I can’t remember the last time a piece of mail or a package arrived at my home that was addressed to my real name with my real address. The mailbox collects dust, and I enjoy checking it periodically just to confirm that once again, the junk mail is nonexistent. Occasionally a piece of mail will arrive in an alias name, or a marketing flyer will show up addressed to “current resident”. Those are acceptable and welcome because I know that my real name is not associated with any of that. I have written about controlling your mail (HERE) and I encourage others to manage that aspect of their privacy strategy, because it is important.
Today I order a new pair of socks from an online retailer. A mundane purchase, but when I completed the process it reminded me that a lot of people often ask questions about making purchases anonymously. It is so simple, yet so important to keeping your name out of databases and off of marketing lists. So, I will describe how I ordered my new socks as an example of how this can be accomplished.
The online retailer I placed the order with asked for all the usual information at checkout. My name, shipping and billing address, email address, phone number, and credit card details. Here is how I filled out that information to complete the purchase.
NAME: I provided an alias name. There is no reason that the retailer needs real information here. The package will arrive at the destination I chose (my home) and will be left at the doorstep like usual.
SHIPPING ADDRESS: I provided my real address because I want the package to arrive at my home. Oftentimes, when shopping from Amazon I choose to receive my package at an Amazon Locker, but in this case the retailer was not Amazon and I wanted it to arrive at my home in an alias name.
BILLING ADDRESS: I did not need to provide a billing address for this purchase because the shipping address was the same.
EMAIL ADDRESS: I provided a masked email address from BLUR. I could have also used a temporary forwarding service like 33Mail for this purpose. The confirmation email was sent to that one time use address and was forwarded to my secure, encrypted email that I have designated for online shopping. The retailer only has my masked email, so in the future when they send advertisements or sell that email to other companies, I can immediately delete the masked email and I will never receive communication from them again. Win.
PHONE NUMBER: I provided one of my many phone numbers using the SUDO APP. The one I chose to provide was one I designate for online shopping. Typically a retailer never needs to call this number for anything. If they do, SUDO allows me to receive the call like normal, however I can also dispose of that number in the future if it gets sold or abused for any reason. Most importantly, I did not reveal my real phone number to the retailer.
CREDIT CARD: For payment, I had several options. For more details, please review my post on anonymous purchases (LINK). A Vanilla Visa prepaid card would have worked just fine for this purchase. I also could have used SUDO PAY, or a masked BLUR card. Today I chose to make the purchase using my Privacy.com account. I created a one time use (burner) credit card at Privacy.com and provided the merchant with that card number, expiration date, and security number. The card limit was set for the exact amount of the purchase including tax and shipping. The merchant charged that masked card, the transaction was processed, and I received a conformation moments later at my masked email address. Privacy.com will charge the real debit card associated with my account and my bank statement will show a transaction from Privacy.com on the transaction log and not know the details of what I purchased today.
SUMMARY: I made an online purchase without giving away any real details. The shipment will arrive in the alias name I designated. The retailer will probably collect and sell the information I provided to other companies who may also SPAM those credentials in the future. The email address and phone number are temporary and I can “burn” them at anytime. The credit card info can never be compromised because it was also one time use, for that merchant only. My real information is not known to the merchant, and my purchase details are not known to my bank. This strategy (which I use for every purchase) protects my real information, supplies disinformation into the “system”, and reveals nothing about me to retailers and databases that may someday be hacked or abused by advertisers.
I encourage you to explore the many options that are available to make anonymous purchases. The process takes no more time than a traditional purchase to complete and, as you can see, offers tremendous advantages to the privacy conscious person. Of course, I could have also walked into a store wearing dark glasses and a fake mustache and purchased my new socks using cash. But that wouldn’t have been as fun.