I have used prepaid cellphones exclusively for about 6-7 years now. There are many reasons why I switched but, for me, it started with an effort to improve reclaim a little privacy and wanting a dedicated cellphone for my home defense pouch.
Initially, I wasn’t looking for “burner phone”, I had read How to Be Invisible by J.J. Luna while doing research for a project of my own, and one of the points he made was that it’s tough to have any privacy at all if you use credit. I am not a lawyer, so please don’t misinterpret this as legal advice, but I understand that giving false information to a bank on a credit application is a felony, and creditors always want to know where they can track you down.
I hadn’t used credit cards for about 15 years at that time, not just because of the consequences to my privacy, but also because I understand how interest works and people who understand how interest works collect it instead of paying it.
Luna’s main point was compartmenting. Cut the tie between where your mail goes and your residence … the place where you live. Most people don’t take measures to protect their privacy and are trivially easy to find by virtually anyone … a lawyer, a reporter, a process server, a stalker, a violent ex, some criminal you happened to observe committing a crime, some guy with road rage … you name it.
Once you sever the connection between your mailing address and your residence address (for most folks this involves moving), there are additional steps that must be taken, such as not using credit … at least not if you intend to abide by the law. And most phone plans other than pre-paid phone plans, involve a wireless service provider extending you a line of credit. So, that was part of why I started looking at prepaid cellphones.
Home Defense Pouch
The other reason I was interested in them was for my Home Defense Pouch. I started getting serious about carrying concealed and taking tactical pistol classes in the 90’s. I remember Clint Smith from Thunder Ranch teaching about the Home Defense Pouch being an effective way to going from being unarmed to having everything you need to defend yourself in just a couple of seconds and without looking like Rambo. And one of the things that you want to have if you defend yourself is a cellphone, so you can dial 9-1-1 for an ambulance and the police.
Amongst the classes I took, one of the better ones was called Concealed Carry and the Law and was taught be a criminal judge. Again, don’t misinterpret anything in my articles as legal advice, but I recall receiving advice that anything on your person when you defend yourself could end up being entered into evidence, and the more evidence a prosecutor can lay hands on the bigger field day he’s going to have. You may have noticed Hunter Biden’s mistake of documenting some of his many crimes on his laptop, getting stoned and leaving it at the repair shop. As I write this, it’s causing his father, and liberals in general, no small amount of grief.
The lesson here is don’t be Hunter Biden and turn over cellphone or your computer to the prosecution if it can be avoided and a good way to avoid it is to keep a dedicated cellphone in your Home Defense Pouch. It should have no social media accounts, no email, no photos, no text messages, and very few contacts. You might want police non-emergency number, local hospitals, your criminal defense attorney, someone who can post bail for you and so in in there … just in case.
Anyway, ask your lawyer what should be in there and what shouldn’t and follow his advice. Be warned, he’ll probably staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
In this context, a drop phone is like a drop wallet. In certain parts of the world, everybody carries their busted old phone in their hand and their expensive phone in their underwear. Criminals surely know this, but either the young kids they send out to mug people (because they are minors and won’t get much time when they get caught) are too scared and in too much of a hurry to have you dig your good phone out of your boxers or they consider it poor form. I’m guessing it’s the former.
So, when you’re on a bus in Brazil and one guy puts a gun to the driver’s head and another walks down the aisle with a bag and tells everyone to put their wallet and their phone in the bag, you give him your drop phone and your drop wallet and have a story to tell. Why? Because if you don’t put a phone and a wallet in the bag, he’ll shoot you in the face and know he’ll be back on the street in a year or two if he gets caught. That’s what happens when you have lax laws, something folks in certain states in the U.S. are learning the hard way.
