I Lost My Debit Card Last Weekend

I love sharing stories like this because as much as I love privacy and security and view it as a fun challenge, at the end of the day it’s really all about practicality. This website is aimed at “the average person,” meaning that if this information doesn’t have any real-world applications then it’s no better than watching Mr Robot (great show, by the way, completely recommend it).

So I lost my debit card this past weekend, and I want to explain how the privacy lifestyle I live helped me save the day. Before I go into it, I want to make two things clear: first off, this subject sort of overlaps with personal finance, but personally I don’t find privacy and personal finance to be mutually exclusive. In fact, privacy and security habits will also often improve your financial standing if executed properly (in my opinion). Second, I am writing this from a place of privilege. Not everyone is fortunate enough to put money into savings, or even to have a bank account. I realize that this story involves privilege, and my goal is not to disparage anyone who reads this and goes “wow, must be nice,” but rather to encourage those who are fortunate enough to be in similar shoes to see how this stuff can have real world impacts.

So What Did I Do?

This past weekend my partner and I drove about two and a half hours out of town to visit her mother. It was a birthday visit more than a Fourth of July visit, we’re rather indifferent to the holiday ourselves. At any rate, in our hometown I stopped and used my card for gas (blasphemy to some privacy enthusiasts, I know) and when we arrived I realized my card was gone. So like any sane person in my shoes, as soon as I discovered it was missing I canceled it and ordered a new one through my bank’s automated system. I use MySudo, so I used the VoIP number that I have set aside specifically for important matters – banking, housing, etc – to place the call. Just to fully flesh out my privacy model.

How Did It Impact My Weekend?

It didn’t really. First off, I’m an introvert. I spent the whole week playing Fable (Steam summer sale baby!) and making fun of the movies we watched on TV. But we follow the Dave Ramsey ideology of personal finance. So we have a moderate sum of money in cash for emergencies. We took this savings with us just in case, and we were fortunate enough to be able to dip into this for any expenses like food. As soon as my card gets here, I’ll be replenishing the money. In the meantime I can continue to dip into the savings for things like groceries and gas until my card arrives (sent to my PO Box, of course).

How Will It Impact Me Online?

The real question most people are probably wondering is “how will this impact me online?” Really that’s the big thing. After all, think of all the subscriptions I have to replace now with a new card number, right? First off, not really. I’m a minimalist. I try to keep the subscriptions I actually use to a minimum. From a personal finance perspective, subscriptions are usually a rip-off. They make continuous money off you while providing very little future returns (such as new features and upgrades) and at the end of the day you don’t actually own anything. From a privacy perspective, these companies usually make even more money off of you by harvesting and selling personal information about you. The less accounts I have, the better.

More importantly, I do almost all of my purchases using either cash (such as in-store groceries) or online using prepaid gift cards and Privacy.com cards. I have nothing to update once my new card comes in. Other than not being able to take money out at an ATM, this really has almost no impact on my life.

The Lesson

The moral here is that this privacy stuff has real world impacts. It’s not just about some nebulous abstract like “stopping Google from profiting at my expense” or “what if America turns police state.” There are actual, practical threats that face us everyday: losing our debit cards, bank data breaches, random stalkers. Don’t just brush the information in this site off as “tin foil hat” or “paranoid” because it actually has value in your life.

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