If you haven’t heard about it yet, the Central Bank of Lebanon issued intermediary circular nb415 a couple of weeks ago requesting banks and financial institutions to stop issuing and offering prepaid cards to their customers.
This decision comes as a response to the recent international recommendations after the bombings that hit Europe, since it appeared that terrorists were using these anonymous prepaid cards to cover their identity when buying the needed materials to execute their crimes. The problem here is that some cards are sold off the shelf at bookstores and supermarkets as internet and gift cards with no need to supply any personal information, therefore anybody can use them to buy almost anything without leaving a trace of his identity. That’s why the European Commission is currently working to regulate the usage of prepaid cards and virtual currencies, and Lebanon is following their steps by simply banning dealing with these cards all together.
Needless to say, this is going to upset a lot of people who used to get things done with cards like BLOM’s Visa Mini or Bank of Beirut’s SKIP card without the need to have an account with the issuing bank. Some people still don’t trust the internet with their credit card info and resort to using these prepaid ones whenever they need to purchase stuff online, while others simply use them because they don’t have a bank account like students. And knowing how BDL is usually serious about its decisions, you currently have no option other than opening a bank account and then going through the usual procedure of applying to a credit/internet card that gets linked to your account and eventually traces back to you each time you use it online or at a POS terminal.
However, if your main concern is anonymity, then you can use a service like MaskMe which allows you to generate a virtual card number for the amount you need to spend online in order to use it with the web merchant. This way, your real credit card statement will show a payment to MaskMe, and the merchant will not be able to know your real identity.
This new measure might be necessary to stop the terrorists’ access to funds, but it totally sucks for people who opt for more practical solutions… and until regulators introduce some new control over these cards before offering them again, you will have to bond a little more with your preferred bank!