Note: This is a guest post from my friend Scrappy. We’ve met in person a couple of times and he has really impressed me with his dedication to privacy, and pushing the limits of Privacy.com. He wanted to share some of his experiences and I am very appreciative.
Ever since I listened to Episode 15 of the Complete Privacy & Security (CPS) Podcast I have been hooked on private payments. For those of you that are new to the privacy world and have not heard of privacy.com, it’s a free service that allows an individual to create masked debit card numbers. These can be used to make purchases without companies knowing who you bank with and your individual debit/credit card numbers.
Further enhancing the security, the cards created at Privacy.com are only good at a single specified merchant and for a specified amount. For example, if you set up a card with Amazon.com with a $100 a month limit, any purchase(s) exceeding the limit and/or used at a different vendor will be denied. These features give much more control to a user when setting up online accounts, especially trial accounts. No more having to worry about online companies making it “impossible” to find how to cancel a free trial. All you have to do is cancel the card or better yet, make it a single use “burner” card, that will automatically cancel after its initial use anyway.
My Experience with Privacy.com
I was sold on privacy.com after listening to Bo Jiang (CEO of privacy.com) on the CPS Podcast. He does a phenomenal job of illustrating how online transactions are needlessly overcomplicated in addition to over-intrusive to the average consumer. He put it best when he stated: “when buying a t-shirt I should give you money for a t-shirt”. He goes on to state that there is no reason why an online retailer needs to know my name, address, phone number, and credit card number to buy a t-shirt online. It should be as simple as “I give you money you give me product, end of story”.
My standard use case for my privacy.com cards has been paying utility bills, paying for services such as Netflix and Hulu, and ordering products online (pizza, amazon, etc.). However, lately I have decided to step up my game. I do not carry a lot of cash on me. I prefer to use a credit card for the simplicity of not having to carry any cash.
To any privacy enthusiast, one can see how using my credit card on a daily basis can compromise my identity. One day, while at Subway I was ordering myself a reasonably edible/partially acceptable sub sandwich. However, when I got to the checkout I realized I did not have my wallet on me. After a short panic, patting down my pockets like someone who is about to bum a cigarette, I pulled out my phone and loaded a privacy.com burner card. After tapping a couple of times, pretending to pay with Apple pay, I then asked if they could input my card manually. They then took the card number without asking for my name and I walked away with a footlong sub, packed with mystery meat.
Testing The Limits of Privacy.com Cards
After my success at Subway, I started to wonder where else my card would work. So far, I have used my card in person at Five Guys, Regal Theaters, Subway, Chipotle, a super sketchy Chinese buffet, and an off-brand liquor store. With stores like Subway and Chipotle, I find it easier to tell them that you forgot your wallet once the food is already made. This gives them a choice between trying to input the card number or throwing the food away. Winner winner, Subway dinner.
All that being said, there is a potential side effect in doing what I’ve described above. Just as I was finishing up writing this post I was ordering Domino’s Pizza (I spend a lot of time on the road, so go judge someone else’s dietary choices) and my first privacy.com card was declined, so I immediately made another burner card. This one was also declined. Unfortunately, I gave in and gave up my real card number to order my pizza. (I wish I could have held out and not compromised my identity in a moment of weakness, but we’re talking about pizza here…). Shortly after the “Double Supreme Extra Cheese Incident”, I contacted Bo, the CEO of privacy.com. I explained to him the situation, as well as what I was trying to accomplish by using my privacy cards in some seriously sketchy locations. He emailed me back within 10 minutes (on a Sunday afternoon!) rectifying the situation completely. It’s a terrific product backed up by terrific customer service.
I plan on keep using privacy cards and seeing what I can get away with. As I find more use cases, I plan on documenting my methods and sharing them here. If, for some reason, you have not signed up for privacy.com here is a link to sign up: Privacy.com
Thanks for all your support.