55

For someone who values anonymity and privacy, what is the recommended way to pay on the Internet?

Example: To buy a domain or a VPN or another service

I know that we can use cryptocurrencies, but at some point, you need to buy cryptocurrency using a traditional currency.

  • 5
    If you don't want a domain for a service you're hosting for others but just for yourself to contact your own server, you can go for a free subdomain. There are several of these free services. Apart from saving a small amount of money, the advantages are that your name doesn't appear in some DNS registrar's database and that you don't leave identifying information in a money trail because there is no money trail. – UTF-8 Apr 7 at 21:11
  • 22
    I personally defend the valuable topic of right to anonymity. But I shall also point out that regardless of any legitimate reason, the sole ability to transfer money anonymously opens the gate to money laundering and funding to either terrorist groups, mafia, Wikileaks etc. So there will always be forces trying to prevent each of us from transacting (truly) anonymously. – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Apr 8 at 11:47
  • 3
    @zakinster, private domain registration where the name of a proxy company is listed rather than your info is super common when registering domain names and most (all?) registrars provide that service. If you register with your real info, you will get spammed to death. – JPhi1618 Apr 8 at 17:55
  • 2
    Some services, such as “posteo.de”, go to great lengths to protect your privacy by not collecting your name or (other) email address during sign up, allowing for anonymous payments, not logging your IP address, etc. But specifically for those reasons, they don’t support custom domains for your email address, either. Another example is “gandi.net”, which accepts payments in Bitcoin. Anyway, you may leak information otherwise and may have to trust your provider nevertheless. – caw Apr 8 at 20:17
  • 2
    You do know that you can wash cryptocurrencies easily right? Just buy them with your name and send it through coin tumbler, preferably with a delay above 3 days – Hobbamok Apr 9 at 8:46
60

To protect your privacy and avoid tracking, nothing beats cash.

There are various services that let you purchase credits in cash at a brick and mortar store, which you can then later use to purchase goods and services online.

One example is paysafecard (I haven't tried it, but you should also be able to buy bitcoin with cash). There are a number of VPN providers which accept these payments.

Alternatively, you could simply purchase your VPN access directly offline at a store.

There are also domain registrars which accept these payment methods, but most will ask for identifying information (name, address, etc) when registering a domain. So if you want to conform with registrars TOS, registering a domain anonymously wouldn't be possible. You can hide your information from third parties by requesting that your registrar doesn't disclose the information, violate the TOS by providing false information (not recommended), or find a registrar or third party service that does not request this information.

  • 30
    Some stores also offer prepaid debit cards that you can buy with cash and use anywhere online, I believe. – Ave Apr 7 at 20:19
  • 7
    @Keatinge - That is possible - in order to activate anything like that, whoever is issuing it needs to know who sold it, so they know that it's a valid activation (and not fraud). From that, it's certainly possible to work backwards to the specific transaction. But I'm fairly sure that most CCTV in stores is on a rewriting loop. If you let your cards sit long enough (which could be anywhere from a week to a year, at least), then the video will get overwritten and there won't be any useful records left. – Bobson Apr 8 at 4:26
  • 7
    @Keatinge: CCTV is the outdated threat model there. You have cell phone position records kept by towers, license plate readers, etc. etc. etc. whose data will likely never get overwritten, and which will tie the buyer to the time and location of the sale, if any of them apply to the buyer. – R.. Apr 8 at 15:20
  • 6
    @Tom Cash is only anonymous by convention and not really by any inherent property. People have been recording serial numbers and marking bills as long as cash has existed. It is definitely within modern technology to use high speed scanners to record serial numbers every time cash moves through a bank, and you can imagine ATMs recording serial numbers as they dispense cash. – user71659 Apr 8 at 16:59
  • 4
    @R.. When you are worried about anonymity, you could just leave your phone at home. – tim Apr 9 at 10:11
5

You can trade cryptocurrencies with other cryptocurrencies and the trails become cold fast if you use random amounts. More iterations with independent wallets makes it even harder to trace. E.g.

  1. Buy BTC.
  2. Transfer some of the BTC (not all) to another wallet.
  3. Exchange BTC to another cryptocurrency.
  4. Transfer some of that to another wallet.
  5. Exchange back to BTC.
  6. Repeat steps 2 to 5.

The trick is that

  • on cryptocurrency transfers it's unclear whether it's your own or someone else's wallet.
  • cryptocurrency exchange with independent amounts is untraceable, because it's not the same coins anymore.

Of course you lose some money in the process and it takes some time and effort. That's the price for such anonymity. Sadly the same methods that are used for money laundering applies to making payments truly anonymous.

