Stop Financial Tracking and Profiling using These Privacy Tools
Ever seen those TV crime shows where police are able to find a missing person or a killer by tracing their last credit card transaction? The reality is more fact than fiction. Government agencies, credit bureaus and a number of other nefarious entities both foreign and domestic are engaged in spying, profiling and discriminating against individuals who's transactions exhibit risky behavior.
Known as behavioral modeling, data mining and psychographic behavior analysis, the monitoring of customer/citizen spending trends has been has been happening since the first credit/debit cards were issued. Credit card issuers use transaction history to make re-pricing decisions as well as credit line adjustment decisions. Government agencies use it to make determinations about an individuals threat level and what list to put you on for buying a pressure cooker and too much soap.
The author of an article published by CreditCards.com wrote "Representatives from the four top credit card issuers -- Bank of America, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo -- declined to discuss details of how they use purchasing data internally. Many consider this highly proprietary information. A spokeswoman from a banking industry trade group acknowledged that the practice is common."
An internal branch of the NSA known as “Follow the Money” (FTM), monitors “international payments, banking and credit card transactions" according to German news source Der Spiegel (September 15th, 2013). When questioned, the NSA admitted to tracking financial information saying it only tracked potential terrorist financing and terror networks.
"This information is collected through regulatory, law enforcement, diplomatic, and intelligence channels, as well as through undertakings with cooperating foreign allies and partners" he says.
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), has over 10,000 banking organizations in 212 countries and is one of those “cooperating” allies .
Financial information is stored in the NSA databank Tracfin. (likely named after the French database created in 1990 'Tracfin' which was for tracking illegal financial transactions. In 2011, Tracfin contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions” like the ones you will make this Christmas. Further, it appears that the NSA has been tracking the Visa credit card system, according to the documents leaked by Snowden.
Cash is very hard to trace but has obvious limitations like being unable to make online transactions. Cash is great for privacy in Point of Sale POS transactions.
Here are 2 things (besides cash) that anybody can do to solve these problems right now using tools available to them in the free market.
Card Masking Services
There is only one card masking service in the game right now and that is Abine's service Blur. Blur enables an individual to make masked online purchases. Blur prompts you when you are checking out to mask your card and can generate a one time card in the amount of your purchase with a one time use card number, CVC #, expiration date, their billing address and whatever name on it you would like. All that shows up in transaction history is a charge to Abine.com. Of course, this is NOT a service for criminal activity but it IS a great tool for stopping warrantless surveillance of spending habits online.
Visa Gift Cards
Visa Gift Cards can be used POS as well as online transactions. Most Visa Gift Cards however require a social security number (SSN) to activate which prevents anonymity. Fortunately, there are still a couple exceptions which makes them one of the best little known financial privacy tools available.
Visa Vanilla is a pre-paid credit card that offers anonymity with financial transactions and can be purchased cash requiring no personal identifying information from most corner stores, drug stores and grocery stores in the US. It can be used with almost all merchants where visa is accepted but require registration online through their website to use in online transactions. Can be loaded in amounts between (20 500 dollars). Tip: Pay for gas inside or it will automatically charge $75 to your card. They also cannot be reloaded.
SIMON VISA GIFT CARD
Simon Visa Gift Card is a non reloadable prepaid visa gift card that can be used at all merchants that accept visa. A great alternative to banks. This will let you make online purchases with privacy. They take up to $500, accept cash, and don’t ask for a name, nor address or SSN to set up. Their malls are everywhere and web interface lets you connect any name and address you want to each card, so you can use them with merchants that do AVS checks which means anonymous online purchases. (Note: will not help with masking physical addresses in shipping of products.)
And there you have it! You wont find better solutions than this to stop financial tracking, profiling and discrimination.
Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about new tools and solutions here!
For more online privacy tools see here.