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Safer Internet Purchases

One of the fears of making a purchase over the internet is giving out your credit card information. After all, you have to send them all the info needed to make one charge which means they could theoretically make any number. A bigger problem is likely to be that the do something irresponsible with it and it winds up getting into the dreaded "wrong hands". CitiBank has a nice service that can help keep your credit card information secure called "Virtual Account Numbers". The way that it works is well though out. When you are shopping online and are ready to check - out you use a CitiBank tool to create a new Virtual Account Number. The process is simple, you log in (either to their web site or a small application which you can download to your computer) with your CitiBank username and password, and generate a new number. A three digit security code that some sites require and the expiration date for the number are provided as well. When filling out the billing information for your purchase you just substitute these "virtual" numbers for your regular ones. The purchase will still show up on your regular credit card statement, but if the company you made the purchase from loses your data you don't have to get an entirely new card since they won't have your real number. The expiration date of the virtual number is also set to whatever the next calendar month is from the time you create it. This helps to further limit exposure to insecurity. There are even some advanced features that allow you to set a limit on the virtual number and extend the expiration date up to one your. This is extremely useful for setting up subscriptions to things like web site hosting and music services that are billed monthly. If it's $6/month, you can set the expiration date for one year out and then set the limit on the virtual number to $75 (I bump in a few extra dollars just in case.) You need to create a new virtual number at the end of the year so your subscription doesn't get canceled, but that's easy. The only real downside that I've noticed is for some "Will - call" purchases. If you buy something like a ticket online but are going to pick it up later, some companies require you to have the credit card that made the purchase with you (one example is Fandango). Obviously, this isn't possible with a virtual number since there isn't a card. With luck, major vendors will put a solution in place for this. Till then, you'll have to decide if you want to put your real card number out there. I know CitiBank has this because I use it. You can check out their page on it here . Other card providers probably have similar things. - - Tags : tagFinance tagSecurity tagInternet