How anonyous are anonymous SIM cards? What can you do with them? Are they legal? Read this guide to find out!
There aren’t many of them. But sometimes you hear about them. Anonymous SIM cards. If you are interested in online privacy and security, these anonymous SIM cards might sound interesting. But how anonymous are they really? Are they even legal? And what can you use them for, and what can’t you use them for?
Not sure what an anonymous SIM card is and if it’s something for you? We’re here to answer all these questions.
The basics of anonymous SIM cards
Anonymous SIM cards aren’t easily available. You can’t walk into a phone store on the high street and buy one. But you can buy them online.
Simply put, an anonymous SIM card allows you to make calls without your location or phone number being tracked. This allows you complete privacy to those you are calling or texting.
One thing to note is that many anonymous SIM cards won’t allow you to receive phone calls. It’s not true for all of them, but this is a pretty big downside to using a lot of anonymous SIM cards currently on the market. Another thing to note is that other people might not be able to track you, but law enforcement agencies will still be able to do that. In fact, European law enforcement agencies used encrypted phones against criminals in 2021 in one of their biggest actions against organised crime ever.
What types of anonymous SIM cards exist?
If you look around on the internet, you’ll quickly notice that there are many names people use to describe anonymous SIM cards. They can be called white SIM cards, or encrypted SIM cards. Are these different?
No. In principle there are no different types of SIM cards, just different names that people use for the same kind of card. Some sellers of anonymous SIM cards do offer different features than others. This is not really a change in the kind of card you’re getting however. They all still basically work in the same way.
What can you do with an Anonymous SIM card?
So, what’s the point of having an anonymous SIM card? What can you do with it that you can’t with a normal SIM card, be it prepaid or postpaid.
Stay anonymous when buying one
The first advantage is a simple one. For many regular SIM cards you need to show your ID. The phone company has a record of you buying that SIM card so it can always be tracked back to you. This is true of most SIMS tied to a contract, but it’s also true of some prepaid and pay-as-you-go SIM cards.
Anonymous SIM cards often offer to sell you a SIM card without showing your ID, meaning it’s harder to track it back to you.
Of course this does rely on you paying with a payment method that can’t be tracked back to you either. If you pay for an anonymous SIM card with credit card or PayPal, that transaction can still be tracked back to you.
Don’t share your location
Another benefit is that no-one will be able to see where you’re calling from if you’re using an anonymous SIM card. How this works gets a bit technical, but in theory your phone’s location will be untraceable. Unless it’s a smartphone and you have location tracking on, of course.
A regular SIM card connects with the closest phone tower. That connection can be tracked to find your general location. This makes it easy to see where you’re calling from. An anonymous SIM card however, bounces around through multiple towers, making it very hard to track where you’re really calling from. In a general way, this works similarly to how a VPN disguises the location of your computer.
Keep your phone number hidden
In similar fashion, anonymous SIM cards also hide your phone number. They do that by routing your call through a virtual switchboard. This has two possible uses. Firstly, you can completely masque your phone number so that the person you are calling thinks it is an anonymous phone number.
But you can also use it to assume the identity of another phone number. Or spoof that phone number as it’s often called.
Is there more?
As said above, not all anonymous SIM cards are the same. Some offer extra features. This might include the encryption of your phone calls and text messages. Or software that changes the sound of your voice.
All of these extra features cost more of course. By now you might be able to guess that anonymous SIM cards can be very expensive. Some people feel however, that the price for near-complete privacy is worth paying.
Are anonymous SIM cards legal?
This is a really grey area that can differ from country to country. Please also note that we are not really qualified to give legal advice. There are no direct laws against anonymous SIM cards, so using them is not a crime in and of itself. In other words, yes, they are legal.
But, given their features it should come as no surprise that anonymous SIM cards are popular among criminals. Fraudsters, and cold-calling spam companies might use them. As would law enforcement and secret service agents.
Regular people might also use an anonymous SIM card if they are very concerned about their privacy. This might be true of journalists or activists acting in countries that don’t respect freedom of expression so much. There are other easier and cheaper ways to protect yourself online however. We’ll talk more about that below.
Can you buy an Anonymous SIM card?
You can’t walk into any phone store and buy an anonymous SIM card. None of the big providers offer one. If you want one you’ll have to buy one online. There are plenty of companies selling them. We’re not going to recommend any of them for obvious reasons, but you can have a look around.
One of the biggest problems you’ll immediately notice is that anonymous SIM cards are quite pricey. The cheapest one we could find still cost 100 Euros and it quickly went up to 10 times that.
So given the gray area surrounding their use and their steep price, would you even want to buy an anonymous SIM card?
Would you want to buy an anonymous prepaid SIM card?
The simple answer is no, we can’t really recommend buying an anonymous SIM card. Yes, privacy and online security are important. But the price and the legal gray areas of using anonymous SIM cards are major reasons not to.
Anonymous SIMs are far too expensive for the extra bit of protection they offer. The mobile service these SIM cards can offer most likely won’t be as good as a regular mobile provider can offer. As we’ve stated above, a lot of anonymous SIM cards won’t allow you to receive calls. And many of these anonymous SIM cards don’t offer that much more protection and privacy than a regular prepaid credit card does.
So the biggest benefits are for those who are up to no good.
How to protect yourself online without an anonymous SIM card
If you are privacy-minded there is a cheaper alternative to using anonymous SIM cards. You can just buy a regular prepaid SIM card and use it as a burner phone. You even have digital apps for that so you can use it on your smartphone. This guide shows you how burner phones work these days and how you can use them to protect your privacy.
A benefit of using regular prepaid SIM cards is that you’re on a normal and usually quite good phone network. Another benefit is that it’s easy to top up your call credit. You can do it right here, on Recharge.com! Simply enter your email address or phone number and pay with your preferred payment method. You can find all the providers for which we offer prepaid call credit on our mobile recharge page. You can also use the Recharge.com app for an even quicker and easier way to top up.