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Signing the back of a credit card...double-edged sword?


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#1 of 91 Dome Vongvises

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Posted December 04 2004 - 02:30 PM

Working in retail sucks. But I would imagine my choice of a lifelong career in medicine would be worse, but that's besides the point of this little blurb.

I hardly carry cash anymore because quite frankly I don't mess with wallets anymore (I use those nifty metallic devices from Bed, Bath, and Beyond), and I just use Debit and credit.

As both somebody who works in retail and as a consumer, this issue is a huge concern for me.

As 99% of you folks know, there's that little space on the back of a credit card where you have to sign. And I emphasize the words have to because most cards are not valid unless signed with an authorized signature. I would imagine there are exceptions to the rule.

Here are the basics of credit cards on the consumer's end and on the merchant's end. A valid card is any card signed with a valid signature by the authorized user (and depending on the company, your signature either draws you into acceptance of terms with the credit card company or validates the card). In other words the only person who can sign the back of a card is the authorized user (the name of the person on the account) Merchants must accept all valid cards (I got to read part of Master Cards' little Merchant agreement).

I bring this up because a customer, claiming Merchant Agreement, threatened to report me to American Express because I asked to see a driver's license for his credit purchase (if you're wondering the card was signed but more on that later). Besides some basic rudeness issues, I was upset because 99% of the customers I check ID on love me because I'm checking their I.D. for credit purchases. Most of them are elderly couple who have had their cards stolen. As one customer angrily told me (when I started out and didn't check I.D.), "people can forge signatures". So why is this guy all uppity with me for asking for I.D.?

So I thought it was a rather smart thing when people wrote "See I.D." on their cards. I really didn't think much of the Merchant Agreement until I actually did some online research at the major cards (MC, VISA, DISC, and AMEX). Plus, there's that story on Best Buy Sucks as well where a lady, protecting her privacy, refused show of I.D. on grounds of the Merchant Agreement.

I'm looking at this from both the consumer's and merchant's point of view.

From the consumer's end and as an authorized user, I must sign my card. According to the company's reasoning, frauders can forge my signature if I leave my space blank.

From the merchant's end, they must accept all valid cards (hence signed). Visa in particular has set up "tips" for preventing fraud. One is to match the signature of the credit receipt (or electronic receipt) to the one on the back of the card. A second tip is if it's blank, have them sign the card with I.D. present. A third tip (IMHO this is terrible) is to get a consumer to sign their credit card with their account name and show I.D. in the case their back space shows "See I.D. or C.I.D"

I'm not joking

So all that time I thought writing down "See I.D." was a smart thing. Turns out it's the wrong thing according to Visa.

On Master Card's end, merchant's must accept valid cards (valid which I assume means signed by authorized user).

So this presents an interesting problem. Given that most merchants are not witness to such signings, how are they supposed to know that only the authorized user is using the authorized card? Why the answer is simple! Compare the signatures (sarcasm alert)! As anybody who has had experience in retail can attest to, nobody's signature exactly matches to a reasonable degree, especially electronic signature capture devices. Even those who request physical signatures it hardly ever matches.

Of course, there's always the stock answer from those that call Merchant Agreement that they can simply dispute the charges if their card gets stolen. As somebody who has heard countless horror stories about credit card theft/fraud, it's not that simple.

There's also the privacy issue. Hey, it can happen, some hapless cashier can steal your billing address from your driver's license. If your card's signed, you shouldn't have to show I.D., right? After all, you are the authorized user with the authorized signature (heavy sarcasm alert). Seriously, it's ridiculous. I wonder about people like that sometimes. How paranoid can you be? I'm trying my best to prevent credit card fraud, and these people are worried about their address which because I'm so evil I'm going to remember their address from the amount of information I have to process that day and use it for my evil ends? Posted Image I relate this story to several other not-so-paranoid customers, and they all tell me the same thing: their privacy is what they do in the bedroom, bathroom, the internet porn on the hard drive, and their finances. Otherwise, they're happy I check their I.D.'s .

A lady who is a great customer requests for her I.D. to be checked. And you know what? She used black electrical tape on her address bar on her Kentucky license. The I.D. shows her face and name. It's a great compromise. I wish more of those people who are soooo protective of their privacy thought of something that inventive.

In my experience, only two people have called Merchant Agreement on me, one threatening to report me. So my concern as a cashier is how am I supposed to protect those who use their credit card, and as a consumer how am I supposed to make sure that A). no one else but me uses the card and B). if somebody does do I have some guarantee that I can dispute the charges? Visa says I do, but my customers say otherwise.

Personally, I hate the Merchant Agreement, and I now write See I.D. on all my cards. Of course, I could carry cash. Posted Image

#2 of 91 Patrick Sun

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Posted December 04 2004 - 02:41 PM

But, it's just easier to go with the flow, and let the card issuers deal with CC fraud. That's how they set up the system, and you're interjecting your own unwanted bias into the system.

BTW, if you are going to persist to ask for ID when a customer is paying via CC, make certain that your manager approves of this procedure so that when the next irate customer gets snippy with you and asks for your manager on this issue, you'll have some backup by your manager.
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#3 of 91 Mike_Mig

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Posted December 04 2004 - 03:57 PM

I get pissed as hell at cashiers who ask to see my ID. Part of my agreement with my credit card is that I sign the back and the store accepts it. That simple. Asking for ID is as bad as those stores that want your phone number when you buy something like Radio Shack used to do. I'm not worried about the cashier getting my address or anything, it's just principle, you have no right at all asking for ID unless you suspect fraud, and the only way I think you can use as a basis for suspecting fraud is to match the signature on the card and the receipt. If those electronic things produce terrible signatures, and I agree they do I sure suck at signing those things, it's not my fault. I just want my card swiped, let me sign whatever and let me be on my way. Period. No hassle about ID or anything. If the credit card companies want to change their policies to make this a requirement I'll go along with it. I just don't see how you can take it upon yourself to ask for ID when you don't have a legitimate basis for doing so.

