To make anonymous payments you must overcome a few initial difficulties. Traditionally, the most significant hurdle has always been the initial addition of funds, this is usually where you have to submit your identity. However, there are a few ways to increase your anonymity online when making purchases, each with differing layers of security. You can combine them together or use them individually as each additional transition can add another layer of protection for the safety of your on-line payments.
If you’re trying to protect your data from the average criminal or snoop, then simple data security practices are usually enough; if you want to have absolute security from law enforcement or government agencies, then you will need to take additional steps.
- Cryptocurrency: Contrary to popular belief, some cryptocurrency is actually easier to track than using regular currency or other methods. While some cryptocurrency is built with privacy in mind, the majority of crypto is built with the goal of creating an immuteable ledger. This makes it easy to prove ownership, but has the drawback of making transactions public (and very easy to trace). Here is a link to the first wallet that was ever sent BTC. At the time of writing, there are currently 641 pages of transactions that are easily traceable to this wallet.
- Create a Google Pay account, link an anonymous debit/credit card that has been paid for with cash, then you are able to transact with an extra layer of protection.
- Gift cards and prepaid debit cards are untraceable for making anonymous online payments (if you are able to purchase them without connecting them to your credit card).
- Cash is the best anonymous payment method.
Even though you might think there is protection transacting behind a monitor, every digital transaction can be easily tracked and traced. Identity theft, fraud, and breached databases are common occurrences in the digital age.
But what if there is a way to make or receive money anonymously, without anyone knowing what you are buying or selling?
In the past, underground sites like The Silk Road provided this service (albeit sketchily). But as more people become consciously aware of the importance of online anonymity, mainstream services have emerged that offer anonymous payment methods.
These services allow you to use minimal personal details about yourself to make a purchase or to transfer funds.
When transferring money, your email, home address, credit card number, and name are often at risk. If this information falls into the wrong hands, someone may steal your identity and use it for a fraudulent purpose. According to reports, in 2019, over 14.4 million consumers in the US alone became victims of identity theft, which translates to one in five individuals. Furthermore, over 500 million Facebook users had information leaked online.
What payment methods are anonymous? Find out below.
Common Sense Security Practices for Online Transactions
Before we get to the anonymous payment methods, it is vital to discuss how to secure your online identity and device. The thing is, most often, financial fraud happens when someone gains access to your device. For example, if you lose a laptop that has no passwords, the person who finds or steals the device will have easy access to any information on the device.
The Bureau of Justice and statistics says that 55% of the victims that resolved financial and credit problems stemming from theft did it in one day. Consequently, if you lose your social security card or if the information is stolen. Act immediately – That means calling 1-800-772-1213 if you live in the United States (Social Security Phone number).
That said. If you regularly transact online and wish to have anonymous payments, you should:
- Use a trusted VPN on public networks: although we discourage making transactions via public networks, some occasions may arise where you have no choice. A VPN is an additional level of protection that will help keep your transaction and any information you share private.
- Use private browsing: private browsing protects your information from anyone who has access to the device, it will not save cookies or any of your activities. But private browsing is not a substitute for a VPN.
- Install an ad blocker: If your computer has malware, malicious ads may pop up. Some may lead you to dummy sites that want to steal your information.
- Activate two-factor authentications on all your accounts, make sure your phone has a screen lock, do not use USB charges in public spaces, keep your device updated, and always read app and program permissions while installing.
Anonymous Payment Methods
The best method for anonymous online payments is to use a prepaid debit card or a prepaid gift card. If purchased correctly, these 2 options allow you to make online transactions while leaving no digital footprint. That being said you will still need to purchase them correctly and mask your digital footprints for a completely anonymous payment solution.
- Purchase the cards with cash and protect your identity when making the cash transaction
- If an e-mail is required then use a temporary secure e-mail account
- Do not connect your bank account to any online services associated with the card, avoid rechargeable cards for this reason
1. Prepaid Gift Cards
Prepaid gift cards are a form of payment very popular with scammers for anonymous online payments because they provide unmatched anonymity. You may buy a gift card online, at your local store, Wal-Mart, and many other locations without sharing any information that may lead back to you. Because of that, the money is virtually untraceable.
