Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Credit Card, Shopping
Published on 03-04-2009
These days, shopping for items over the internet has almost become second nature for many people. During the early days of the internet though, there were many fears of stolen credit card numbers, and people were generally afraid to part with such sensitive information. But with the advent of secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption technology, more and more people are shopping online than ever before. This technology effectively scrambles the information that is passed back and forth between the person’s computer and the web server so that anyone who intercepts the network traffic can’t determine what the credit card number is.
Even with this encryption technology in place, people’s credit card numbers are still at risk, as any number of people still have access to this sensitive information. At the very least, people in the I.T. department who run the website and database have access to it, as well members of the accounting department of the company that fulfills the orders. And there’s always the chance that the person’s PC, which may or may not contain the credit card number in the web browser cache, could be stolen. So, to further combat those who would traffic in credit card numbers, the industry has come up with an ingenious solution: temporary credit card numbers.
Temporary credit card numbers are just that. When a person owns a credit card, obviously the card is assigned a certain number to identify that particular account. But with temporary numbers, the number acts as an additional pointer to the account, and it can only be used in a limited way. Also called Virtual Account Numbers by certain credit card issuers, these numbers can vary in the limits imposed on their use. For instance, some of the numbers can only be used one time, and others have a set time period during which they can be used. Still more have a set limit on the amount of money they can be used to charge.
This arrangement is most often set up online as part of the credit card issuer’s website. Some companies make their customers download a special piece of software to facilitate the temporary credit card number assignation, while others have just made it a part of their website just like checking one’s balance or paying one’s bill.
There are certain limitations to using these numbers that consumers must be aware of, as they cannot be used in all situations. For instance, you cannot use these numbers for purchases for which you’ll have to show your card to pick up, such as movie tickets, because the number used to purchase the item won’t match what’s on your card. So in these cases, you still must use your “real” credit card number to make the purchase. Still, this system is a great way to cut down on the damage that can be caused by the theft and misuse of credit card numbers. And with the amount of identity theft increasing all the time, we need all the help we can get to battle this scourge of society.