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What is a Cardholder Validation Code?

Cardholder Validation Code (CVC)-Cryptographic ally calculated number only on a MasterCard brand credit or debit card used to validate the consumer possesses the card.

Validation code is a series of three or four numbers on the front or back of a credit card. This code helps provide an additional layer of security when a credit card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone. Validation codes are also called security codes or card verification values and are sometimes referred to as CVV, CV2 or CVV2 codes. On American Express cards, the validation code is a four-digit number located on the front of the card on the right-hand side, in small print above the credit card account number. Most other credit card issuers print the validation code on the back, on the far right side of the signature panel.

A validation card is different from the PIN number, which can be used to withdraw money using a debit card or get a cash advance with a credit card. Cardholders must be diligent about protecting their PIN numbers. Even if an unauthorized party obtains the validation code for a card, they still likely will not have the PIN number.

How Validation Codes Protect Customers

When a customer makes a purchase online, they will typically be asked to enter their name as it appears on their credit card, the billing address associated with that credit card, the card number, the card expiration date and the validation code. If the validation code is incorrect or missing, the transaction will not be approved. In theory, someone should not be able to provide the card’s validation code unless they physically possess the card. It’s rare that a merchant will ask for the card’s validation code when someone makes a purchase in person, however.

Merchants are not allowed to store card security codes after a customer makes a purchase, which provides extra protection against credit card theft. Still, validation codes can be stolen, and cardholders should protect their card’s validation code just as they would protect the card number and expiration date. The validation code is a key piece of data that can enable thieves to make fraudulent transactions with someone else’s card. However, if a thief does use another user’s card, it’s unlikely that the cardholder will be held responsible for the charges. Customers who detect suspicious or unauthorized purchases or other activity should contact their credit card issuer immediately to report the problem the problem and alert them to a possible case of fraud. The card issuer can then cancel or deactivate the card.

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