I don’t know why Citi doesn’t make a bigger deal about publicizing this feature of their credit cards, but they actually have an excellent security option which helps protect customers making online purchases. They mention it only in one paragraph here.
If you have a Citibank credit card, you can use the Virtual Account Number feature to generate temporary “alias” numbers to give out in place of your actual number. Why would you want to do that? Well, there are lots of reasons… read on and I’ll give you a few.
So, in theory, they could add something into the user agreement like:
There will be a $10 per transaction fee imposed on the use of any Virtual Account Number. In addition, the interest rate for charges will be 5% higher than your normal base rate.
Are they likely to do it? Probably not, but I’m sure any good attorney would advise us that anythings possible.
- Log into the CitiCards.com site and find the link for Virtual Account Numbers.
- With one click, you can generate a random credit card number.
- Use that number whenever you make a purchase online.
So, why would you want to use this service when you’ve already got fraud protection built in?
- Lets say you want to buy a magazine subscription online (or any type of potentially recurring subscription). If you use your real card number they may try to auto-renew you down the road. Can’t do that with a disposable number!
- You want to order from a catalog or some other source that you have to mail in an order form with your credit card info included. Use a VAN in case someone intercepts the mail.
- Each virtual account number is set to expire at the end of the following month and can only be used at a single merchant. This means if someone steals it, the number can’t be used anywhere else.
- Fighting fraudulent charges is a pain in the ass! It takes time and energy and there is always at least a chance that you could lose in the end. Why not prevent it altogether?
Keep in mind the announcement in June 2005 that 40 million credit card numbers were hacked. If those people had used a Virtual Account Number they wouldn’t even break a sweat!
If you want to use this service you’ve got two options. They offer a download-able version for the PC which will automatically pop up and fill in check out forms for you, or they offer a Web based version that you can access online.
Go check it out at CitiCards.com.