A SAFE CARD TO PLAY

Joy’s brother told us about a tea-ceremony scam he encountered in China. Just before agreeing to have tea with a couple of friendly people he met in Shanghai, he remembered his boss warning him about the “tea scam.” Heeding the warning saved him $400 and perhaps more, because they took credit cards.

That’s just one more thing you might worry about when traveling abroad, or shopping right here at home. Do you feel OK giving out your credit card number? To play it safe, you can install a free app on your smart phone that creates temporary virtual cards with payment limits and other controls. The app we liked is called “Global V Card,” but it works only with Mastercard accounts. (Visa card users can visit entropay.com, for a similar app.)

To set this up, you start by filling out a form and faxing it to MasterCard. They want a fax or scanned document so they have your signature. You can then create a short-term credit card for yourself or anyone else. The presumed use is for businesses to provide a limited credit card for employees, but it can be set up by and for individuals as well. You can limit the spending to any amount you wish: say, no more than $500.

After creating the virtual card, you can send the details by email or text message. What the email recipient will receive is a picture of a credit card with their name, the expiration date, card number and link to a three-digit “CVC” number. More info at GlobalVcard.com.

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