Monday, March 22, 2004

On bank-issued gift cards

I like to think about ways people can "hack the system", using things in order to accomplish goals other than those the things are intended for. What I thought of this morning has to do with those gift cards you can get at malls that are simply Visa or MasterCard debit cards that you pre-charge. My sneaky thought is this - I bet people are using them to buy pr0n and other illicit things anonymously. Over the Internet. Despite the relative traceability of Internet connections, all someone has to do is order a gift card and pay with it using cash. Then go and set up a fake identity on Yahoo or someone else's webmail system, complete with a made-up name and address. Go through an anonymizing proxy if you feel it's needed.

Now you have all you need to buy is the illicit goods you want. Physical delivery is obviously an issue, but things like warez access and pr0n can be bought with complete anonymity. Unfortunately, that also means underaged kids could buy bad stuff, too. I'm not sure what you could do about it.

Just FYI, I've had two of these gift cards so far. One was won for winning my golf league title (a $25 Simon mall card), and a $20 card I got for my 133 game two weeks ago in bowling. I did not follow said idea - I used the first one to get a little extra discount on the iMac I bought last fall. The newer one was used to buy myself a copy of Madden '04 for Windows yesterday. No pr0n was bought that way on my part.

I wonder how many people already figured this out?

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