Many institutions do this, in part, by requiring governmental identification and an actual street address (no post office box or mail drop), things many full-time liveaboards (particularly transient liveaboards) are not be able to provide. When it comes to governmental identification, although some states will accept a marina address many will not. And even with those financial institutions that would accept a marina address, cruising liveaboards lack a marina as well, leaving them in a bit of a quandary. Unless you choose to get your accounts opened before you abandon your land ties many banks and brokers would simply rather not do business with you.

This poses other problems for U.S. liveaboards as well. For instance, some states require a street address before issuing a driver’s license. Health and auto insurance carriers may not provide coverage for health, liability and vehicle insurance. Federal Express and other mail services will not deliver to a PO Box either (although they may take a marina address).

Liveaboards wanting to register to vote may have problems as well (note: there is no constitutional right to vote). Many states require a physical address and form of identification before permitting residents to vote. These rules have been put in place not only for the purpose of preventing money laundering, but also in their attempt to manage voter fraud and prevent voting by illegal or non-residents.

The liveaboard community, being so small and divergent, lacks active advocates or a community to coalesce to build exceptions for liveaboards into these laws. Ironically, the homeless community is not quite so small, supported by lobbyist groups and advocates (such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and various veterans groups) who want to be sure that homeless people are afforded their constitutional rights. Many states, either by legislation or court case, now permit homeless people to vote. In their advocacy, now in many states a physical address such as “under the bridge” or “on the docks” may be sufficient.

It sure is an odd world.

Liveaboards continue to address these challenges in a variety of ways. Perhaps you can get your account opened by establishing a personal relationship with your local banker and get a license by being particularly nice to the folks issuing your drivers license. Also, physical address such as those provided by http://www.earthclassmail.com have demonstrated success over the past couple of years. Over time these personal touches have become less meaningful. Other techniques such as using the address of family and friends may also be successful but can result in problems such as the denial of insurance or even a criminal fraud charge if the artificial address is ever revealed.

There is no easy solution here. For now, unless we can all get together on this, we should wish the homeless organizations success on all of our behalves.

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