SAN FRANCISCO — Visa U.S.A., which has set a May deadline for online merchants to comply with 12 card data security guidelines developed last fall, said Wednesday that it has begun giving the merchants additional compliance help.

The company is offering training sessions, interactive reviews, monitoring consultation, and information on third-party firms specializing in testing and compliance.

Visa said it developed the guidelines to protect cardholder data from hackers. They are part of Visa’s Cardholder Information Security Program, which covers such activities as installing firewalls, keeping security systems up-to-date, encrypting stored data, and using anti-virus software.

“Many merchants have already taken steps to lock up payment card data online, and Visa’s requirements are like a ‘virtual deadbolt,’ ” said John Shaughnessy, senior vice president of risk management at Visa U.S.A. “Visa is working with merchants to heighten data security and ultimately increase consumer confidence in e-commerce. Together, we can give consumers the same security online that they have come to expect in the physical world.”

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