Visa and MasterCard Strive to Make Online Shopping Safer

December 5, 2012

With more people doing their holiday shopping online, Visa and MasterCard have developed additional security measures to keep consumers' credit card information safe during Internet purchases.

Visa's program is called Verified by Visa, and it's a free service that has users confirm their identities by using an extra password when making online purchases. With this additional layer of security, Visa hopes to prevent fraud before it happens.

Consumers can register for the program by submitting their Visa-branded card at the program's website, through the card issuer's website or while shopping on the Internet. Users can register both debit and credit Visa cards, and they can register more than one. During the activation process, consumers' card information remains protected through advanced encryption. This data is stored on a secure server that's protected by a firewall.

Once the card is enrolled, users can shop at participating online merchants. When they enter their registered card number to pay for their items, the system will recognize the card number as one that's enrolled in the Verified by Visa service. Another window will open, and users can enter their Verified by Visa password in order to verify themselves and complete the purchase.

Over 100 merchants ranging from jewelry site Blue Nile to Dunkin' Donuts to airline JetBlue, participate in the program.

MasterCard has a similar service called MasterCard SecureCode that aims to protect users against unauthorized use of their cards when they shop online.

This service works with existing MasterCard accounts, and users need to register their cards through their card issuer in order to use the service. Although not every MasterCard issuer offers this service, thousands do, and more are continuing to add the service.

When registering their MasterCard-branded debit and credit cards, users will have to verify some information for identity confirmation, and then they can create a secure code and a personal greeting. There's no limit on how many cards a person can register, but if two people have a joint account, they will need to share a password, as the code functions at the account level.

Once a user completes enrollment, she can use her code to shop online at participating merchants. According to MasterCard, over 350,000 merchants participate in the SecureCode program.

A user shops as they normally would, and upon entering a card that's registered with a SecureCode, a message will appear from the card issuer asking for identity confirmation. Each issuer will enable the SecureCode feature differently. It may take the form of a pop-up box, or it could be a box within the merchant page. This box will contain information about your purchase, including the merchant, the purchase amount and date. It will also list the last four digits of the card account number and display the personal greeting created at enrollment. Users enter their SecureCode much like a PIN number. The issuer will use that to confirm the cardholder's identity and complete the purchase securely.

This additional authentication process takes place without letting the merchant know your SecureCode and personal greeting.

Some e-commerce sites may require their customers to create a code. This process takes place after a user submits an online order. A message from the card issuer may appear and ask for identity confirmation. At that point, users will have a chance to create a SecureCode on the spot.

Although they have slight differences, Visa and MasterCard's products that ensure safe online shopping are largely alike, and they both strive to create a safe and secure shopping experience in an environment that can be susceptible to hacking and fraud.

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