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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are Virtual Credit Cards Better Than Physical Cards?

By Kermil J. Fogarth

Just having received the bill for a credit card I haven't used since receiving it several months ago, imagine my surprise to see that I had made some purchases. Now, bear in mind that this card has been in my wallet since I received it seven months ago and still has the activation sticker on it. Yet, I managed to make online purchases of a train ticket in Washington DC, sign up for a monthly MLM program and purchase another travel ticket on hotwire. The card was received seven months ago and the charges only started in November. Is there any way this could have been prevented?

Throw away credit card numbers can be of some use here but probably wouldn't have prevented the above from happening as somehow someone got my name and actual credit card number. But for online shopping protection using virtual credit cards may be helpful - or they may lead us to a false sense of security. Just because I use a virtual card only once doesn't mean someone can't get the real information to use for their benefit.

Just like using a disposable camera instead of your expensive camera while you are traveling to protect from loss or damage, you can use a virtual card to prevent loss when purchasing online. With a virtual credit card number, the number is discarded after one use.

With widespread credit card fraud nobody is surprised when it happens and the credit card companies are constantly looking for a way to prevent losses due to fraud. The method must not inconvenience their customer when it comes to using the account for purchases either online or on person yet it must also protect consumer information. Their hope is that virtual card numbers can solve this problem for them and their customers.

The use of virtual card numbers for online purchases work the same way as a normal card number except they are only valid for a short time period. These numbers are issued as a short term replacement of the actual card number and are only valid for a short period of time. True card information is not sent to the vendor and these numbers can be single use or they may be used for multiple purchases over a short time period before it is no longer valid.

Virtual card numbers are intended to hide the real number from those who wish to use your information for their purposes and possibly damaging your credit. Should a secure processing center be hacked by someone wanting credit card information, your use of a virtual number would render your account safe. If they used your virtual number the result would be a denial of credit.

The expectation is that your card number is safe and secure on some sites during the payment process. There is always the possibility that someone working for the online merchant will sell the information to criminals. This as well would be a criminal act but some people are willing to do anything if the price is high enough and there is no easy way to trace it back to them.

The biggest benefit of virtual card numbers is protecting your private information online. The subsequent use of such a number results in denial of credit. If you are used to making several purchases online with your credit card per month then you may see a real benefit from the use of a virtual credit card. This will assure all your transactions are secure and your information is protected.

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