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Credit Cards Use Virtual Numbers to Protect Against Theft

Francine L. Huff
LoanBiz Columnist

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Shoppers worried about identity theft in cyberspace can sign up for a virtual credit card. Some credit card companies offer virtual numbers that can be used only for purchases made through Web sites. Here's what people need to know about using them.

Unlimited Virtual Numbers

For people worried about having their credit card account high-jacked, virtual numbers could help boost their confidence in making purchase online. Virtual credit cards allow shoppers to get a temporary number that can be used for a single transaction or at only one Web site. People who apply for virtual credit card numbers can usually specify how long they want them to be good for, usually up to a year.

How to Get Virtual Cards

Most credit card companies that offer virtual numbers direct account holders to go to their Web site to sign up. Users may have to download special software that allows them to generate the numbers. They'll also get the special security code found on the back of credit cards. Usually the software will have a feature that allows shoppers to track their use of multiple virtual numbers. Since only their credit card company knows the actual number of their account, there's less of a chance thieves will gain access to it.

Where Can They Be Used

Virtual numbers can be used at any Web site that accepts credit card payments. These numbers can't be used at brick and mortar stores since cards have to be swiped. They also can't be used for purchases that later require an actual credit card to confirm the identity of a shopper. For instance, virtual numbers won't work for airline purchases, hotel reservations, or rental cars since people usually have to produce a credit card at check-in time.

Commerce on the Internet is growing at a phenomenal rate. In the third-quarter of 2007, purchases through Web sites rose 61% to $5.38 billion from a year earlier, according to Reuters. People want to be sure that their identity and credit will be safe when going online. If having virtual numbers is important to shoppers, they should make sure they ask about their availability when they apply for credit cards.

Sources:
Reuters
PCWorld


About the Author
Francine L. Huff is a freelance journalist and the author of The 25-Day Money Makeover for Women. She has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows.

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