EDISON - Shopping with credit cards can sometimes put consumers at risk for fraud or identity theft.

Identity theft experts say that one way to protect oneself when shopping online is to use a one-time only virtual credit card.

“Think of it almost like a disposable credit card,” says consumer expert Adam Levin.

The way it works is that a set of numbers are virtually generated each time you make a purchase and are linked to your actual credit card. The numbers constantly change.

The service is offered through several credit card providers. Bank of America calls its service “Shopsafe” and Citibank calls its “VAN,” or Virtual Account Numbers.

However, the consumer experts say that the extra security is not without some inconvenience.

Since the consumer is not using their actual credit card, the virtual numbers can only be used to shop online. Also since the numbers expire after one use, returned items might be only able to be traded for store credit.

Purchases may also take a little extra time since the virtual numbers need to be randomly generated.

Anyone interested in virtual credit card numbers should contact their credit card provider.