I also use a prepaid phone when I travel, and I carry it in a Faraday pouch until I need it. Your 4th Amendment rights are suspended at points of entry in the U.S. and most countries have similar rules. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that international airports force people through narrow choke points. This is so they can control you … and skim your data. They also often employ IMSI catcher cellphone intercept hardware. You may have heard it called a Stingray®. In reality, that is just one of many models that tell your phone it’s really a cell tower and use a man-in-the-middle attack to intercept cell traffic, IMSI, and GPS data, and combined with making you show your passport, and forcing you through a choke point, and skimming your card data, governments can correlate many data points and accounts with your identity.
So, your last name’s not “Bin Laden” and you don’t see why you should care? Like overzealous prosecutor who believes the ends justify the means, the more data you give governments to sift through, the more likely it is that they’ll make a mistake.
Most folks have a bag, a hammer, some dish gloves, a shower curtain, and a roll of duct tape. The hammer is in the junk drawer or the toolbox, the dish gloves are in the kitchen, the shower curtain is in the bathroom and so on. Taken separately, they make you a responsible homeowner or renter. If a cop finds them all in a bag in your hand and you’re peaking in somebody’s window at 2am, it’s a murder kit.
The difference is the context and when analysts sift through your data, they don’t have context. I used the murder kit example, but I could have built a bomb just as easily. But would it be smart to writer about it? Probably not. The more data you give them, more like likely it is they’ll find whatever data they are cherry picking and take it out of context.
China took it even further at the Olympics and forced attendees to install apps the CCP used to track spectators and athletes. (Dunleavy, 2022)
A hideout phone is small phone that you conceal on your person. Ideally, it should be small enough and hidden well enough to escape discovery if you are kidnapped and your captors take your primary phone (or your drop phone and your primary phone.) Mini phones, credit card formfactor phones, and earwigs fall into this category. Some even advertise that very little metal is used in their construction. A backup phone can also be used as a backup phone, but usually only for making phone calls because most hideout phones are feature phones, not smartphones … which brings us to another use for pre-paid phones.
What happens if you break your phone or if falls overboard while boating? I’ve had both happen, one of my phones is at the bottom of Lake Powell. It slipped out of my shirt pocket in 440’ of water. You’re on a trip or in a disaster and you break or lose your phone. You can buy a phone to use with a prepaid provider cheap, about $20. Plans start around $15 per month in the U.S. and around $2 in South America. So, if three is two, two is one, and one is none, why don’t you have backup phones?
Smartphone vs Feature Phone?
For the survivalist, each has advantages. Low tech feature phones have fewer ways to track you and invade your privacy and sometimes it’s nice to use a phone that you only use to make phone calls. On the other hand, a smartphone is a powerful computer that fits in your pocket. If you have taken my advice and prepared a Digital Survival Library, you can access topographical maps, maps showing ocean currents and shipping lanes, fallout patterns, and magnetic declination. Music, entertainment, books, and powerful programs that encrypt data, rootkits to reprogram cellphones to protect your privacy instead of invading it, ballistics computers to calculate holdover and windage for long range shooting, manuals to repair your equipment, software to program amateur radios, communications plans, and books for OTP ciphers. You can also store encrypted security tokens, and account information for Internet Access, VPN accounts, and encrypted email accounts hosted in countries that respect privacy. Unfortunately, when it comes to privacy, the U.S.A. is “The Land of the Not as Free as it Used to Be.” So, please vote and do whatever you can to help make the U.S.A. “The Land of the Free” once again.
But smartphone vs. feature phone … it’s up to you. I use both for different purposes.
What You Need
Survivalists or preppers don’t just need a phone, they also need to keep it running.
- Prepaid Phone
- SIM Card/Starter Kit
- PINs for Prepaid Phone Plans
- Long Distance Calling Card Information
- 120v AC to USB Adapter
- Intelligent 12v DC to USB Adapter
- Short Universal Charge Cable
- Digital Survival Library on a rugged Flash Memory Device, USB + USB-C
- USB-C to MicroUSB OTG Adapter
- Contacts on SD Memory Cards
- SD Memory to USB + MicroUSB Adapter
- Water-resistant (and floating) Bag or Case
- Faraday Bag or Pocket Liner
It may seem like a long list, but it all fits in a shirt pocket.