Securing your payment information online is becoming increasingly important as we enter a more digitally connected world. Data breaches and payment card fraud can catch even the most careful people off guard. The impact of data breaches and card fraud can lead to significant monetary loss, and requires victims to invest hours contacting financial institutions, filing disputes, and changing the canceled card number on file with dozens of merchants.
There are several measures you can take to reduce the risk of having your payment card information compromised when spending online.
First, be aware and ensure that the website you are visiting is properly secured. The most obvious sign is to make sure that the site is using an SSL certificate. You can check this by seeing if the URL starts with “https,” with the s standing for secure. If the URL address begins only with “http,” the site is likely not being secured with an SSL certificate.
Second, ensure that the domain you're visiting is legitimate and actually the site you intend to shop at. Some scammers will register domains that look similar to existing services like “wa1mart.com” instead of “walmart.com.” In these cases, an SSL certificate won’t help protect you because it’s securing the connection between your computer and a fraudulent merchant. Before you input your sensitive information into a site, check to make sure the URL actually corresponds to the brand you know and trust.
Third, keep an eye out for deals that seem too good to be true. These may be fly by night shops set up to collect your personal information or sellers of replica or fake luxury goods. Always check the reputation of the sites you frequent. For larger purchases, it can be helpful to perform a quick online search for the merchant’s reputation. Read our guide to learn more on how to prevent online shopping fraud.
Last, leverage unique virtual card numbers, provided by companies like Privacy.com. A virtual card is a unique 16-digit card number with a CVV code and expiration date that can be used to make purchases in place of a physical credit or debit card. Privacy's virtual cards can be used to mask your payment information by generating a unique, secure card number for each merchant where you shop online, keeping your financial information private from potential fraudulent actors. Privacy Cards have additional security features--spend limits, real-time notifications, and ability to "lock" to a specific merchant--that can shield you from unwarranted charges.
By preventing overcharging and limiting the damage from data breaches, virtual card numbers are an effective tool to help secure and control your spending.