which started to answer my question, specifically the posts by @Martok, but not fully. So here goes.
I'm setting up a new forum and it will be fully private so that you have to register in order to see any of the community sections, that's rather simple to do with group permission settings, but I also wish to hide all member information (including online status, everything) from view of the public and first-level registration.
So there will be the standard "registered" group, and the secondary "verified" usergroup.
Guests see nothing - no online status, no list of members, just the public pages.
Registered users would be able to communicate with staff in order to verify their identity, etc, but still not see the verified members (at all - not even a list of member), forums, online status, etc.
Verified members (which are verified manually) would then have full access.
Is there a particular add-on that accomplishes this? Can this be done via the base package (xF 1.3)? Or, would this require a lot of custom mods?