The card verification value code (CVV) is a short numerical code that appears on credit cards or debit cards that can be charged as credit. It was added to credit cards to increase the security of electronic credit card transactions. Also called CVV2 or card verification code (CVC), it is a code usually used to protect credit card transactions performed online. Usually three or four digits long, the CVV code is typically located in the signature box on the back of most brands of credit card, like Visa® and MasterCard®. Rather than on the back, American Express® prints its CVV code numbers, called cardholder identification (CID) codes, on the front of its credit cards.
A verification code works by helping to confirm that the customer has physical access to the credit card being used. This system is used to reduce fraudulent purchases made using credit card numbers that were stolen or replicated electronically. If an online merchant requires a CVV code for credit card purchases, a consumer cannot make a purchase without access to the printed code, even if he has the whole card number and expiration date. One drawback to requiring a CVV code is that it may deter legitimate customers who do credit card business without the actual card on hand or those who prefer not to enter their CVV codes online.
The CVV code is an additional security measure on top of other standard security measures like requiring an expiration date and billing zip code to match the card number. One advantage to the code is that it is printed flat, not raised like the credit card number on a card. Because it is printed with no texture, the card verification code will not show up on any imprints taken of the card. Credit cards used to be charged by making a carbon imprint of the card on a specially designed credit card purchase form.
Though the extra protection afforded by CVV codes can help protect a consumer from online credit card theft, it is not a foolproof method of preventing fraud. Credit card thieves can lift the verification codes from your credit card with just seconds of access. The best way to keep a credit card account protected from fraudulent purchases is to keep tabs on the account so improper transactions are reported as quickly as possible. To further protect consumers from fraud, credit card companies sometimes block suspicious consumer purchases, including those that are uncharacteristically large or made in an unusual location.