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Shopping Safe Online with “Virtual Credit Card Number”

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — This holiday season, many of us will shop on-line using a credit card. It’s fast, convenient, and with a couple of steps, it can be safe, too.

Consumer advocate Milagros Johnson recommends using a “virtual credit card number”. Instead of using your actual number, you enter in one that your credit card company randomly generates for you.

Think of it like the Massachusetts driver’s license number. It used to be a social security number. That information was so sensitive, though, that the registry now gives the choice of a randomly generated number preceded by an ‘S’.

“That just gives us added protection meaning that number is only good for a temporary period of time and you set the time limit,” said Johnson. “You set it for a week, one day shopping, 30 days, 60 days. But what it means is that number means nothing to anybody else but the credit card company. So nobody will be able to hack it, to use it.”

Not every credit card company offers virtual numbers and some may charge a fee for the service.

“If you want that piece of mind and you want that security, then, if it’s available, why not take advantage of it. You’re going to sleep a lot better,” said Johnson.

She says the only downside is that if you return an online item to a store in person, they may not have the virtual number on record. She says a simple phone call from the store to the credit card company is all it should take to remedy the situation.

Another step to protecting yourself is to make sure that when you check out, the payment page isn’t a fake one set up by scammers to grab your credit card info.

“Consumers should always look for the ‘s’ in the URL address,” said Milagros who is the Director of the Springfield Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information. “If there is no ‘s’ after the ‘http’, that means that a website is not secure so the information you enter such as your credit card number is not going to be encrypted.”

Johnson adds one more caution about online shopping; do not use a debit card. They have fewer protections than credit cards in case of theft or loss. She said if people don’t qualify for a credit card, they can use two debit card accounts. Keep just the money they want to shop with in one of them.


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