3 Key Strategies for Thwarting Creepy Electronic Snoops

You won’t find this in civics books, but listed below are three specific DIY options you have to proactively INCREASE your levels of financial privacy… and still enjoy advanced digital conveniences! Let’s get started:
Cyber Attacks
One savvy solution to these types of intrusions is to disconnect from the electronic umbilical cord that links your virtual services together. By doing this you make it more difficult for one compromised section of your electronic life to infect the others.
Some options for accomplishing this:
1) Buy prepaid Visa, MasterCard, and American Express GIFT Cards: Just like cash but more convenient for today’s digital world.
Using the “real” thing – a debit or credit card – creates a long paper (and electronic) trail that can be picked up and exploited by crooks and other busybodies. These little pieces of plastic act as small portals to your banking accounts. If compromised, it’s like throwing a steel nut into the gears of your fine-tuned financial machine.
To lessen this vulnerability and function outside the banking system without sacrificing your access to electronic commerce, the Visa, MasterCard, or American Express prepaid GIFT cards are extremely handy.
  • Pre-paid cards work just like store gift cards you may have used from Starbucks, Target, or Apple. These are, however, much more practical because they’re accepted anywhere Visa, MasterCard, or American Express are accepted – both in stores and online (but not ATMs).
  • Depending on the gift-card issuer, you could even use them overseas; if this is a concern for you, double-check before buying.
  • These gift cards are NOT rechargeable. When you initially buy one, you choose the amount to put on the card – anywhere from $20 to $500. If you have an account with KeyBank, you can purchase a MasterCard Gift Card and put up to $2,500 on it.
  • The cards have expiration dates, but the remaining balance doesn’t expire. Before the expiration date, simply call the provider to issue a replacement gift card. Because it’s a gift card to give away, you can register the card in any name and address you want. Registration is not required, especially if you only plan to use it in person where you “swipe and sign.”
However, registering the card allows you to use it online (and perhaps gas stations) since many online merchants need to verify name and address to process the purchase. Also, if you want to replace the card due to loss or theft, it needs to be registered beforehand. The problem here is, registering the card eliminates some of the privacy advantage of using these cards.
Do not confuse the prepaid Visa, MasterCard,
or American Express GIFT card
with the prepaid debit card.
Pre-paid Credit Card
Although they’re both prepaid and can be used with any merchant that accepts these forms of payment, the prepaid debit card is connected to your bank account. Also… the debit card is PREPAID and therefore a credit check is NOT required to get one; but, The Patriot Act now requires issuing banks to collect and verify name, address, date of birth, and social security number to issue a prepaid debit card!
In comparison, none of this intrusion is required, needed, or asked for to buy a prepaid GIFT card at the point-of-sale. You simply buy it, use it, and throw it away.
You can pick up a prepaid gift card online, but for more anonymity walk into any chain pharmacy like CVS or Rite-Aid, convenience store such as 7-Eleven, grocer like Krogers, auto clubs like AAA, or department store such as Target or Walmart, and buy it in cash.
2. Prepaid Calling Cards – Keep your calls and contacts private.
It’s rude to eavesdrop on someone else’s conversation. Unfortunately, bureaucrats feel it’s their obligation to protect everyone from everything and the best way to do it is listening to your telephone pillow talk with a loved one. Today, most calling-card traffic is run on separate digital networks outside the traditional telephone networks. The calls are also often encrypted, which gives you a level of privacy and helps ensure call quality.
But, you should be careful using PIN-less calling cards, or reusing or recharging the same calling card over and over again.
Each calling card company has its own data collection and storage policies which could undermine your privacy. Also each calling card has a unique ID number associated with it. “As you made phone calls against that card, they’d get recorded in a database someplace,” says privacy expert Richard Ellis Smith. This information could be used to track both the phone number you’re calling from and the number you’re dialing.
To shrink your exposure and give you some distance from snoops and eavesdroppers, buy disposable prepaid calling cards with cash, or prepaid gift cards. This allows you to unlink your voice communications because new cards are bought to replace old ones when they run out of minutes and in the process different calls are placed through unique calling cards.
You can buy a prepaid calling card anywhere you can pick up a prepaid Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift card.
3. Prepaid Cell Phones: You don’t need to surrender your social security number just to call someone…
Pre-paid Credit Card
You can buy a prepaid cell phone from most electronic stores such as Best Buy. Even office supply stores like Staples carry them, as do major department stores such as Wal-Mart and Target. Even grocery stores like Safeway have these simple phones. From a privacy standpoint these are great products to keep your voice communications and your banking information separate.
No credit check, no social security number, no date of birth, no home address, no employer information, no references, no 2-year contract to tie your hands… nothing intrusive or ridiculous just to get a mobile phone so you can talk with friends, family, and business associates.
You buy the phone just as you’d buy a TV or laptop. To use it, you buy minutes from the same company as the phone. In other words, if you buy a Cricket prepaid cell phone, you must buy Cricket minutes for that phone.
The convenience of online banking, shopping through a smartphone, connecting a social security number to phone service, or linking a credit card to online movie or music memberships, exposes you to cyber crooks and snoops. Interconnecting our virtual lives makes it possible for criminals living thousands of miles away to travel down the same data networks to pick our pockets, while unscrupulous bureaucrats sitting in an office across the country can eavesdrop on our daily conversations.
Investigate the ideas above to continue enjoying digital conveniences while creating small fissures in the data stream that may give you some additional distance from unwanted intrusions and attacks on your privacy.