There’s a step you can take to increase the security of online purchases that you might not have heard of: virtual credit cards
Think of them as temporary and disposable. If someone steals your virtual number and tries to purchase something in your name, you can just delete the number.
“They’re becoming more relevant as people shop online more,” said Oliver Browne, an industry analyst with Credit Card Insider. “People are looking for additional security.”
Here’s how it works: Through the three companies that offer this service at no additional charge – Capital One, Bank of America and Citibank – consumers can generate a virtual credit card number that differs from their physical card and the physical card’s security code and expiration date.
This is a safety measure because if a scammer steals your virtual number or the number is stolen in a data breach, your physical card won’t be threatened and you won’t have to replace it. In the case of theft, you would just cancel the virtual number and prevent any further use, Browne said.
“You can also set specific spending limits or time frames on virtual credit cards which can give a card holder added security when shopping online or over the phone,” according to an information sheet. The cards can only be used for online purchases and not in physical stores. In some cases, they are merchant-specific so a thief that tried to use it more broadly would be unable to do so.
There are a few ways this method provides convenience. The obvious is you can just cancel the number and don’t have to wait for a new card, like you do when your physical card is lost or stolen.
Another benefit: if you want to subscribe to something but want to avoid that annoying trend of being automatically signed up for renewal later, you can use a virtual card. By the time the publication signs you up again, the virtual number will have long since been canceled.
Nonetheless, “it’s not a silver bullet,” Browne said. There aren’t any extra fraud protections with these cards, so you’ll still want to check your credit card statements. The virtual-card purchases will be listed there, along with physical card purchases.
Here’s one way to battle unwanted calls – with a sense of humor.
A Journal reader’s answering machine has this greeting: “Hello. You have reached the American Apathy Association. We could care less who you are or why you called. Please continue to hold and none of us will take your call – ever.”
Yet another reason to carefully check credit card statements: a scam called “formjacking.”
It’s basically code that’s written on some websites with the purpose of stealing credit card numbers and other information from consumers when they make purchases. Here’s how the Identity Theft Resource Center describes this hard-to-detect con: “The purchase you made is valid and goes through as normal, which makes this identity crime all the more” stealthy.
Generally, the malicious code is on the checkout page of ecommerce websites. Once the consumer clicks “submit” on an order, the code enables cyber-criminals to highjack personal information.
That information can then be used to make fraudulent purchases or can be sold to other criminals on the dark web, according to Symantec, which provides cybersecurity services.
Formjacking hits an average of 4,800 websites per month – notable victims include Ticketmaster and British Airways.
The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends consumers keep a close watch on their credit statements and that businesses use security practices to prevent such theft attempts.