Protecting Credit Cards from Online Data Breaches

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Last year when the first major retail chain had its credit card files breached by hackers, it made headlines. Reporters followed the story for months, and when another breached happened at a different company, it was even bigger and made more dramatic news.

Recently, though, the cyberattacks are happening regularly, and therefore are no longer making headline news. For example, The Associated Press reported that two small phone companies posted the Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and other sensitive data of 300,000 clients to the Internet. Or you can just hop over to Forbes, which has their own roundup of recent data breaches called the “Data Breach Bulletin.” That should tell you right off the bat just how bad things have gotten.

No longer are data breaches isolated incidents –they are happening all the time.

A Fast-Spreading Data Breach Virus

The Forbes' “Data Breach Bulletin” has a round-up of data breaches that have included Kmart, Staples, J.P. Morgan, and even a publishing company about to release a new book about cyber hacking. Apple’s own iCloud system was cited as the target of an organized attack on computer servers holding sensitive customer information.

Even old-fashioned Dairy Queen has  been hit by hackers. The company reported that 395 of its stores in the U.S. have been targeted. The point-of-sale malware used to pull off that hack has been spreading, too, with malware hitting other retailers like Home Depot, Jimmy John’s, and Goodwill.

Here are two tools you can use for an additional level of security while shopping online:

Bank of America ShopSafe

One way to get added protection is by banking with a company that lets you create a unique credit card number for a one-time only purchase. Bank of America, for example, offers a feature  called ShopSafe.  If you are a Visa or MasterCard cardholder with Bank of America, there's no charge, no registration, and no commitment for you to take advantage of the service. Unfortunately, this service is not currently available for Bank of America’s American Express credit cards.

When a user is shopping online, Bank of America will generate a temporary credit card number that links directly to your account. All you need to do when shopping online are the following:

  • Log-in to your online credit card account and choose “Use ShopSafe” from your credit card account activity screen.
  • Enter your spending limits and ShopSafe will automatically generate a temporary 16-digit account number.

The system will also assign a security code with an expiration date. You have the ability to select the date (for up to 1 year in the future), after which the temporary card number will expire. Once it expires, there is nothing of value left in the retail merchant’s database that hackers can use to exploit your account. That allows you to complete your purchase while protecting your privacy. Find out more about temporary authorization numbers.

MaskMe Services

Abine, a tech security company, also offers a service called Blur, which lets you create virtual credit cards for point-of-sale transactions. Some Blur services are free to consumers like masking your email address, Password Management and Tracker Blocking. For a fee of $3.25 per month or $39 per year (or less if you buy more than the one-year package), however, you can become a Blur Premium subscriber. This gives you access to premium features that include Masked Credit Cards. Here's how Masked Credit Cards work:

  • When you're ready to make a purchase, MaskMe randomly generates a one-time-use credit card number, expiration date, and security code with a user name of your choosing.
  • When you’re shopping online, the masked card will show up as a credit card option when checking out. Once you select it, the service will automatically enter all the information you need.
  • When asked for your billing address, Blur provides the mailing address to their own office, not your personal home address.

If one of the actual credit cards that are linked to your Blur account is compromised or, if you find out that a store you recently visited has experienced a massive data breach, then you can delete it from your Blur account with one easy click.

These options may seem cumbersome, but it’s a small price to pay to protect yourself against credit card fraud. Hopefully the new pin and chip infrastructure will bring an end to the constant security breaches, and we can once again enjoy making our purchases without worry.

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