Paying for VPN with gift cards

Discussion in 'privacy problems' started by Page42, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. Page42

    Page42 Registered Member

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    Anyone have any input concerning VPN services that allow paying anonymously using gift cards?
    I suppose that cash, and not a credit card, should be used to purchase the gift card.
    Any other suggestions on the anonymity/use of a gift card? TY
     
  2. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    I recommend Bitcoins over gift cards. Bitcoins can easily be anonymized using mixing services. And PayPal may refuse gift cards, depending on where you bought them and where the service provider is.
     
  3. Palancar

    Palancar Registered Member

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    Mirimir I use Bitcoins too, but I understand Page42's question. I share the aspiration to use cards as well. While Bitcoins are easy for you and I to get, many members here have great difficulty acquiring BTC.

    I would love it if I could just run out and buy gift cards with cash, which would be pretty anonymous. The issue is that the VPN providers I use don't have their "business offices" in my country and the gift cards are USELESS internationally. I would NOT use a vpn provider in my home country because the security implications are too great. It would be amazingly convenient if some large retail outlet sold internationally useable gift cards.
     
  4. krustytheclown2

    krustytheclown2 Registered Member

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    I'd just like to say that there is little point to paying for a VPN anonymously if you will be using your home connection for it anyways. If you're using it in a chain, tumbled bitcoins are the way to go. A gift card may not link back to you directly, but the location of the store where it was purchased can most likely be traced, giving up your general location.
     
  5. MisterB

    MisterB Registered Member

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    It really depends on how and where the gift card was purchased. Any retail establishment is going to have surveillance cameras and record keeping of cash transactions. It would be best to have someone you trust buy it for you and send it to you as a gift as the card is intended to be used. The best gift card I know of in the US is Vanilla Visa which can be spent as a regular Visa card. The main drawback apart from the card's setup fee is that it can only be used for purchases within the US. There are 3rd party sites like stacksocial.com which resell VPNS and using one of these cards could work with a non US vpn through a reseller with the advantage that the transaction record will be to the reseller, not the VPN provider.

    Probably not as good as bitcoin but some of us have difficulties in getting anonymous bitcoins and alternatives need to be come up with.
     
  6. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    I like that! But the only VPN that I recognize is BolehVPN: a two-year subscription for 110 USD. Still, that's one that can't be purchased with US gift cards :)
    It is very hard to buy Bitcoins anonymously. But it's easy to anonymize them using mixing services.
     
  7. Palancar

    Palancar Registered Member

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    That my friend is a thing I have always wanted to chat about. The mixing is pretty easy to do and understand. My BTC clients are easy to work with and using a few services makes it a snap to accomplish. With commercial help the fees are not that high. So in theory - I have 10 BTC mixed/anonymous and ready to be spent as I see fit.

    Now lets acquire those BTC using two models:

    First; lets say I go to a bank and conduct a purchase of 10 BTC (example only). There is almost zero risk now that BTC has become just short of mainstream where I live. The seller in this example has thousands of 100% positive transactions, etc.. Again, as an example here I can easily acquire 10 BTC with just about zero risk of being "robbed" since both parties have exceptionally high feedback scores and we never face each other (escrow provides the security). So now continuing on in my example I am sitting here with that aforementioned 10 BTC. The coins are legal and no harm no foul obviously. I have paid a decent exchange rate for the BTC but then had to add a fee to mix them thoroughly, since the original wallet address tags directly to my real name.

    Second, I create an escrow trade where I use a fake name and conduct the transaction at a vendor where the cash is wired to the seller. The service fee is around 20 bucks for a transaction as described above, but then I could reduce the level of mixing after acquiring the BTC.

    I posted all that to ask this question: if I have purchased 10 BTC, and even though I have mixed them perfectly, would I never have to look over my shoulder as to explaining where they went to an adversary? True, the service where I spent the mixed BTC could never work backwards to me via the blockchain. But what about working in the other direction on the blockchain? Hey Palancar; where are the 10 BTC that you bought on blockchain address XXXXXX on such a day and time? It presents a concern for me and should for you too if you think about it. For my BTC use where no anonymity is needed, the first example above is almost the same as a normal cash deposit at the bank. Its very common now, but your name and face are not hidden. Even the BTC wallet used is such that I could display it to an adversary and not even sweat.

    For anonymous needs its a different wallet and something like example two above. I wish we had a BTC ATM around here but we don't.
     
