When I do buy goods from retailers, quite often I end up doing it online due to the cheaper prices and the lack of taxation. However, I used to just leave my credit card trails all over the internet at various retailers, letting them store the numbers on their servers just to make my life easier next time I came along to shop. But that all changed one day, when one of my friends had his credit card number stolen from a big-box retailer’s online store and some thief racked up $5,000 in charges, I got scared. I realize that credit cards will normally remove the charges when your number gets stolen, but that could be a long drawn-out battle and one that I do not really care to fight. It was at that point that I changed my online behavior concerning credit cards.
I no longer allow any online retailer to store my credit card number, nor do I use my actual number when making purchases. Most credit card companies will provide what are called “virtual account numbers”, which are single-use only numbers that you can use for online shopping. Once you buy the product, the charge goes through to your actual account number, and the virtual number no longer works. So even if someone managed to get or see your virtual number, they could not use it for anything at all, and your real account number cannot be breached. It really is a brilliant idea and one that I use quite often.
If you are logged into your credit card’s website, there should be a button for “create a virtual account number”, where you can get a number to use once. There are also some companies that provide a plug-in or a bookmarklet for your web browser that will insert a virtual number into the credit card field at a retailer’s site, which is pretty cool. If you don’t see anything about it on the site, give your credit card company a call and ask them about it. Any way that you can get the number, it is a great way to shop online without giving away your actual credit card number.
When I decided to make that change, I did have to go back to any retailer I had shopped at and remove my credit card number, but it did not take that long, and the piece of mind I got from it was worth it. My friend taught me a lesson at his expense, but hopefully I can stop it from happening to me.