Furthermore, you do not have to send the gift card to the receiving party. All they need is the number on the card.
Lots of people, especially the elderly, have lost money through gift cards. So, be careful with anyone asking for payment via this method. But if you are sure of the transaction and want anonymity, using a gift card is the best option. Additionally, asking for payment in gift cards is rife with fraud because of the anonymous nature and easily available blank cards.
Note: Receiving anonymous payments with prepaid gift cards and converting them to cash will typically have a large fee unless you can find someone who wants your specific gift cards.
2. Anonymous Prepaid Credit Cards
Visa, Mastercard, and American express offer anonymous credit cards that you may use to purchase services only. What makes these cards anonymous is, you do not have to apply for approval which may require you to share information about yourself. Furthermore, when using anonymous prepaid cards, you do not have to worry about purchase tracking.
How does it work?
Unlike regular credit cards, you must have money to deposit. Once deposited, you cannot reload the card. There are reloadable and virtual anonymous prepaid cards that you may consider.
Anonymous prepaid credit cards are available online, in department stores, or supermarkets.
What to remember:
- Do not use your real name, phone number, or address when purchasing an anonymous prepaid card.
- Small-denomination cards do not require ID in most places.
- Your information is only as secure as the place where you purchase the credit card.
- If you’re purchasing something on-line make sure to obfuscate your browser (as you can be tracked by the cookies presented in your browser) and utilize a VPN to protect your IP address.
We recommend avoiding reloadable anonymous prepaid cards because some vendors may require your bank account when reloading.
Note: The two options listed above are the best anonymous payment methods as if done correctly they leave no trace. The methods listed below all offer a certain degree of anonymity, but cannot be considered truly anonymous payment methods as there will always be some level of tracking.
3. Google Pay
Is Google Pay anonymous? It can be, Google Pay allows you to fund your account with a virtual credit card, if you purchase the card in a secure manner (with cash) then you can use Google Pay anonymously. To protect your identity with this method, you must also create an anonymous email account, open a google pay account, and use it to transact. You may use Google Pay on your phone or computer. It works much like Apple Pay, meaning you may withdraw money from any ATM that has a contactless symbol.
Another advantage of using Google Pay is that you may link the same card across multiple accounts. This method is only as secure as the account you’ve attached as well as the method that you fund the account.
- Do not use your real name, phone number, or address when utilizing Google Pay anonymously.
- Your information is only as secure as the place where you purchased the credit card to load your Google Pay account.
- Google will be able to track your device and IP address.
Popular amongst sex workers, epayservice offers anonymous international and local payments, virtual credit and debit cards, and instant electronic payments. Although the company has terrible reviews on Trustpilot, it is still a legit service. Many of the complaints claim that the service asks for too much information to complete electronic payments. But their debit cards allow you to withdraw up to $15,000 anywhere on the planet, and there are no loading fees.
5. Cash App
Cash App is an app that allows peer-to-peer transfer of funds via mobile. The service is semi-anonymous because you must have a bank account linked to it. The issue with Cash App is that it is only available in the UK and US. Using cash app you will be reported for large withdrawals to a bank account, so it isn’t the ideal anonymous payment app.
But the app is free to use, and you may receive up to $1000 through the app monthly.
Cash App has a lot of similar competitors such as Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, and others. You will run into the same issues in terms of requiring a bank account for large withdrawaals.
6. Apple Pay
What makes Apple Pay a decent anonymous payment method is that the merchant and Apple do not have access to your information such as address or card number. Apple only retains the approximate date and time of the transaction. This is an improvement over many traditional credit cards, however Apple Pay is still attached directly to your bank account.
Apple Pay transactions are only anonymous from the point of Apple and the retailer. The bank and credit card companies will still know who you are, what you’ve purchased, and how much it cost.
Additionally, Apple Pay has limitations for online purchases in that many retailers do not support it at this time.
