Register for an account on a P2P bitcoin marketplace.
Search the list of open offers for sellers that accept in-person cash payments.
Find a seller close to you.
Check the seller’s reputation on the platform.
Agree on a price.
Arrange a time to meet somewhere public.
Complete your transaction.
Three ways to buy cryptocurrency anonymously
If you want to buy cryptocurrency without ID verification, there are only a few options to choose from:
Peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplaces
Buy crypto without ID, cut out the middleman to deal direct with the seller, negotiate for the deal you want
You may need to settle for a higher price, could take time to find the right seller
These platforms, such as LocalBitcoins and Paxful, allow you to interact directly with other users who want to sell their crypto. Many sellers don’t require you to provide any ID before you buy, so you can arrange to meet up in person and pay cash to a local seller. Online trades are also available, but many of the payment methods used for these trades may be linked to your identity.
Allow you to purchase crypto without providing proof of ID
Prepaid cards aren’t widely accepted, time-consuming way to buy crypto, watch out for high fees
Another option is to load a prepaid card with cash and then use it to trade on a platform that doesn’t require proof of ID. These cards are similar to a Visa gift card you can buy at a supermarket or convenience store without verifying your identity.
Relatively simple to use, competitive fees
More and more exchanges require proof of ID, virtually impossible to buy crypto with fiat currency without providing proof of ID
On the vast majority of cryptocurrency exchanges, using fiat currency to buy cryptocurrency without ID is impossible. However, there are several platforms where you can exchange one cryptocurrency for another without needing to verify your ID.
Some of these sites offer “shifting” services that essentially let you trade altcoins with yourself. In fact, some crypto wallets allow you to complete the exchange of coins within your wallet, saving you the hassle of transferring your coins to a third-party exchange.
There are also some crypto exchanges that allow you to trade altcoins without verifying your ID. However, you may need to provide your email address or phone number to sign up for an account. For example, Binance users can deposit, trade and withdraw cryptocurrencies without supplying proof of ID, although this means accepting a much lower withdrawal limit than would otherwise be available should you go through the ID verification process. There are also some decentralised exchanges that don’t require any ID verification.
However, remember that if you want to trade with complete anonymity, you’ll first need to find a way to anonymously obtain crypto using fiat currency before you can start exchanging from one crypto to another.
There’s a widespread misconception that cryptocurrencies are simple to purchase anonymously, but this simply isn’t true for a couple of reasons:
Regulators in Hong Kong and around the world are gradually introducing legislation that governs digital currency exchanges and the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies. These laws regularly include a requirement for exchange operators to identify their customers in line with Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) regulations.
For example, since April 2018, digital currency exchanges in Hong Kong have been required to:
Register and enrol their business with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC).
Adopt and maintain AML/CTF programs
Report suspicious matters and transactions over $10,000 to SFC
Keep records relating to customer identification, transactions, and their AML/CTF program
As a result of this sort of legislation in Hong Kong and several other countries, many exchanges will now require you to provide proof of ID before you can start trading.
Bitcoin is pseudonymous, not anonymous
Because it’s possible for bitcoin users to send and receive BTC to one another without providing proof of ID, the currency is sometimes described as being anonymous. However, a more accurate way to refer to bitcoin is as a pseudonymous currency.
One commonly repeated comparison likens transacting with bitcoin to an author writing under a pseudonym – if their true identity is ever discovered, anything they wrote while using the pseudonym can be linked directly to them.
In the court of public opinion, there’s a widely held belief that the main reason anyone might want to buy cryptocurrency anonymously is so they can pay for all manner of illicit goods and services in the hidden corners of the dark web.
But while there’s definitely some truth in this idea – after all, anyone involved in illegal activities would have good reason to want to cover their tracks – there are also plenty of legitimate reasons why someone might want to buy bitcoin or some other crypto without any ID.
