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Privacy.com's virtual Visas are burner debit cards that keep online shoppers safe

Ian Paul | March 28, 2016
Stop sharing your banking information online with the help of Privacy.com's virtual debit cards.

“We’re planning to add [debit card and check sign-ups] as funding options later,” Privacy.com CEO Bo Jiang told PCWorld via email. “But instant account verification (bank login) was the fastest and lowest friction way of doing so. It also helps us reduce fraud.”

The company says your 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 your details.

Requesting your bank details isn’t uncommon among some financial services. Intuit’s Mint.com, for example, also asks for your bank login details when adding an account.

Bottom line: If you’re not comfortable handing over your bank credentials to Privacy.com then this service is not for you.

privacycomchromeextension
The Privacy.com Chrome extension.

Once you’re up and running, it’s simple to create virtual debit cards. First, you’ll be prompted to install the browser extension and sign in using your Privacy.com credentials. Right now, Privacy.com only has a Chrome extension, but one for Firefox is coming.

Before you start creating cards, I’d strongly advise clicking Account at the top of the Privacy.com dashboard and enabling Two-Factor Authentication. For that, you’ll need an authenticator app on your smartphone, such as Google Authenticator or the recently released LastPass Authenticator. This adds an extra layer of security to your account that makes it much harder for hackers to break in. 

Now, it’s time to create a card. When I first tried the service, I only had an option to create my first virtual card using the browser extension. Once I’d done that I could create cards using the web app. Jiang says this is a bug that should already be fixed.

To make a card, click the Create Card button on the web app or select Create a New Card in the browser extension. If you have two-factor authentication enabled—and again, you should—then you’ll be asked to enter a TFA token.

Once that’s done, you’ll hit the interface for creating your single-merchant card with several options. Click the dollar sign icon to set a purchase limit. If you don’t set a limit the card will top out at $1,000 for the day and $2,000 for the month. Click the flame icon and you’ve created a one-time use burner card. You'll also want to select the text cursor and give your card a memorable name like “Netflix ‘n’ chill.”

Once you’ve adjusted the card to your liking, click Create card and it will be ready in a few seconds, complete with expiry date and three-digit security code.

That’s about all there is to Privacy.com. It’s a fast, simple way to keep your actual debit cards out of the hands of online retailers with virtual plastic that is locked to a specific merchant. Handy!

 

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