  • 15
    I wouldn't trust that. The ledgers are open and it's only a matter of effort to put things together, an effort that can be automated and I would be surprised if law enforcement and other interested parties haven't done so already. There are, however, mixers who will take money from many sources and send it out to many sources, mixing it up so that no connection between sender and receiver can be made. Similar to the old anonymous mail mixers. If you chain a couple of them in various jurisdictions, maybe you have a chance. No idea how many of them are sting operations, though. – Tom Apr 7 at 22:24
  • @Tom the problem with mixers is that you would then take part and appear in other money trails that may not be as innocent or well-intentioned as OP... – zakinster Apr 8 at 8:02
  • 3
    I disagree that independent amounts make you untraceable. That is only true if the wallets involved have many other, unrelated, transactions. Hence, mixers. Remember that tracing doesn't have to be perfect unless you want to use it as evidence in a court of law. If I'm a three letter agency, or organized crime, a reasonably high degree of confidence that two transactions are related is enough. I can easily develop tools that will trace over multiple intermediate steps and keep track of confidence ratings. – Tom Apr 8 at 10:33
  • 1
    Mixing and splitting only increase the CPU power needed to trace funds; they do not make it impossible. – WGroleau Apr 8 at 11:40
  • 1
    Don't mix them yourself, since you're only combining your own money and all paths lead to you... Use a tumbler service. As an example a popular Bitcoin Cash wallet has one built-in now: cashshuffle.com. The way these work is by making a many-to-many transaction with a lot of peoples moneis and adding a random fee so you can't link back by matching transfer amounts. With 100 of people in a single transaction it becomes very hard to link back to you. – csiz Apr 8 at 13:28
27

Using a VPN won't make you anonymous.

The owner of the VPN service will still knows who you are from the origin IP address.

In the past several VPN providers that stated that everything was anonymous in fact released all the information they had to the FBI and US Department of Justice. It makes sense that they are not private; if you commit a crime using their systems and they cannot point to the perpetrator of the crime then they might be held liable.

For the crypto currencies, you do not need to buy them; you can mine them. Also some crypto-currencies have a higher level of privacy than others.

At the moment the best possible way to make you private in some of the internet traffic is still Tor as long you follow their best practice.

The other way to be private in the internet is if you steal someonelse's digital identity. This is the most common means used by thieves.

  • 1
    You should also be careful to mine them anonymously, i.e. put your mining node behind Tor anyways – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Apr 8 at 11:48
  • 3
    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Lots of tor exit nodes are controlled by intelligence organizations. There's always a limit to security. – Tomáš Zato Apr 8 at 13:06
  • Some VPNs have no-logs policy, but of course it's a matter of trust. – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 8 at 16:00
  • 3
    @TomášZato [citation needed] That's a common rumor, but the fact is, the highest-bandwidth exit nodes that make up more than 60% of the exit network are run by people and organizations who are well-known. Even though there are a few malicious nodes, it would take a very large sybil attack (which would be very noticeable) to actually deanonymize en masse using traffic correlation attacks. – forest Apr 8 at 21:32
  • I suppose using someone else's identity would provide you with anonymity. – FreeMan Apr 9 at 13:21
-5

nothing beats bitcoin. so far, it's the meta anonymous coin to be used on the internet. you can probably use it to possibly buy a disposable credit card. but it's not a good idea. VPN companies aren't mostly trusted imo, and those that are have a shitty product.

you want anonymity online? do what everyone does - TOR and bitcoin. simple enough.

  • 14
    Bitcoin is not anonymous... – forest Apr 8 at 3:01
  • 3
    As @forest commented, Bitcoin is explicitly not anonymous, which is why criminals use other cryptocurrencies which are anonymous to hide the money trail. – Rory Alsop Apr 8 at 8:23
  • since when? that's debatable. just because you have to buy it from non-anonymous sources doesn't make it non-anonymous. – blahh Apr 11 at 2:13
  • someone has to give you the cryptocurrency. you usually have to give other kinds of money back. that transaction is sometimes not anonymous. bitcoin is anonymous. – blahh Apr 11 at 2:16
17

You could use xmr.to for that. According to them:

XMR.TO allows you to make a Bitcoin payment with the strong privacy provided by Monero. This means that using Monero together with XMR.TO, you can pay any Bitcoin address in the world while protecting your privacy.

You buy Monero, a privacy-centric coin, send to xmr.to with the destination Bitcoin address, they sell your Monero, buy Bitcoin, and send to the host. Xmr.to a well known service, and lots of people uses it every day.

Their FAQ is pretty informative, and you should read it.

11

You could buy gift cards with cash then sell them for bitcoin on r/GiftCardExchange

4

For obtaining an anonymous source of payment from a cash source you can buy pre-paid debit cards.

Many times you can also get free services for hosting and domain registration; for example, TLDs such as .tk and .ga are (as of this writing) free of charge via FreeNOM.

-2

Find a legal way to run a crypto miner on someone else's computer. One way to do this would be to offer crypto mining as a payment option for whatever service you are offering. Now you have clean cash so long as you are an expert in computer networking and haven't left a trail a mile long from doing things like setting up your wallet, not having your cache cleared, not being on a computer and network you trust, being on a computer that could be tied to you (e.g. by monitor size). As I understand it you shouldn't even consider doing any of this without Tails (all connections go through TOR).

Now all you have to do is receive your item anonymously. How you do this depends on your item but I've heard people just use the regular postal service for this.

  • That's not going to get you much money... You'd need a pretty damn massive botnet if you want to pay someone more than a few fractions of a cent. – forest Apr 9 at 17:52
  • Yeah, you are right. But I believe my answer is still technically correct. – user875234 Apr 9 at 17:55
  • It'd be correct if you had an insane amount of computer power. In reality though, mining is not an effective way to make money. A couple months of mining and you might be able to buy a toothpick... – forest Apr 9 at 17:57
  • Mining is not an effective way to make money when anonymity isn't your primary concern. – user875234 Apr 9 at 18:05
  • Even if it is your primary concern, it's not an effective way to make money. Not unless you own a very large botnet (i.e. an illegal way). Crypto mining has stopped being profitable for us years ago. – forest Apr 9 at 18:06

protected by Rory Alsop Apr 8 at 8:22

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