When you make purchases online, you may be asked to enter your credit card's security code, sometimes known as a CVV, CVC or by various other similar acronyms. The point of this code is to verify that you actually have your physical credit card when making a purchase, so it's usually not on your statement or available through online banking. You should be careful about where you share this code as it can be used to help authorize charges to your account.
You won't be able to locate your CVC code on your credit or debit card statement, as the number only exists on the back of your physical card.
Understanding Security Codes
If you shop online or over the phone with a credit or debit card, you probably have been asked to provide a security code found on your credit card. This code is used as an added security measure, often alongside other data points such as your billing address, credit card number and expiration date, that is used to help verify that the cardholder is actually the person making a transaction. If a thief is able to obtain your card number but not your security code, your account can't be used to make purchases from merchants that require the code.
On MasterCard, Discover and Visa cards, the code is a three-digit number found on the back of the card. For American Express cards, the code has four digits and is found on the front of the card. It's different from the PIN number you might have associated with your card, and the two can't be used interchangeably.
Under industry standards merchants are required to follow to accept credit cards, they're not allowed to store security numbers as an added protection for you. The numbers typically are found only on credit and debit cards themselves, and not on statements, online banking records or other reports you might receive from your card company.
Safeguarding Your Code
Just as you should be wary of giving out your credit card number to people and organizations you don't trust, you should avoid sharing your card's security code with anyone you aren't sure will keep it safe.
Avoid entering your card number, security code or other confidential information on devices you don't trust to be free from hackers and malware, and make sure the lock icon appears in your web browser to confirm you're on a secure, encrypted connection before you provide this information to anyone.
If you suspect your card information has been compromised or you see evidence of fraud on your credit or debit card account, contact your card issuer immediately.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.