Consumer Alert: Passwords stored online increase risk of identity theft

Banks offer solution with one-time-use virtual credit card number

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando woman says she was ripped off by hackers who cashed in with her credit card number that she'd stored on a major retailer's website.

Lots of sites allow consumers to store credit card information which allow you to make quick purchases.  The problem is hackers can too and all it takes is unlocking your password.

But Local 6 uncovered a new way to shop safely online, and you don't even have to use your real credit card number.

Becky Ianelli heads up the financial aid department at a local college. She knows numbers, and she knows when they don't add up.

"I knew right away someone had hacked my account," said Ianelli.

Ianelli discovered the confirmation letter from WalMart when she checked her e-mail at 7 in the morning, and it was already too late to do anything about it. The order had been placed at 2 a.m.

Someone she didn't know ordered two broadband passes-- essentially prepaid data usage-- for a cell phone.

"The broadband passes were $50 each, and there were 2 of them," said Ianelli who couldn't cancel them, because they were just codes, instantly emailed to the crook who had hacked into her account and changed her email address, to his.

Ianelli's credit card number which was stored on the shopping site was fraudulently charged.

"I told them it wasn't me, and you have the email address of the person that did it, because you sent it to them. Is there anything you're going to do to prosecute them, or prevent it from happening again? And they basically no," she said.

WalMart says it's not a problem with their site.  A spokesman told Local 6 in an email, "To be clear, there is no indication of a breach of system." And "the full credit card number is not visible."

But the hackers aren't interested in stealing the full card number.  They just want to buy things with it, and send the stuff to themselves.

Local 6 showed Ianelli a new way of online shopping—a new product some banks are offering, where you never have to use your real credit card number when you shop online.

CitiBank calls it a "virtual card number."

Each time you log in, it generates a new number that can only be used with one merchant.

Bank of America's version is called Shop Safe which lets you set your expiration date, and your spending limit!

Local 6 checked with many of the other major banks and didn't find any others who offers this virtual credit card number, but if your bank doesn't, there is one simple step to protect yourself--  never store credit card information online.

Ianelli made sure to dispute the charges with her bank immediately, and they credited her.

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