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Old 03-19-2005, 11:22 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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Safer Online Buying -- Single Use Credit Cards

There's a lot of news these days about fraud, identity theft, viruses and spyware, and all kinds of other online vulnerabilities. They are especially a concern for those of us that make purchases with a credit card.

As a result it makes sense to protect yourself when buying online. It doesn't seem to be common knowledge yet, but there are a few credit card companies that allow you to create a single use credit card, complete with a unique credit card number, expiration date, and that little verification code.

Aside... That little printed code used to be a good security feature, but now that everyone seems to use it, there are only a handful of cases where it seems to protect us. One of those cases is the famous restaurant and store scam where they scan your card twice, or scan it into a modified machine that keeps your card info for later download by the thieves. And lest you think it never happens, I've been to a famous chain restaurant where that's been done. Fortunately, it was during a different time frame.

Of course you don't really get a new credit card, you just get the unique purchase information. You can choose a credit limit for the number and an expiration date for the number. I'm going by memory now, but I think Bank One, Citibank, and MNBC (or MBNC?) are the ones in the US that were listed in a newspaper article last year. And if I remember the tv ads from many years ago, American Express was actually the first to do this because they had extra numbers in their series that they could use. They claimed other credit cards couldn't duplicate it because of a lack of numbers, but obviously that's been solved, probably by adding new sets of 4 digit codes to start off the credit card numbers with. I'm not sure if AMEX even still offers such a feature on any of their cards.

And if you're really trying to prevent identity theft, don't stop there. Make sure you shred or burn your sensitive trash also. Despite the fear of online buying by some, it seems that most identity theft cases are the old fasioned type which come from non-technological means like going through your trash. In some strange way that's good news... because if you are a mobile computing fanatic, you probably have come to depend on online purchases quite heavily.

So go get that new credit card (or figure out how to use that single purchase system) and buy something from your favorite Palm or Software vendor. Just make sure you leave a few $s for Laurens new commercial software application!
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Old 03-19-2005, 03:02 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobR
And if you're really trying to prevent identity theft, don't stop there. Make sure you shred or burn your sensitive trash also.
Please don't burn your trash, shredded or otherwise. Save what is left of the environment, if you can.

I am a strong advocate of secure shredding. In my various contracts with companies, I am exposed to pretty sensitive information, and my accounts grant the holder access to quite a bit. As a result of this, I've been using a military-grade cross-cut shredder for a long time now. It is probably the single-most-valuable purchase I've made, in terms of saving money (by preventing fraud, account abuse, and other issues).

Quote:
Despite the fear of online buying by some, it seems that most identity theft cases are the old fasioned type which come from non-technological means like going through your trash. In some strange way that's good news... because if you are a mobile computing fanatic, you probably have come to depend on online purchases quite heavily.
As someone who has personally had his identity stolen, I can definately advocate adding the extra protection on your credit card purchases that many credit companies provide. Don't use Debit when purchasing online, and definately do not use cash or wire transfer (hint, lots of eBay fraud happens this way).

About 4 years ago, someone was going into my condo building and taking my physical mail from my mailbox. They were also taking mail from several other people as well. I've always had trouble with my mail being delivered "late" (I'd send a letter out to myself, and it would arrive 3-4 weeks later). I was so used to it happening, that I didn't notice a few bills and statements arriving a week or two later than normal.

After 2 years of this happening, I got a big package from the US Postal Inspector's office, with 2 years of my mail inside, half of it opened, the other half unopened. Enclosed was a letter stating that the person was caught with over 10,000 pieces of mail in his possession, and that he was spending 60 months in a Federal prison for the crime. He was taking the mail, opening it, using the information inside, re-sealing the envelopes, and putting them back in my mailbox.

The odd thing though, was that the items that were being taken, were only medical bills and phone bills. However, from these items, it would be easy to impersonate me, to gain medical coverage or rent an apartment (with proof of a phone bill, for example). This is exactly what the theif was doing, for dozens of people.

Shred, and keep a close watch on your online statements or online credit card purchases. The sooner you catch suspiscious charges, the sooner you can be reimbursed. Some companies even say that they will not reverse incorrect charges if you don't report them within 7 days.

  • Shred your documents and old statements.
  • Watch your statements closely for odd purchases.
  • Keep an eye on where your card goes when you hand it to someone to make a purchase.
  • Never EVER give your information out verbally over the telephone.
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