Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weekly Security Tip: Virtual Credit Card Numbers

I thought I'd try a weekly security tip to force me to do research on computer security (something I want to understand on a deeper level). I've learned so much from the few classes I've taken in school that I want everybody around me to know so that they too can be more aware of safer ways to use a computer. is an excellent place to find the hottest news on any given topic. I find their security section to be quite helpful and entertaining (they've had articles telling people the special order in which to press the buttons on a coke machine to get free sodas, for the purpose of showing a lack of security on the part of Coca-Cola).

Anyways, one of the more recent articles that showed up was on virtual credit card numbers (VCCNs) and how nobody uses them. VCCN's allow you to purchase items online using a virtual/disposable credit card number on the spot that will either only be active for that one order or will only be active for transactions with that particular merchant for a particular time period. In other words, you don't have to use your actual credit card number for any online purchases, which greatly decreases the chance of identity theft (i.e., the theft of personal information for criminal use) happening.

Not every credit card company offers this but a few of those that do include:
  • CitiBank
  • MBNA
  • Discover offered the following reasons to use this service:
  • Lets say you want to buy a magazine subscription online (or any type of potentially recurring subscription). If you use your real card number they may try to auto-renew you down the road. Can’t do that with a disposable number!

  • You want to order from a catalog or some other source that you have to mail in an order form with your credit card info included. Use a VAN in case someone intercepts the mail.

  • Each virtual account number is set to expire at the end of the following month and can only be used at a single merchant. This means if someone steals it, the number can’t be used anywhere else.

  • Fighting fraudulent charges is a pain in the [rear]! It takes time and energy and there is always at least a chance that you could lose in the end. Why not prevent it altogether?

The only drawback is that this service shouldn't be used for items you will be picking up in person (e.g., pizza, movie tickets, other items that are ordered and picked up at a local store, etc.)

1 comment:

sherrie bebe said...

This is really cool! Definitely makes me feel better about online purchases when it's not my real information. Has your mom read this? I think she'd really be interested in it. Keep the tips coming!