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Make Your Online Shopping Safer With Single Use “Burner” Credit Cards

privacy

Every time you have made an online purchase, you probably would have had a moment of hesitancy and fear while typing in your credit card number to pay for your purchases. You are not alone, because there naturally is a level of uncertainty in the security of entering your credit card numbers online on the wide open web.

by Randy Glasbergen

Source: Randy Glasbergen

Privacy.com, a company who launched their free app on 24th March 2016, aims to ease that particular consumer fear by creating their “burner” digital Visa cards solution.

Privacy’s virtual, burner Visa credit cards were made to be randomly generated credit card numbers that can only be used once before the card number self-destructs. Your personal information is hidden when you make online purchases because it allows you to have a brand-new virtual card for every transaction you want to make, thereby keeping your actual credit card number safe. Besides having the option to create a one-time use credit card number, users can also opt to create an unlimited number of single- or recurring-use cards, or even use of merchant-specific cards (such as a card specific for Spotify subscriptions/iTunes purchases/Kickstarter investments).

At Privacy, its self-explanatory company name clearly outlines the value it hopes to bring for their users, a basic idea which has already struck up the interests of investors. The company announced in October that it had raised $1.2 million in seed funding from investors, including Jim Messina (former White House deputy chief of staff and main driver of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign) and Andy Roth (former Chief Privacy Officer of American Express.

And it’s no wonder as well that the start-up company is formed from a small line-up of security-conscious directors with notable credentials. CEO Boling Jiang studied math at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and came from a cryptocurrency background, while Andy Roth (that former Chief Privacy Officer of American Express one) is also pro bono counsel to Bitcoin Foundation and Human Rights Watch. Other team members include Jason Cruz (who worked at Expensify, a software company that develops a travel and expense web and mobile app) and David Nichols (who worked at Palantir, a software and services company specializing in data analysis).

Jiang believes that consumers have the right to not share personal information with a merchant if they are only going to buy something from them once. “It puts the control back in your hands as the consumer,” Jiang assures. “Our policy is we collect the minimum amount of information we need to operate and make your life easy and abide by the law…A lot of tech companies we’ve seen collect the maximum amount of information. That’s the ethos that separates us from others.”

 

The beauty of burner cards

Privacy chrome extension

Privacy icon on Google Chrome Extension

As long as your bank is supported as one of the institutions Privacy works with, you will be able to use the company’s Google Chrome/Firefox extension to auto-generate new Privacy cards whenever you want (they are also available in the iOS App store with support for Safari and Internet Explorer coming soon). You are able to keep using these cards or close them whenever you feel like it. The company presently works with a couple of major banks and institutions such as Bank of America, Citibank, Capital One 360, Wells Fargo, Chase, and a couple others, but have since been receiving a ton of requests from regional banks and credit unions to link up. Privacy’s app quickly reached number one on Product Hunt and received much attention on Hacker News.

The main advantage of Privacy’s burner cards is that having multiple cards linked to your bank account and locked to specific merchants is a good way of reducing credit card fraud. A thief would be far less interested with stealing your card number if all they could do with it was to use it for New York Times subscriptions, with maximum spending limits of $1,000 per day and $2,000 per month. The great thing is that if there was a leak, you could even track and see what merchant was responsible since there are multiple card numbers for each purchase. This goes for hidden charges, billing without consent, and for using the products you buy online to market to you.

Secondly, with Privacy, stop subscriptions and prevent against deceptive recurring billing when you forget to cancel your “30-day free trials” by disabling your virtual cards so that those pesky companies cannot bill you again. Additionally, a Privacy burner card works with any billing address, so if you choose to keep your personal credentials private, Privacy would give you the permission to do so.

Finally, the service is free, just that you will need to create an account and then link your bank to the site to sign up for the service. The company makes their money by processing transactions every time a user spends using a Privacy card. The interchange fees that merchants or websites pay to Visa and issuing banks are shared with Privacy.

 

The sign-up process

Privacy pmt

Upon checking-out on a site, the Privacy icon appears in the card form

Privacy is all about simplicity for its users, and the sign-up process is just the same. The steps involved are to download the software, register, and link to a bank account, with an optional two-factor authentication for extra security. After installing the Google Chrome/Firefox extension, a Privacy icon will pop out next to a credit card form when Privacy users wrap up their online shopping and go to a cart to check-out their purchases. When users click the Privacy button, the service automatically generates a new virtual Visa debit card specifically for this website they are shopping on. Privacy will then connect to the user’s bank account so it can withdraw money from the bank account.

Privacy checkout

Privacy withdraws money from the chosen funding account

However, firstly to create an account which connects your bank account to the Privacy account, you need to hand over your banking account’s username and password, which requires users to place their trust on Privacy with all their bank information for the process to work.

The company states that login details are “passed to your bank over a secure TLS (SSL) connection.” The company also says it is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant and uses a 256-bit encryption key to secure all details.

After all the relevant accounts have been set-up, there are two methods to create a new card; clicking the ‘Create Card’ button on the web app or select ‘Create a New Card’ in the browser extension. If two-factor authentication was enabled, then the user will be asked to enter a TFA token.

There will be several options while creating a single-merchant card. Clicking the dollar sign icon symbol enables the user to set a purchasing limit which would otherwise be set on default to max out at $1,000 for the day and $2,000 for the month. Clicking the flame symbol would create a one-time use burner card, and select the text cursor to give your card a memorable name. The final step would be to click ‘Create card’ which will come complete with an expiry date and three-digit security code.

Privacy options

Source: PC World

Right now, Privacy is only available in the United States but if you would like to know more about the service, you can check out their official website.

 

Sources

[1] PC World

[2] Tech Times

[3] PC Mag

[4] Tech Crunch

[5] Inverse

 

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