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I've been contacted on a specialized Internet forum and offered a well-paid one-off job to translate a highly specialized text, and I'm happy to accept the offer, but there's a problem: I have always posted on that forum under an anonymous nickname and absolutely don't want my real name to get exposed there. I'm a reputable professional in real life, but sometimes made intentionally controversial posts on that Internet forum and want to exclude any possibility of them getting associated with my real name. The guy who made the offer doesn't know who I am - he contacted me by sending a private message via that forum as he was impressed by my expertise, which is obvious to him from my posts on that forum, and by me being bilingual.

I frankly explained him the issue, and he is okay with me staying anonymous to him and is prepared to pay in small installments upon receiving corresponding parts of my translation, but we can't sort out how he can pay me. I suggested he pay in bitcoins, but he says he's very uncomfortable with that means of payment, the reason being that an acquaintance of his was taken into custody because of using bitcoin and Tor. I carefully explained my prospective client that he doesn't need Tor for bitcoin transactions and that using bitcoin isn't illegal by itself in our location (Russia), and I explained him that his acquaintance must have done, or been suspected of, crimes like money laundering or child porn. Despite my explanations, my prospective client is reluctant and asks me to offer him an alternative means of payment.

So what means of payments can I offer him? I thought about simply giving him my credit card number, as those 16 digits are enough to make a transfer, but one country-specific problem renders this idea unacceptable to me. The problem is that if you initiate such a transfer in online banking, you will see the first name, the patronymic name, and the first letter of the surname of the payee so that you can verify that you are paying the right person. That's just how things work in Russia, at least if the payee and the payer are customers of Sberbank, which is the bank that issued my credit card. I also thought about Russian online payment systems such as Qiwi, WebMoney, and Yandex Money, where you can register an electronic wallet, but it doesn't seem easy to find out for sure whether the payer will see my personal details like in Sberbank. Also, I thought about asking a relative of mine to cooperate by receiving money from my client and giving it to me, but I'm afraid my request will be perceived by the relative as fishy and will damage the relationship. And I thought about PayPal, but, unfortunately, I have two PayPal accounts registered in other countries and linked to now-expired cards issued by banks of those countries, and I was careless enough not to close those PayPal accounts. To register a PayPal account in Russia, I first need to close those accounts, and, as I understand, that process will take a lot of time.

So I'm typing my question here in the hope that someone will suggest a good solution. And I want to emphasize that I don't need to hide anything from authorities; I merely want to ensure that my client won't see my name or any personal details.

Update: Thanks a lot for the 12 answers I received so far. Isn't there a convenient online payment option that can be used in my case? I found many alternatives to PayPal (e.g., payeer.com, webmoney.ru, and the payment systems listed in this article), but it doesn't seem easy to find out whether the payer won't see my name. I'd be especially grateful for an answer in which someone who had a personal experience with any convenient online payment system in which the payer doesn't see the payee's name tells about that experience. The suggested system must be available in Russia and shouldn't be very difficult to use. I'd then verify the information and offer my client that means of payment. Otherwise I'll have to resort to a less comfortable solution such as trying to involve a relative as an intermediary or simply telling the client to agree to pay in bitcoins or find another translator.

  • 25
    Have you looked into the possibility of founding a company of some sort. In many countries, you can do so and relatively easily avoid having your name tied to it in any public way. The company would then be receiving any payments. You have to be careful so this is not construed as money laundering or tax evasion or who knows what else, though, and it may take some time to get this all setup. – Najel May 28 at 18:01
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    I wouldn't suggest it for a large transaction or one where the sender needs to be able to dispute the transaction but there is always the option of having the sender buy a gift card to a store you use frequently and sending you that. I use Amazon enough, for example, that a few hundred dollars in Amazon gift cards is just as good to me as cash. I wouldn't want my entire paycheck deposited that way but for a one-off job I'd probably be happy with it. – Justin Cave May 28 at 21:12
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    Certain groups in India have established a way of sending money to people who you don't know. Have you thought of gift card redemption? – mcalex May 29 at 7:51
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    Since you are concerned about retaining your anonymity, have you considered the possibility that the work may not be genuine, but a pretext to get your identity? – Ben May 29 at 11:39
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    @Najel in the U.K. at least, the names (and sometimes addresses) of company directors are public knowledge, so be careful going this route. Likewise if you decide to get a business email - the domain may reveal your name etc. – Tim May 29 at 12:15

13 Answers 13

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Use an intermediary.

Rather than your client meeting with that forum person, he could meet with an intermediary that will then provide that payment to the forum persona he is contracting. This intermediary could be a friend of yours, yourself posing as a friend, a lawyer, etc.

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    And currently, it wouldn't even be considered weird if the receiver wears a hat and face mask in public... – TTT May 29 at 3:16
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I am not familiar with Russia's postal service, but might you go low-tech and simply have the client physically mail you currency? Again, ignorance of Russian services available, but in the US you can rent a postal box for a relatively low sum and have mail delivered to that address without giving up any of your person details to the client, other than the address you established.

