January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Web Shoppers Anonymouse

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Ecount, an e-commerce payments company, has unveiled PrivateBuy.com, which it claims is "the first and only" product that facilitates anonymous purchases anywhere online. PrivateBuy.com allows consumers to buy whatever they want anywhere on the Web without revealing personal or credit card information to merchants, the company says.

The firm is touting it as a solution for consumers who want to make discreet purchases, send anonymous gifts and donations, or have concerns about Internet privacy or identity theft. PrivateBuy is a private debit account that requires no special software or downloads, and any e-retailer that accepts MasterCard can process PrivateBuy transactions, Ecount says.

Once set up, consumers are issued the name "Private Buyer" and given a 16-digit debit account number and an anonymous billing address. This account information is used in place of the shopper's name, credit card number and billing address when making purchases. Users can add funds to their accounts via major credit cards. Funds can be added anytime for $3.95, and through the PrivateBuy ShopBar, users can add funds at the merchant's point-of-purchase. Private Buyers can shop on merchants' web sites, or they can shop through the PrivateBuy.com Hot Shopping Guide, says Conshohocken, Pa.-based Ecount.

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