There are a lot of ways to send money anonymously (or semi-anonymously, anyway), such as with prepaid debit cards, a PayPal account that’s not attached to your name, or even with a bank account. There are also private payment services that allow you to transfer money using anonymous online payment methods. The problem is, in most cases, the recipient will need to accept the payment, which, because of scams and hackers, many individuals will be reluctant to do.
There are a lot of good reasons for sending money online anonymously. Maybe you feel that charitable contributions are more meaningful if you don’t have your name attached, or perhaps you want to send money anonymously as a gift.
Whatever your reasons for sending money anonymously, there is more than likely an option that fits your needs, whether it involves online or offline interactions. Read on to learn about the various ways of sending money online or otherwise, without the recipient knowing who sent it.
But first, let’s take a quick look at how anonymous online payments really are.
How realistic is it to truly remain anonymous?
While there are quite a few “anonymous” payment methods, in many cases total anonymity isn’t really possible. Probably the most foolproof way to make anonymous payments is to slip some cash through a mail slot in someone’s door under cover of darkness. (And possibly also in disguise, since everyone and their brother seems to have a “smart” doorbell or security system nowadays.)
When you send money online, though, there pretty much has to be some sort of digital trail around most transactions. You may be able to keep your identity concealed from the recipient, but a sufficiently motivated and skillful person could figure out who sent it, which probably means others can find out as well.
How to send money anonymously
Having said that, there are some methods that are about as anonymous as you can get. We’ll take a look at those and other ways to pay anonymously to varying degrees.
Bank account deposit
Not every bank will let you do this, but one truly anonymous payment method is to deposit cash directly into someone’s bank account. If you do not have an account with that financial institution, there is no need for anyone to ever know your name if you’re depositing cash.
It would be helpful if you were to have the person’s bank account number, but it’s not necessary. If you have other personal details — such as the recipient’s email address, phone number, or home address — the bank can use that to verify that the money is being deposited into the correct account.
As mentioned, not every bank will let you just walk in and plunk down some cash to anonymously make a deposit. They may require you to have a bank account with them. In that case, you would not be truly anonymous.
However, you might be able to explain to the teller that you want to deposit money into your daughter’s account and would prefer it to be an anonymous surprise, so she may never need to know who put the money there.
Wire transfer money
If you wanted to send a bank-to-bank wire transfer from your account to another, your name and account number are not attached to the money transfer, so it seems like pretty anonymous. However, if the person who receives it chooses to do a little digging, they can find out you sent it.
Another complication is the person sending the money anonymously will need to know the personal banking information of the person receiving the money. This includes the account number and the name as it’s written on the account. Obviously, this means you would have to have a pretty close relationship with the recipient to make “anonymous” transfers this way.
Unlike a cashier’s check that you get from a bank that must have your name on it, money orders can be bought and sent anonymously. They are widely available from places like post offices, Western Union, currency exchanges, and some retailers such as grocery stores or pharmacies.
You do not have to put your name on the money order, and you can pay with cash instead of a credit card or debit card, so there is no record whatsoever of the transaction with your name on it.
In order to be cashed, the money order needs to be signed, but even the recipient can sign it because a bank or check-cashing service has no idea who purchased the money order in the first place. You could also sign it illegibly so your name can’t be recognized. Unlike with a banking account check, no one will be verifying the signature.
Using prepaid debit cards or prepaid gift cards are two other options to send money anonymously. In fact, the easiest way to send money without revealing your identity is to pay cash for prepaid gift cards or debit cards and then send them through the mail without using your return address.
If you’re going to use prepaid debit cards or gift cards though, you will want to stick with disposable cards. If the cards can be reloaded, they will require a credit card or bank account number to activate, rendering them less than anonymous. But a disposable card, like a prepaid gift card, is untraceable to the recipient as far as who bought them, regardless of the payment method.
If you’re okay with having your bank account linked to the card, you may want to consider some of the prepaid debit card options below.
Private payment services
There isn’t a truly anonymous payment app to send money to others because the party has to accept the transaction before the money is delivered. This is true of well-known apps such as Cash App, Venmo, and Zelle.
