When you use your credit card to make a purchase online or over the phone, you're usually required to provide your card verification value (CVV) security code to complete your purchase. Your credit card's CVV security code is unique to the card. Its sole purpose is to add an extra layer of security to your card account.
Security code numbers are designed to be a fraud prevention measure that businesses can use to verify purchases when a physical card is not present. By asking for a CVV code, a merchant can be reasonably certain that the person using the card is the cardholder and has physical possession of it.
Where to Find the CVV Security Code
In most cases, CVV codes are located on the back of the card, but sometimes you'll find them on the front. American Express includes the CVV code on the front of the card, typically printed on the right just above your account number. Cards that are aligned with other payment processing networks, namely Visa, Discover, and Mastercard, have their CVV security numbers printed on the back, right near the signature line. If your account number is shown on the back, your CVV number will appear after that.
Some credit cards, such as the Apple card, don't have a CVV printed on them. For the Apple card, you'll find that information in the Apple Wallet app on your iPhone. If you have another card that doesn't include the CVV number, you can call your card issuer to get your security code.
How CVV Codes Compare Across Networks
Aside from printing CVV codes in different places, there's another way to distinguish American Express codes from those of other card issuers. American Express uses four digits for its card security codes, while cards that operate on the Visa, Discover, and Mastercard networks only use three numbers.
While CVV stands for card verification value, credit card security codes may be referred to by other names, as well. For example, it may be called a CSV code, which stands for card security value. Though the name may be different, the purpose and function are still the same. A CSV code is another way for businesses to verify your identity as the cardholder and potentially head off credit card fraud.
Other names for CVV codes include:
- CVV2 - Card Verification Value 2
- CVC - Card Verification Code
- CVC2 - Card Validation Code 2
- CVD - Card Verification Data
- CID - Card Identification Number
- CSC - Card Security Code
Look Out for CVV Code Theft Scams
Your CVV code is designed to protect you and your card issuer against fraud. CVV codes are not stored by the merchant, which means there's an added layer of protection against fraud in the event of a data breach. But someone could obtain your account number and your CVV number and use them to make fraudulent purchases. This fraud can happen in a couple of different ways.
- Phishing Scam: You might be sent an email that looks like it came from your credit card company asking you to verify your account number and CVV code. Without knowing you're being scammed, you've just handed over your card information to an identity thief who could then clone your card and use it for unauthorized purchases. Credit card companies will never ask for this information, but if you have any questions, contact your credit card issuer.
- Keylogging: Essentially, this is a type of tracking code that can be lurking on an insecure website. When you visit the website and type in your card details, a hacker can use a keylogger program to record your information, including your CVV number. Keylogging can also be introduced to your PC via malware, so be sure that you have a robust, up-to-date antivirus product installed on your computer.
Federal law limits your liability for fraudulent credit card purchases to $50, although some cards may offer a $0 liability guarantee.
How to Protect Your CVV Code While Shopping Online
Protecting your CVV code when shopping online is similar to protecting your other financial or personal information. These tips can help keep your card details more secure:
- Install a firewall on your computer to protect yourself when shopping online from home.
- Use antivirus software for an added layer of security on your computer.
- Check for "https" at the beginning of website addresses to make sure they're secure.
- Avoid shopping online in public places using unsecured Wi-Fi.
- Be cautious when sharing card information.
- Report a lost or stolen card to your credit card company as soon as possible.
Credit card security codes aren't just random numbers; they serve an important purpose in preventing identity thieves from misusing your card information. Not every merchant will ask for your CVV code for every purchase, but it's helpful to know where it is if you're asked to share it.