If you’re worried about crypto exchanges being targeted by hackers and your personal information (including your government-issued ID/driver’s licence/passport details) being stolen
If you own a lot of crypto and don’t want to be targeted by thieves
If you don’t trust the government (this may be less of a concern in Hong Kong, but can be a real issue for people living under authoritarian regimes)
Finally, there’s also the simple fact that the ID verification process on some platforms can be frustratingly slow, particularly during times of increased demand. If you want to purchase crypto as fast as possible to take advantage of an anticipated price change before it occurs, buying without ID verification might be a quicker option.
More ways to protect your privacy
If privacy is important to you, there are several steps you can take to protect your identity when sending and receiving cryptocurrency. These include:
Using a new address for each transaction. Using a new address for each crypto transaction is a simple way to prevent separate transactions being linked back to you as the common owner. Hierarchical deterministic (HD) wallets like the Ledger Nano S allow you to generate a new address every time you receive bitcoin.
Using multiple wallets. Another option to increase your anonymity when transacting with crypto is to open and maintain multiple wallets.
Using a mixing service. Bitcoin mixing services rely on a data anonymisation method known as CoinJoin, which basically jumbles payments from multiple users together into a single transaction. This is designed to make it much more difficult for prying eyes to determine who sent money to whom.
Hiding your IP address. Your IP address is a unique address for your computer that reveals where you’re connecting to the Internet. To prevent it being linked to your cryptocurrency wallet address of transactions, you can consider ways to hide your IP, such as using a VPN service or encrypting and rerouting your Internet traffic through a service like Tor.
Using a dedicated privacy coin. Coins like Monero and Bytecoin have built-in privacy features designed to provide anonymous transactions.
Taking simple privacy precautions. Be mindful of your footprint when using the crypto buying methods listed higher up this page. For example, avoid giving someone your phone number when paying cash for bitcoin on a local exchange.
Pros and cons of buying cryptocurrency without ID
You can keep your financial information private
You don’t need to go through a time-consuming ID verification process
Makes cryptocurrency accessible to the estimated one billion people around the world who don’t have proof of ID
Can often be more complicated and inconvenient than simply buying with ID on a conventional crypto exchange
You may need to settle for a higher price
You can usually only buy a small amount of crypto before being asked to provide ID
Many cryptocurrencies aren’t actually anonymous, so your transaction could potentially be linked to your identity
There’s always the risk that your desire to remain anonymous attracts suspicion and unwanted attention
Whatever your reason for wanting to buy crypto without ID, there are several options available. However, each of those methods comes with a varying level of risk and its own pros and cons, and you’ll usually need to pay an additional premium to get the privacy you want. Make sure you research all of your options before deciding on the safest approach.
If you don’t want to provide your ID to the seller, you can cancel the trade and search for a seller who explicitly states that they don’t require proof of ID.
If you’re arranging to meet up with a BTC seller you’ve found through an online marketplace or forum, exercise extreme caution. Arrange to meet in a busy public place, consider bringing a friend or two with you and never set up a meeting with someone if you aren’t completely comfortable. Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true and make sure you use the platform’s reputation system to gauge the seller’s legitimacy.
No, for a couple of reasons:
Most crypto exchanges and trading platforms require proof of ID for credit card purchases
Even if you find a platform that allows you to buy crypto without ID, you’ll still be paying for your transaction with a credit card that’s linked to your identity.
No. Like your credit card, your bank account is linked to your identity, so buying crypto via bank transfer or any other method linked to your account will always be traceable back to you.
No. While you used to be able to buy cryptocurrency anonymously from bitcoin ATMs, it’s now a requirement that bitcoin ATMs in Hong Kong request proof of ID in line with broader AML/CTF laws introduced in April 2018. Some machines also implement fingerprint scanning and SMS verification as part of the identification process.
While ShapeShift is well known as “the exchange without accounts”, its CEO announced in a September 2018 blog post that the platform would be introducing ShapeShift membership. As part of the tiered membership scheme, users will need to provide “basic personal information”. Membership is initially optional but will become mandatory at a later date.
Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly
volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of
future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information.
You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory
requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may
have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.
Tim Falk is a freelance writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors.
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