Banking On Safety On Cyber Monday

November 29, 2015


This is a major pet peeve of mine.

Do not use your debit card online. Hackers can perhaps surprisingly easily break the encryption around your debit card that puts your whole bank account at risk. If your debit card gets hacked, you may have a challenging time getting that money back.

Instead, use your credit card. They're traditionally much safer and more secure. And disputing a charge on your credit card is much more user-friendly than trying to replace funds from a debit card hack.

Additionally, you can also use a Simon card or a credit card gift card. These are even more secure since they operate as simple gift cards that can be used practically anywhere. One thing to keep in mind when using them is that you sometimes need to register them when making purchases online, which means attaching your name and address to it. It isn’t required with every use, but if you go to purchase a $75 item with $100 on the card, even though you have sufficient funds on the card, the merchant may have stricter security measures and not allow the transaction to complete if the card has not been registered. Then you have to wait for the card company to refund the money back to the card, which of course takes them about a week to do.

If you’re looking for near-total anonymity and security when shopping online, one clever way to go is to use a Coinstar. These machines are all over the place in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. You can cash coins in and get cash for a small fee, OR you can cash coins and/or cash in and get a gift card for many businesses, including for NO FEE. You don’t have to give up your email or street address. Simply give the machine your money and it’ll give you a coupon code to many businesses.

Now, if you are concerned about spying and monitoring of purchases by the NSA, then beware that these approaches don't address that concern. Even if you use a browser like Tor to shop on say, Amazon, they can still get access to that if they want. It's best to assume that the NSA can monitor anything you do that leaves a paper trail. Even if you use a service like Coinstar, they can access the purchase on Amazon, and trace the gift card number back to the specific Coinstar you used in which grocery store. And that whole transaction obviously has the shipping address you used to have that purchase sent to you. If you're concerned about this, then see the next post about keeping yourself completely anonymous from even the NSA.

It's actually quite easy.

Until then, I hope you're having a fantastic holiday season so far! Be safe and have fun.


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