n 2019, Americans used the holiday season to spend more money online. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, online sales grew 18.8% even though consumers had a shorter holiday season. Plenty of retailers benefitted from this growth in online sales, but one company, in particular, profited from the spike: Amazon. According to the retail giant, Amazon set another record by having its best holiday season ever.

Online shopping, once considered a passing trend, has become one of the most popular sources of consumption. But this news shouldn't be that surprising. There are many reasons consumers are leaning towards online shopping, as opposed to visiting a brick and mortar store.

According to Smart Insights, 58% of consumers enjoy the fact that they can shop 24/7 and aren't limited to regular store hours. Other benefits that consumers consider when shopping online include convenience, no checkout lines, saving time, and greater variety, which are all things that brick-and-mortar stores can't offer at the moment.

However, while there are many advantages of shopping online, there are still a few dangers that prohibit consumers' shopping experience from being the best it can be.

How are hackers taking advantage of online shoppers?

Hackers have developed a new tool to steal consumer data: e-skimming. E-skimming enables hackers to get individuals' data in real-time, which often makes the information even more valuable in underground markets.

When a business becomes a target of e-skimming, it's not easy for the company or the consumer to detect it. Nothing looks noticeably wrong during checkout, which is the stage where cybercriminals launch their e-skimming attacks. When an individual submits their payment to an e-commerce site, it goes through to the merchant without any problems. But what the person doesn’t know is that the transaction also goes to a server that is controlled by the hacker.

Consumers may have difficulty spotting businesses that have been hit by e-skimming attacks because there is no clear sign that anything is out of place or unusual on the website. Let’s be honest. Have you ever noticed an e-skimming attack when you're browsing your favorite brand's site or checking out a product? Oftentimes, the answer is no.

E-skimming is a sophisticated, insidious way for cybercriminals to gain sensitive information about consumers — and online businesses that are at risk of experiencing an e-skimming attack include retailers, ticket-sellers, and travel companies, among others. With so many brands at risk and so little way to detect the issue, the question becomes: how can consumers protect their personal data during checkout?

What are unique card numbers and how are they beneficial?

A unique card number is basically what it sounds like: it's a new 16-digit card number for every online transaction, which ensures hackers don't gain access to consumers' personal information. Another benefit is that consumers aren't required to apply for a new account or get a new credit line to obtain one.

However, some financial companies do require people to preload a card to get a unique card number. "Preload" means consumers must transfer money from an outside funding source onto the card before they can use a unique card number. Companies require consumers to do this for several reasons, but in the end, all of the purposes are beneficial for the companies.

For example, there's usually a wait time between when consumers load money onto a card and when they spend it. This period allows financial companies to make interest off the money. Moreover, if a person loads $100 onto a card and only spends $90, that extra $10 is often forgotten, and it sometimes just stays there. That breakage, an industry term that accounts for the leftover money on a consumer's card, is another thing that benefits financial companies

With a Privacy card, however, things aren't this difficult.

How can consumers easily obtain a unique card number?

Consumers shouldn't have to preload a card or wait for a financial company's approval to use a unique card number. That's why Privacy makes it easy.

With Privacy, customers only have to sign up for a free account. Afterward, they can use that account whenever they want to generate unique card numbers. If consumers are shopping online, and they use Privacy's virtual card, a unique card number will pop up on the checkout page. If consumers shop online again with either the same or different merchant, Privacy will provide another unique card number to safeguard consumers' information.

Essentially, it's the same card, but the numbers change every single time. This feature guarantees that hackers can't find or gain access to consumers' data and use it for their personal gain. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Unique card numbers provide an added layer of protection

With data breaches on the rise, thanks to savvy and increasingly sneaky hackers, consumers should look to unique card numbers as an added layer of security for their personal data. Unique card numbers reduce the risk of fraud, as the number is only valid for a single transaction, after which it will become inactive. Even if consumers' data is breached, the card number the hacker obtains will be useless, and that's something that should bring every online shopper peace of mind.

Who’s the first brand you’d use a unique card number with? Let us know by tweeting at us (@PrivacyHQ), then sign up for free to get your unique card number with Privacy.