Online Shopping Security – How About A Virtual Credit Card?

Research has determined that the number one reason many people still don’t shop on the Internet is the fear that their personal information, including their credit card numbers, could fall into the hands of website hackers. Well, I can’t say it hasn’t happened in the past, there has been a lot of fraud on the Internet. As time matures, state and federal laws have materialized to protect consumers and banks have initiated policies that protect consumers that are victims of credit card fraud.

Still with all the safeguards and recourse currently available to consumers, its not so much the damage to their wallets that worries consumers about online shopping (as many card issuers promise zero liability for any online purchases) it’s the potential damage and subsequent loss to the consumers integrity and reputation. It is a time consuming affair to sort out the mess to one’s consumer report and the agony does fall upon the consumers shoulders to fix the mess when one is a victim of identity theft.

Still there are measures to take and some common sense fraud avoidance tips that minimize online fraud. Checking web based and card issued privacy policies is prudent. Make sure transactions are handled in a secure or encrypted environment. Looking for trustworthy symbols such as the BBB or Trust-e emblem symbols is wise. Consumers should steer clear of Email offers; check their credit card statements routinely for suspicious transactions and shred pre-approved credit offers or other documents containing personal information before throwing them out.

Still worried? Consider a virtual credit card (VCC, virtual card or single use card) which offers online shoppers and added layer of security. These card numbers once issued expire within one to three months and are only good on the website where one makes a personal purchase. A random card number is provided to that web address making it completely useless to a hacker as they can’t take that card number anywhere else. The transaction gets completed and the consumer and bank is the only people who know the 16 pin issued number.

These virtual cards are currently issued to holders of Citi, Discover and NBNA cards and were specifically designed to enhance the peace of mind for consumers concerned about credit card fraud. The system process differs slightly for each card but their principle purpose is the same. To get a virtual card consumer’s sign up for it at their credit cards website; this then provides a means to download security software onto their personal computer. When the consumer is ready to shop, they receive a randomly generated card number they can use at their selected online store.

These cards were specifically designed for Internet shopping but their uses have been expanded to allow consumers to make goods or services purchases through the mail and via phone. There are limitations to the virtual cards use as they can not be used at a brick and mortar establishment that require the traditional plastic card. Additionally a virtual card could not be used for purchases that require a credit card to be produced at the time of product pick-up such as for a rental car or theater tickets.

The virtual credit card has only been around about six years and its use has not gained wide spread popularity. However the card availability has not actually been aggressively promoted to the general public concerned about computer security. Is the card really necessary? One could say it is about as relative as any security measure one is willing to take. It is simply an additional layer of security one can implement to protect themselves or provide an added peace of mind.

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