That’s the pitch from a handful of start-ups that specialize in offering so-called virtual cards — credit or debit card numbers that link to a real payment account but that can be used at only a single merchant or that expire as soon as they’re used, limiting the potential damage if a hacker gets hold of them.
“It’s a way of muddying the waters,” said Boling Jiang, chief executive of New York payments start-up Pay With Privacy. “Fraudsters get these numbers, but they’re useless.”
Jiang’s company and rival New York firm Token Payments both offer free online services that allow you to pay with your existing checking, debit or credit card accounts. Oakland start-up Final offers a credit card of its own, complete with a rewards program. And all three have a similar set of features, designed to make users feel more secure giving out payment information to online merchants.
They allow users to generate an unlimited number of virtual cards, which act like an ordinary credit or debit card and come with an expiration date and three-digit security code. But unlike ordinary cards, these can be set to expire after a single use or after a certain amount has been charged to them, or they can be locked to a particular merchant.
If a fraudster steals the number you gave to Amazon and tries to use it at Target, the transaction will be blocked.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.