I'm surprised nobody has mentioned temporary credit card numbers tied to a single merchant. I can't name all of the creditors who offer them, but I seem to recall that AMEX was among he first.
Discover also offers DeskShop. After I create a DeskShop number online and use it at one merchant, it will be rejected if anyone were to try using it at another. So, even an inside job by an employee of that merchant would only work if he/she used it for purchases from her/his employer - not a very smart move, but if they were smart, they wouldn't be a thief, so they get caught easily!
I like the way MBNA (now Bank of America) allows me to limit the risk even further. When I create a ShopSafe number online, I also decide how much of my credit line to load onto that number and when the number will expire, between 2 and 12 months out.
So, if I'm buying something for $59.95 and shipping + tax might add another $8 but I'm not likely to buy from that merchant again soon, I only load the ShopSafe number with $70 for two months. As with Discover's DeskShop, it's only good at one merchant. That gives a thief only 2 months to steal $2.05, and only if they use it at the same merchant where I did.
For merchants where I buy often or recurring charges such as utility bills, I use Discover's DeskShop since the expiration date is the same as the card to which the number is linked. The only problem occurs when a merchant tries to bill the charges using several different merchant accounts. That voids the number and you have to give them a new one.
I'd rather put up with that minor inconvenience and keep trying to educate the merchants, than deal with the massive inconvenience of having my cards run up by an identity thief.
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