Note: Turning off location on your phone or device will prevent Apple from logging the date and time of the transaction and location.
7. Is it safe to pay with crypto?
Yes, it can be safe to pay for services using cryptocurrency such as bitcoin if the right precautions are taken. The issue is that your transactions are only as secure as the exchange or place where you buy or sell your cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is built to be an immutable ledger, this means that each transaction is traced digitally online. Although it doesn’t have your name, each transaction can easily be traced back to your wallet. Each additional transaction barely provides any security because the money is easily traced, if you would like additional anonymity you can ‘wash’ your bitcoin by sending it to a tumbler that will send your transaction through a series of addresses before returning it to you.
There are some privacy-based cryptocurrencies that you can use that value anonymity. Crypto such as Monero or Zcash have a large use case in the darknet where remaining anonymous is paramount.
The value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can also change at any moment (Historically this has been good for people holding crypto). However, sending and receiving crypto is possible without the need for traceable information.
To send and receive cryptocurrency as an anonymous payment method, you will need a reliable method to exchange bitcoin for cash.
What to remember:
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible.
- The government cannot manipulate cryptocurrency value. Thus, bitcoin is immune to inflation.
- Cryptocurrency value can change at any moment.
- You need a cryptocurrency wallet to buy, store, sell, or transfer crypto.
- Cryptocurrencies do not have legal protection.
Note: One of the easiest ways to get small amounts of bitcoin anonymously is to use a Bitcoin ATM. For smaller payments it is not normally necessary to submit identification and you can usually see the operator identification requirements prior to going to the ATM.
8. Cash Payment
Taking out the middle man is the most secure anonymous payment method. No documents -or logs leading back to you -and you do not need your bank account to pay cash. However, this option is limited by geographical location, and potentially meeting face to face meaning it does not always work. If you wish to send or receive cash anonymously you must trust in the other person or obscure your identity, and ensure your information is not on any invoice.
An anonymous cash payment is still the best and easiest way to send money anonymously.
9. Masked Credit Card
A masked credit card is interesting in that it provides you fiscal security by creating a unique credit card number with expiration date and security code. What it does not do is protect your information as the masked number will still be attached to your real credit card, address, and other information. This is a great option if you absolutely need to buy something from a sketchy website, but it does not allow you to make anonymous payments.
The benefits of a masked card are that you can easily enable or disable them on demand. You can use them for a one time online payment or give the number to a trusted employee to use for a period of time.
PayPal reports to credit bureaus. So, no, PayPal is not an anonymous payment method. But there is a workaround. PayPal gives you the option to use cryptocurrency as a funding option. That means you may use Ethereum, bitcoin, Litecoin, or Bitcoin cash to make online purchases. This means that you have the potential to fund a Paypal account with a degree of anonymity, but you will not be able to withdraw money without submitting your private information.
What to remember:
- PayPal reports to credit bureaus and adheres to banking laws, this means they will report large withdrawals to your bank account.
- Paypal will be able to attach a name to your account when you connect it with a bank.
- When transacting with cryptocurrencies your security is only as safe as the exchange where you purchased the coins.
Can you use a fake name on PayPal?
You may, but it will cause problems when you want to transfer money. What will happen is PayPal will ask you to verify your Paypal account, if you cannot, the service may freeze the account with your money in it. You may get your money back in six months, or it may remain locked in the account.
How to Secure Online Payments
As mentioned, whenever you make an online transaction, there is a risk of losing or sharing personal information. First, make sure that you are sober or consciously aware of what you are doing. For example, if you are at an ATM, always check what is happening around you. When behind a computer, read before you click.
- Choose an anonymous online payment method (the less information required, the better).
- Choose an anonymous method such as gift cards or anonymous prepaid credit cards.
- Use Two-Factor-Authentication when using services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
- Use VPNs when transacting on public Wi-Fi.
- Use Incognito mode so that your purchase is not stored locally on your device
- Use a Tor Browser to browse completely anonymously
- Protect your keyword and device
- Secure your e-mail
- If you lose your device, log out from that device immediately.