Online fraud has prompted two different methods of protecting card numbers during e-commerce: virtual numbers and Verified by Visa. We recently tested both at different issuers to see how they work.

Virtual numbers are created for purchases at a particular online merchant. They may have a time limit or a maximum purchase amount. If stolen, they cannot be taken from one merchant and used at another. They are generated at the user’s behest through the issuer’s Web site or through downloaded software. Today only MBNA Corp., Citigroup Inc.’s Citibank, Morgan Stanley’s Discover Financial Services, and American Express Co. offer them.

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