One of the biggest concerns many shoppers have is their credit card numbers will be stolen and used by fraudsters.
When you use your credit card to buy items remotely, whether you do so online, or whether you use the telephone, there is an extra element of concern related to the possibility of having your number stolen.
If you want to reduce the chances of someone stealing your identity, it’s possible to generate a one-time credit card number which can’t be used by fraudsters — even if they get a hold of it.
What is a Virtual Credit Card Number?
A virtual credit card number is generated by issuers and connected to your account.
You enter it, just as you would any other type of credit card number, and you are able to complete the purchase. Once the number has been used once, it becomes unusable going forward; if someone else gets a hold of your one time number and tries to make a purchase, it will be declined.
You make your purchase, and no one knows your true credit card account number.
There are also some variations of these virtual credit card numbers: some issuers allow you to place a spending limit or time limit on the number, or create a number for each vendor. All of these options may offer more security than using the same credit card number for all purchases.
How Do You Get a One Time Use Credit Card Number?
If you want a one time credit card number, your first step should be to check with your credit card issuer.
Discover, Citi, and Bank of America all offer one time credit card numbers.
Other issuers might as well.
You can check on the web site for a section with the name “tools” or something similar. The menu usually includes “secure online account numbers” or a related option, including “virtual account number” or “virtual credit card.”
Your issuer can help you locate this on the site if you have difficulties.
Once you have found the appropriate tool from your issuer, it’s usually fairly simple to generate your one time credit card number.
Most issuers can walk you through it less than a couple of minutes. You get your number, and then you can use it to make your purchase.
Why Use a One Time Credit Card Number?
The main benefit of using a one time credit card number is the security.
Your personal financial information is better protected from fraudsters. These numbers are especially appropriate for online shopping, as well as phone orders. The truth is that you never know when a database is going to be hacked.
If the card number stored in that database is useless, you don’t have to worry about someone gaining access to your account later.
What To Do If Your Credit Card Company Doesn’t Offer One Time Card Numbers
There are a lot of companies on the market that don’t offer one-time card numbers. If yours doesn’t, there are still a few ways that you can use these disposable numbers to protect your accounts.
There are third-party services that you can use, like MaskMe. They have a free version that will let you create disposable email addresses and manage passwords, but if you upgrade to their premium, you can get virtual credit card numbers.
This is one of the best ways to use virtual credit card numbers, even if your credit card company doesn’t create them for you.
There are a few other companies that do the same thing, each of them are going to have different advantages or disadvantages, but all of them should be able to protect your accounts with the one-time use numbers.
If you’re looking for a way to protect yourself when you’re physically using your card in-store, then you iPhone or Apple watch can help you do that as well.
Using Apply Pay allows you to do a similar thing.
You can pay for your goods without having to give you actual credit card number. It’s not the exact same thing as using a one-time use number, but it’s much more secure than swiping your physical credit card.
As more and more companies are starting to accept Apple Pay, you’ll be able to add more protection when you go on your shopping sprees.
Pay Attention to Your Computer Security
Practicing safe computing practices is just as important as using a virtual credit card number. The last thing you want is someone to monitor or spy on your computer usage. It’s important to only use a secure wi-fi signal for online banking and online shopping. That means it’s not a good idea to use a public wi-fi signal at a coffee shop or library for making financial transactions or buying things online.
Only shop with websites that are secure. You can tell if the website has a secure connection if it uses the https protocol (as opposed to just http). There should also be a green lock in the browser to indicate the website is secure.
Finally, make sure you are using up to date anti-virus software and an up to date firewall. These software programs can help ensure there are no external programs tracking or monitoring your computer use. Be sure to do regular anti-virus scans to help check for key-logger software or other programs that can track your key strokes and which websites you visit.
You Still Need to Monitor Your Statements
In most cases, you can still review past purchases made with your online account number. Since the account number is connected to your regular account, a record is made, and you can reconcile it with your own records later.
That said, it’s still a good idea to monitor your statements to ensure accuracy and to verify your one-time-use number wasn’t used more than once, or that any charges weren’t made past the expiration date if you used a number with a limited lifespan.
These events are unlikely to happen, but it never hurts to be on the lookout.
Aside from always reviewing your statements, you can also get a free credit report every year. The credit report will give you the basic information and breakdown of your credit score. It will also highlight anything that you should be aware of. Your credit score has a huge impact on your life.
The better that your credit score is, the lower insurance rates that you can get for mortgage loans, car loans, and will also help you get approved for credit card loans and much more.
If your credit card number gets stolen or someone steals your identity, then it could tank your credit score and can directly impact all of your finances.
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