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    Better get that package insured, mailing without it would leave you without recourse if either party, or a third party commits malfeasance. An uninsured transaction might result in one party claiming they never got it, or the other party just sending an empty envelope, or someone else just stealing the cash. – Nuclear Hoagie May 28 at 20:06
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    The Russian post is very slow. A letter sent from a Moscow address to another Moscow address will arrive in 1-2 weeks. But I'll have a look at whether a person can physically drop an envelope into a postal box rented by someone else at a post office. This solution might work because the client and I are in the same city. – Sandra May 28 at 20:43
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    @NuclearWang Risk and trust issues are greatly mitigated here due to "prepared to pay in small installments upon receiving corresponding parts of my translation". This somewhat increases the chance of some money going missing, but greatly reduces the chance of all the money going missing. For all except possibly the final payment, the client has a clear incentive to ensure OP receives the cash so that work will continue. – nanoman May 28 at 22:09
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    In most countries (Russia included, I am almost sure) physical money in the mail are banned. Well, the ban may or may not be strictly enforced. In Russia, the ban is probably enforced by corrupt post office employees that simply steal interesting things. p.s. "Russian postal service" is almost an oxymoron and a base for a lot of jokes. – fraxinus May 29 at 15:36
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    @fraxinus: in the US you can send cash through the mail, but they will only ensure it up to 50,000. – jmoreno May 30 at 0:52
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Use an escrow service

An escrow service is a third party that holds the payment from the buyer while the transaction is in progress. Once the buyer and seller agree that the obligations have been fulfilled, the escrow service releases the funds to the seller.

There are online escrow services that specialize in handling online transactions. I have not used these services, but I would imagine that they could be used in a relatively anonymous way.

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  • As I understand the term, escrow services as opposed to the intermediary in (@Angel's answer) hold the money basically in your name. In other words, OP would still figure on the bill. – cbeleites unhappy with SX May 31 at 13:19
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Depending on the amount, he could use money orders (for example Western Union), Amazon gift cards (or similar) and DM/email you the codes, or mail you prepaid Visa/Amex credit cards.

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    afaik WU does need full name – undefined May 29 at 6:17
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    +1 for "thinking like a scammer"! While OP is not a scammer, his (legitimate) desire for being "untraceable IRL" to the other party is similar and suggests similar solutions. And the client will hopefully realize that their existing, tangible online partnership overrides the usual red flags. – nanoman May 29 at 8:02
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If refillable payment cards are commonly used in your region, you could purchase a card and send him whatever information he would need to refill it, usually a QR code or a number. In some countries these can be refilled at convenience stores. You would then use it like a credit card, or transfer the balance to another account. Before doing this, be sure you will be able to get all the money out and that it is still worthwhile after fees.

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4

Route the money through a trusted third party.

Just ask the client to transfer the money to an account owned by a close friend or relative of yours (anyone you can trust not to run away with the money). That should be untraceable enough for the general public, unless you're such a VIP that all your friends and family members are also publicly known. It won't help hide your identity from the authorities, but if that's your goal, there's many more options how they can track you down.

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    And the next day, the third party comes here with "Is this a scam" – Christian May 29 at 12:03
  • @Christian That's what I say "trusted". The explanation in the question sounds reasonable enough, and close friends or family members typically don't need much convincing to help you out. – TooTea May 29 at 12:07
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    In Russia there are so many scams in which the victim is asked to receive money or goods and then send them, so such a request of mine would raise a red flag and put my relative in an awkward position. And what if the relative asks me to show him the forum and explain why I need to avoid exposing my real name there? I don't want to show my posts to my relatives and friends. But I may end up trying your option if I don't find any better one. – Sandra May 29 at 14:42
  • @Sandra OK, so if you're not comfortable disclosing this activity of yours to your friends and family, then obviously my answer doesn't apply at all. That's an important factor though. Consider highlighting it in your question (by editing it). If you do so, I can then delete my answer. – TooTea May 29 at 14:50
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    @TooTea My question is already pretty long and overburdened with details. May your answer stay here. I will possibly try asking a relative of mine to cooperate, but will avoid disclosing my forum activity to him. It might work. Let's see whether better options will be suggested. – Sandra May 29 at 15:30
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An intermediary PayPal account might work. To withdraw money from PayPal you need to link the PayPal account to your bank account, but it should be possible in theory to create an additional PayPal account, give that account to your customer, then you transfer between PayPal accounts and withdraw from "your" PayPal account.

Important disclaimer: PayPal was known to freeze people's money/accounts for arbitrary reasons, I can see this double account scheme running afoul of their fraud detection and they might freeze/close one or both of your accounts. Use this at your own risk.

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If you both are in the same city, you can meet him in a public place and be paid in cash there. This helps him trust that some of what you are saying is true, and you never need to reveal your name. You could even "sign a contract" with your forum name, if that means anything.

He'll need to agree to "no pictures" and follow through on that, other wise you could be image-searched.

