I love the convenience of doing my gift shopping online, and I always find some amazing deals at this time of year. But credit card fraud and identity theft are rampant during the holidays, and I know I’m especially at risk because I use my credit card to make my online purchases. To get an additional level of protection when shopping online, I use a virtual credit card number, which may also be called a “single-use,” “one-time use,” “temporary” or “disposable” credit card number.

Virtual credit card numbers are designed to keep your real credit card account number a secret, thus thwarting identity thieves and cyber criminals. If you don’t want to use your real credit card number for online transactions, your credit card company may be able to give you an alternate credit card number, which is usually indicated for just one-time use and may include a self-imposed spending limit or expiration date. Once you have used the virtual credit card number, it typically can’t be used again, thus making it useless to hackers, scammers and thieves.

Not every financial institution/credit card company offers virtual credit card numbers, so you’ll need to inquire about this service with your specific bank and card issuer. Some of the major U.S. financial institutions that offer virtual credit cards are Bank of America ShopSafe, CitiBank Virtual Account Numbers and Discover Card Secure Online Account Numbers. It’s a great service to take advantage of—I love the peace of mind I have now when I’m doing my online holiday shopping!

Outsmart Online Thieves with a Temporary Credit Card Number