I read an article this morning on the theft of customer data (including credit card data) from geeks.com, a site from which I had purchased a cheap graphics tablet on a lark about eight months ago. Of course, I immediately got concerned, and checked my credit cards for any suspicious charges, but found none. (The comments on that article seem to indicate pretty widespread fraud has already taken place, to the tune of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.) Then I checked to see whether or not I had used the “secure online account number” features of my credit cards when I bought the tablet, and was relieved to find out that I had in fact done so. For the uninitiated, they’re card numbers generated for use with specific merchant accounts, linked to your normal card. They can only be used at that specific merchant, though, so they’re mostly useless if stolen. A quick phone call to Discover later, and the card number linked to geeks.com was shut down, presumably eliminating any possibility that I’ll be affected by the data theft. Pretty painless and hassle-free.
I used to think that I was being overly-paranoid by using the secure numbers whenever possible, but this incident has made me a true believer. Annoyingly, there are still some things that you can’t really use them for — cases where you need to present the original card to receive goods or services. But overall, it’s still worth using. I would urge everyone to use these secure number services whenever possible — it’ll give you peace-of-mind and potentially save you a lot of hassle when (not if) you’re affected by a security breach.