Anonymity on the Internet, Part 2: Anonymous payment

When it comes to being anonymous on the Internet, you’re stuck with the choice of using free anonymizers (eg. Tor, see first part of this series), or you’ll have to pay for your anonymity. With JAP, this works without losing protection because they’ve designed it that way from ground up, but for most services, like VPN or (web) hosters, you’ll need to find different ways. In this article, I will give an overview of real anonymous payments on the Internet, methods to get and keep anonymous accounts at PayPal and other eCurrency providers and safely transferring money to these accounts.


Why would I need this? In the first part of the series, I gave you a list of VPN providers. Only one of them, [url=http://www.findnot.com/]FindNot.com[/url], allows for real anonymous payments (I’ll go into details below). All others, including Relakks by the Swedish Pirate Party, only allow credit card or paypal payment. If you give them your identity, you move the responsibility of uncovering it to the VPN provider, which basically means you [i]move[/i] your trust. If you pay for these accounts anonymously, all they can do is log your IP, resulting in another second layer of trust.
Another example: You might consider renting your own server to run a private VPN/SOCKS/HTTP proxy without any logging mechanisms (at least as far as you can control it). Because you’re as paranoid as I am, you might not want to buy and pay it using your real name, or your credit card.

Precautions: Building identities

When it comes to privacy on the Internet, you’re only as private as your weakest spot. I advise you to use methods from the first article before and while you’re in contact with your new identities.
Identities? I’d recommend to use a number of different unassociated email accounts with different providers, but, again: the weakest link is basis for your anonymity. Use web based email providers with HTTPS only! Drop them as soon as you’ve done with what you were doing. Do not use any names or nicknames that you’ve already used before – never!
For safe payments, you need to plan ahead. Do not open all your accounts at the same day and start transferring money right away – this will most likely trigger fraud detection mechanisms. Changing IPs, like Tor connections, might also be easily discovered. Keep that in mind. It might be more suitable to rent a VPN with FindNot through Tor first, while sitting in a cybercafé.

Getting the money virtualized

There are three possible ways I know of that can be used without any credentials:
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[*]Prepaid credit cards: From what I hear, shops in the USA sell “visa gift cards” and other prepaid credit cards over the counter. Sweet, if you know shops that do. In Germany, unfortunately, there is no such thing as prepaid credit cards.
[*]Cash transfer: You walk into a bank office, put cash on the table and ask them to send it to a bank account. I haven’t tried this method, but, speaking for Germany, more and more banks ask for identification when you try to perform a cash transfer, and it costs a fee of around 5-10€, depending on the bank. I’m interested in comments on this.
[*][url=http://www.ukash.com/]UKash[/url] / [url=http://www.paysafecard.com/]PaySafeCard[/url]: Both UKash and PaySafeCards are vouchers you can buy at various stores in european countries. You get a number that is worth the amount of money you paid, and you can split and merge vouchers online.
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Now, if the provider you like to pay supports one of the methods above directly, you’re done. Too bad that only a handful of services can be paid using UKash or PaySafeCards, so we need to find a way to transfer the money.

UKash/PaySafeCard transfer

Both voucher types are accepted at [url=http://www.wmtransfer.com/]WebMoney[/url], an eCurrency provider located in Russia. Judging from reviews, they seem to be okay. I didn’t find out anything regarding the fees for adding funds using these prepaid cards, but I’ve heard that they charge 2%.
UKash can also be used to fund [url=http://www.cashu.com/]CashU[/url] accounts.