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  • I'm pretty skeptical of the reverse image search being that effective at identifying someone who isn't famous. If the person has the means to do a reverse image search that will actually identify them then a promise not to take their picture would surely be ineffective as they'd just do it anyway. – Dean MacGregor May 29 at 15:47
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    The problem is that some users of the forum well may recognize me in photos if they are posted there. And photos can be taken by miniaturized cameras, so I won't even notice. Also, the guy might come with someone who will secretly take photos from a side. – Sandra May 29 at 16:14
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    How about if you tell the client that you are sending an intermediary but then show up yourself, pretending to be the third-party. As another mentioned, under the current conditions, wearing a fairly well-covering mask won't stand out but adding a hat and sunglasses would nearly ensure anonymity is maintained, even with pictures. – Jaquez May 29 at 23:18
  • @DeanMacGregor Even if reverse image search doesn't find him now, will it still be true in a few years? – Mark May 30 at 16:04
  • @DeanMacGregor A couple of years ago there was a service called FindFace that essentially scraped images off a social network and used the dataset to make a reverse search for people's faces. I know many people who tried uploading pictures of themselves (that had never left their devices before) and, well, turns out if there's any picture of your face on the internet, with enough resources, you will be found. The folks from FindFace apparently now work for the gov't. – Norrius May 30 at 19:53
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Perhaps the client can go to a branch of your bank and deposit cash using your account number without needing your name. I don't know about Russia, but in general banks are happy to take a deposit from anyone to any account. You'd want to check and make sure this doesn't result in the client getting, e.g., a receipt showing your name.

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    I just called my bank to check this option. They say that no, they can't accept cash deposits unless the payer provides the full name of the payee. The account number is not enough. – Sandra May 29 at 15:53
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    I like the idea in theory. But in practice, I don't trust the bank to be careful about hiding ID. I once made a deposit into my sister's account, per her request. The bank gave me a receipt showing me her balance. Oops. – donjuedo May 29 at 21:54
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Can you add an "authorized user" to your credit card? This may vary by country and card issuer, but in my experience you can direct your credit card company to issue a card to any name you want. By default with my bank I am still responsible for all charges that user makes, and they don't really care who the person I add is and since I'm still responsible they don't ask for any deals on that person. You could conceivably add a pseudonym, as long as it is a reason named (e.g. not an obvious screen name). In that case, they should be asked to confirm the pseudonym, not your real name. Of course I would check with the terms and conditions of the bank issuing the card just to make sure it's not against their policy to do something like this and after the name was added run a test to verify that only the pseudoname showed up.

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Other answers involving intermediaries are implying that the OP should trust the intermediary.

This, however, is not strictly necessary.

The intermediary could receive hard currency from the buyer (how, is up to them), and then pay you in BTC.

This way, you would stay fully pseudonymous.

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I think one of the easiest things that you could do (and I've done this myself in Latin America very successfully with much fewer headaches than Western Union, Paypal (that normally freezes $ for 21 days with int'l transactions), etc) is to simply arrange the purchase of BTC on localbitcoins.com for the amount needed and using the payment method that is most comfortable for your client but going directly to you -- this way the client doesn't even need to know that the transaction has any relation to BTC.

There is the ability to pay with literally every payment method under the sun, from Paypal to cash in person to a bank deposit etc.

So basically, you go on the site, find a local seller that accepts the type of payment you want, and start a transaction for the amount needed. The seller gives you the info on how/where to deposit the hard currency, and you forward that info to your client -- and you're good to go! The client only knows the BTC seller's name (if that), deposits the money into their account, and you get the BTC. So everything is completely untraceable, and your client doesn't even need to know that it has anything to do with BTC.

PS: But really I don't know why you can't just ask a friend for their debit card info and tell your client to send it there directly. Another option is to have him drop off cash at a previously agreed upon point. And another option is to have him physically deposit the cash into your bank account with your bank account number (I don't think they need your name for that right? I know that in some countries they do and in others they don't).

PPS: Do you have friends or relatives who are bartenders, store clerks, or waiters? Because that's another commonly done option -- since the places they work at are public, he can just physically leave them an envelope and you can later get it from them (although I'm guessing with Covid everything is closed?).

PPPS: Why can't you open up a PayPal account in Russia because of your other two accounts? As far as I know, the Paypal branches don't talk to each other (I've had 3 accounts in different countries) and so long as you use different emails, you should be good. How would they even be able to link your Russian identity to the identity docs that you used in the other countries? Many people can have the same name, which would be the only match. However, I think with Paypal he would be able to see the name anyway so its a moot point (unless you open a business Paypal account I believe).

Last note: I think you are overthinking this because you are focusing too much on the "anonimity" factor. Think of it from the perspective "if I did not have a bank account, lost all my other documents, and the client was in a different city I could not travel to, how would I handle receiving this payment?" and it becomes much easier.

Good luck!

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0

You could use shopify. But since this isn't free it only really makes sense, if you often want to receive money anonymously and would like to add a payment option to your personal website.

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