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If Your Teen is an Online Gamer, Watch Your Credit Card Account

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No doubt, Sony’s PlayStation Network breach has left many wondering how safe their credit card information is when it’s stored online. My 15-year-old son plays Xbox LIVE, which so far, seems safe. But I’m sure parents of kids who played on the PlayStation Network thought their data was safe, too.

So I decided to take a 3-hour tour of Xbox LIVE with my son. Who better to show me all the millions of opportunities where he can spend my money? He’s been on Xbox LIVE for two years and I was stunned by how much more is offered since I’d last taken a good look at the site.

I went through all the terms, and let me tell you, this alone can take three hours if you’re a slow reader. When you sign up—and you’re the one signing up unless your kid is 18—you’re asked for your name, the type of credit card, the number and verification code, expiration date and your ZIP code.

After the PlayStation debacle, I’m a little concerned that my credit card information is safe. A spokesperson for Xbox told me via email that “The security around our Xbox LIVE service and member information is our highest priority.”

While it’s comforting to know that the security around my information is their “highest priority,” I’m not that easily convinced that all is well. And you shouldn’t be, either. So if you have a teen gamer, here are a few things you can do to protect your credit card information.

[Related Articles: Sony Breach]

Create strong passwords. If someone breaks the password, your account information, including your name and ZIP code, is accessible. The hacker will also see the name of your card and the last four digits of your card number. When I played with the system, I didn’t see my security code on the screen.

In card-not-present transactions, you’re supposed to be asked for the security code. It proves that you have the card in your hands and that you didn’t just steal the number. But I’ve made many purchases online where I was never asked for this code. So if a hacker gets your credit card number, they can still do a lot of damage.

Use a disposable credit card number. For added security, consider using a disposable credit card number (also called single-use, secure or virtual numbers). A disposable number is an alias for your real credit card number. Most of the major credit card issuers offer this service.

From your credit card issuer’s website, you follow the steps to generate a disposable number. You’d then use this number as your credit card number for the gaming website. If the website is hacked, the hacker gets your alias number instead of your actual credit card number.

Require permission to buy. On the site, kids buy Microsoft points that can be redeemed for movies, games and more. Much, much more! So make it clear that your child has to ask your permission before they buy something.

Don’t be surprised if your kid makes an unauthorized purchase. Sometimes, online offers are ambiguous. Kids might think a product is free only to discover later that they signed up for a monthly subscription service of some sort. So if you see a charge you didn’t approve, talk to your kid and find out what happened.

Check online credit card accounts daily. Checking your accounts daily is a good thing to do anyway, but when your account number is “out there” and accessible by your kid, you simply must make this a part of your daily routine.

Now, I also get emails from Xbox when my son makes a purchase. It might seem like overkill to also check your accounts daily online. But what if a hacker has your information? You don’t want to wait until you get a fraud alert from your card issuer. If there’s anything to take from the Sony PlayStation debacle, it’s that your credit card information is never truly safe.

[Fraud Resource: Free Identity Risk Score and personal risk profile]

Image: Davidlohr Bueso, via Flickr

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