Technically you could create a new email and use a fake name, but your payment details have to be real. That makes it very tough to be completely anonymous. Plus, you may run up against the problem of the recipient being unwilling to accept an anonymous payment.
That being said, money transfer apps are an easy way to send money to whoever needs it. Take a look at the following options if you’re considering sending money slightly anonymously.
How to send money anonymously to retailers or organizations
While you may have some difficulty sending money anonymously to an individual, you won’t come across the same blockades with organizations.
A surefire way to send money anonymously online is when making a donation to most charities. There are a lot of motives for why someone would want to conceal their identity when making a charitable contribution. Maybe someone believes that anonymous donations are more altruistic than public contributions. On the other hand, a person might want to donate anonymously simply because they don’t want to be solicited for future donations.
People in the business of collecting money for charitable causes aren’t likely to care exactly where the money comes from. After all, the whole point of a charity is to collect as much money as possible for a worthy cause, such as homelessness or cancer research. For that reason, it’s easy to send money anonymously for charitable contributions.
If you’re sending money online for the charity, you will probably have to give up an email address. However, this doesn’t need to be your primary address, and it doesn’t have to reveal who you are. The same is true for private payments to less formal funding efforts, such as a GoFundMe event or other crowdfunding options.
PayPal accounts are typically tied to your email address, which, oftentimes, has some or part of your name within the address. Plus, you are required to list your legal name when you sign up for a PayPal transactions. To get around that, you can start by simply setting up a new email account and making up a name that has no ties to you.
Then you can use that incognito email address to set up a business PayPal account and send money to the other’s PayPal account without the recipient knowing who made the anonymous payment. The business name will be revealed to the receiver of the money so, like your email, it can be whatever you want.
Of course, this is not 100% secret since you’ll have to provide payment details to your PayPal account. So PayPal will know who made the deposit, but the recipient won’t. But as with other payment services, the person will have to accept the money, which they may be reluctant to do if they don’t recognize the sender.
Virtual credit cards
A virtual credit card is a way to shop online without using your account credit card number (the one that’s on your physical credit card) and other details. It’s semi-anonymous in that you’re not using your “real” credit card and provides another layer of protection from hackers.
This virtual account can be used for multiple purchases or can be set up for single-use financial transactions. When you request a virtual card from your card provider, you’ll receive a randomly generated card number, expiration date, and security code that are tied to your actual account. Also, because these are virtual accounts, they can only be used to pay for services online or through mail order.
Using prepaid cards online
Prepaid debit cards or gift cards are usually widely accepted and can be used when purchasing goods in stores anonymously. But if you’re buying things online you still need to enter your name and address for shipping verification.
This naturally destroys any anonymity you might have had from using prepaid cards online. However, you could have the items sent to an alternative address to maintain total anonymity.
How to send money anonymously using a third party
Alternatively, you can enlist another person, or entity, to funnel your money where you want it to go. You can pay that person or group to set up accounts in their own or business name, and you would provide the funds and details on how to make your private transactions.
This could mean walking up to someone and physically handing them cash, mailing them a check or money order, or sending money online. In most of these cases, you could remain an anonymous sender, but someone’s name would be on the transaction.
- There are ways to send money anonymously, but very few are truly anonymous when you’re sending money online. There’s almost always some type of digital record.
- The only real way to send money completely anonymous is by using cash, through the purchase of money orders, prepaid disposable cards, or having a third party physically hand them cash.
- You can try to use throwaway emails and fake names to send money through private payment methods, but your account details still have to be real. This forms a trail that leads back to you.
- To receive money anonymously can be a red flag for many people, and they might not be willing to accept anonymous payment methods.
View Article Sources
- Why Clients Decide to Donate Publicly or Anonymously — American Endowment Foundation
- Money transfers common issues — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Anonymous Contributions — Public Disclosure Commission
- How to Send Money to Someone Without a Bank Account — SuperMoney
- How to Send Money for Free — SuperMoney
- Compare Money Transfer Services: 8 Factors to Consider — SuperMoney
- How to Send Money to Mexico Online in 5 Easy Steps — SuperMoney
- Best Money Transfer Services in 2022 — SuperMoney