  8. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    Clearly, it's most secure (in the privacy sense) to buy your Bitcoins anonymously. Cash by mail is arguably the most anonymous option, but there is risk of theft. While you can hook up with sellers on IRC and such, there are still a few commercial sellers left that accept cash by mail, such as https://www.nanaimogold.com/ . It's been quite a while since I used them, and so I recommend starting with small amounts. I do not recommend Western Union, because they probably retain video, at least for a while.

    In that case, it's very unlikely that any accounting analysis would work back to you. You would of course use your wallets (including the first one) via Tor via VPNs. And you would practice good OPSEC in mailing the cash.

    Buying non-anonymously through local banks, or opening a trade account with a reputable exchange, is arguably safer (in the theft sense). But then your Bitcoin exchanges are subject to accounting analysis. If too much money is disappearing into a black hole, you might attract attention as a possible money launderer. If I were going that route, I would start by using Bitcoins for non-anonymous purposes, and perhaps do some investing. Maybe do some high-frequency trading. I've seen open-source apps for that.

    In that context, diverting a few Bitcoins to anonymous use would arguably not be a huge red flag. You could even disguise it as donations to some NGO (or whatever) that you had established anonymously. And by advertising its address, you could maybe even earn a little extra on the side ;)
     
  9. Palancar

    Palancar Registered Member

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    I wanted to run another two step process by you. I was logged into localbitcoins and while I was there I checked and it is quite possible to buy bitcoins using retail gift cards, especially if you are in the US. You could have anyone (friend, stranger, etc..) buy e.g. a walmart gift card for cash. Then you use your exchange (localbitcoins, or another) account with escrow to purchase the bitcoins anonymously. The degree of anonymity is determined by your ability to cloak your connection and the subsequent deployment of the coins. Its a little more costly than a straight transaction. Today I can find several 1000+ transaction members selling around 320 ish/BTC on gift card transactions. This process would get your coins to you almost perfectly anonymous. Clearly you would use some common sense when buying the gift cards, but seriously is someone going to track anyone here to that extent? I think not.
     
  10. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    @Palancar

    Yes, using gift cards with escrow to buy Bitcoins is secure, and fairly anonymous. There's no need to mail anything, and to wait (more or less nervously) for a week or two. But still, it's the anonymization of the Bitcoins by mixing that ensures anonymity.
     
  11. Page42

    Page42 Registered Member

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    So by having someone else purchase the gift cards, you're suggesting that store surveillance might record the transaction and that would compromise one's anonymity? If so, I would submit that that level of spy vs spy is a bit over the top, and I think you're saying that you agree.
     
  12. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    Store surveillance will record the transaction :)

    Whether anything will be done with the recording, that's another question.
    Hey, one never knows. Safety factors are prudent.
     
  13. Page42

    Page42 Registered Member

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    What I said.

    Naturally, one never knows. But one must sometimes (often?) decide at what level of security (paranoia) one is going to function.

    Safety factors, while on one hand prudent, on the other can be quite burdensome and unnecessary.

    The question as to how much is enough is one that will forever be asked, and almost never definitively answered, except on a personal level.

    My opinion, of course.
     
  14. Palancar

    Palancar Registered Member

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    I personally would not be concerned about buying cards as described above. In candor I have family members do those things for me. They function sort of like a proxy since nothing is illegal about it. Just one more step to connect the dots (an extra vpn hop in this example/metaphor). At some of the larger stores where I hang out the line is long and very busy so while buying a gift card it would be easy to blend into the crowd. I just don't see a security risk based upon what I intend to do with the coins.

    Of methods commonly available to me, bank deposits are my preferred way to get coins since its the cheapest way. Cash instantly to the seller, transaction covered by escrow, and 2 minute release to a designated BTC address. Once again, family/friend can make the $$ deposit adding that proxy step mentioned above to the mix. My .02
     
  15. krustytheclown2

    krustytheclown2 Registered Member

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    For what it's worth, I'd rather use a homeless person sitting outside a drug store to buy a gift card for a beer than a family member or friend. Family's not much of a proxy and you might not want to get anybody mixed up. Personally I'd be much more worried about exchanging bitcoins for cash rather than the opposite, since that's almost certainly watched very closely especially for larger amounts.
     
  16. Palancar

    Palancar Registered Member

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    As with all things, having established connections makes it much easier for some here to acquire Bitcoins. This thread discusses a few simple ways for those starting out, and having no familiar connections to coin sellers. Once you get a well established reputation as either a buyer or seller it becomes super easy. I have never bought or sold a coin as Palancar and I never will. You get the idea. LOL!!
     
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