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#4 of 91 DaveF

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Posted December 04 2004 - 03:57 PM

Dome, what's "Merchant Agreement" and how does one claim it?

#5 of 91 Pamela

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Posted December 04 2004 - 04:16 PM

I am very confused now. I don't sign the back of my card, although so many merchants don't even seem to check it. I appreciate when they ask to see my I.D. , especially as a former victim of fraud. So, I should write "See I.D." on the back?

#6 of 91 Patrick Sun

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Posted December 04 2004 - 05:22 PM

If you don't sign the back of the card, you run the risk the merchant not willing to allow you to use that unsigned card at their store. YMMV.
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#7 of 91 Ryan Wishton

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Posted December 04 2004 - 05:28 PM

I dont so much mind the ID. Though I dont competely like it.

Tip: Never have your Social Security listed on any form of ID like a license or state id. Just use your card when you need it.

Why is it some colleges (like one of mine did) use your SS number as your school ID number? I find that completely ridiulous and just looking for trouble. I was always against it and never felt comfortable giving it out. Especially with how many strangers (I could care less if they are adults) see it.

The asking for home phone numbers & complete addresses (Best Buy/Toys R Us/Circuit City, etc) really gets on my nerves. Frankly, I dont want to give complete strangers this info and dont feel comfortable doing so.

Next they will want my blood type.

Especially for simple purchases like a Video Game or DVD.

It bothers me even more knowing places like Best Buy are keeping a record of everything I buy. Common fact that many now know.

They just give stupid reasons like It's incase you lose your receipt or it's store policy. Um, yeah right. lol.

So, I just decline giving out this info most times.

One snippy Best Buy person recently demanded the info in a very rude way saying there was no way she could let me buy anything without this info. A complete lie of course. It's called hit a simple button beyatch. Sorry, she really annoyed me.

I really love how these snippy ones think every consumer is a complete moron outside of their organization. I am glad I didnt give her any info. She was a psycho it seemed.

The rudeness really pissed me off so I went to Toys R US. Sure, they ask for the info. But, when I said no there, they could have cared less and didnt rudly demand it.

#8 of 91 Keith Mickunas

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Posted December 04 2004 - 05:59 PM

Quote:
I am very confused now. I don't sign the back of my card, although so many merchants don't even seem to check it. I appreciate when they ask to see my I.D. , especially as a former victim of fraud.

So are you saying you leave the card blank? Do you realize how incredibly stupid that is? I don't mean to be rude, but you are at great risk. If someone gets hold of your card, they can sign it with your name, then they'll have the "authorized signature" for that card. Not signing it has to be the worst thing to do.

Quote:
Why is it some colleges (like one of mine did) use your SS number as your school ID number?

I think most schools are going away from this, and you should be able to ask for a unique ID if you don't want to use it.

One thing that annoys me is when I slide my card through the machine, but then have to hand the card to the cashier. Why don't they run it then? Some machines take the card a certain way, it's kind of annoying, if the cashier is going to take the card, they might as well run it since they know exactly how their machines run.

Also, if you don't want to give those stores your info, give them your last address/phone number. I switched to VOIP a while back, and can't remember the number, so I just give out my old home phone. Someone else has it now, but oh well, I don't care. Sometimes I don't mind giving my address, becasue for instance Best Buy does seem to target their ads. Other times I just refuse.

#9 of 91 Pamela

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Posted December 04 2004 - 06:40 PM

Quote:
If someone gets hold of your card, they can sign it with your name, then they'll have the "authorized signature" for that card. Not signing it has to be the worst thing to do.


And if you sign it, they can forge your signature on the CC slip so that it matches your card.

#10 of 91 Tim Hoover

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Posted December 04 2004 - 07:23 PM

Look at asking for ID this way: you're performing a crucial and undervalued step in preventing identity theft Posted Image
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#11 of 91 BobV

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Posted December 04 2004 - 07:44 PM

Ok, I'm going to give you my opinion on some things even though you didn't ask me Posted Image . This is all coming from the merchant's side as I have my own store.

First thing that really caught my eyes were these two comments...

Quote:
But, it's just easier to go with the flow, and let the card issuers deal with CC fraud.
Sure, it's easy to do that because the customer doesn't see the end result, it's not the card issuer who is out, it's the merchant (keep reading).

Quote:
I get pissed as hell at cashiers who ask to see my ID. Part of my agreement with my credit card is that I sign the back and the store accepts it. That simple.
No it isn't 'that simple'. July 7th this last summer... someone comes in my store and purchases a Toshiba 51" HDTV, Acoustec Lab speakers, and Pioneer A/V receiver, totaling with taxes of approx $4500. He uses Visa. I live in a small town of 3500 and I don't know the guy from Adam, supposedly he had just moved here (had all the right neames and business in his story). I compare the signature (good match) and I ask for I.D... in fact I take his driver's license and his vehicle insurance information. We complete the transaction, I help load everything and I wave as he drives away.

Two months later Visa claws back everything, the whole 4500 smackers.

Supposedly stolen credit card. It wasn't reported stolen when the transaction was completed in my store (even to this day it hasn't actually been reported as stolen, fishy). Ain't my fault.

But I have a signature! Who cares, not perfect match (looks pretty friggin' close to me!)

I have Driver's license! Fake/stolen.

I have vehicle insurance! Stolen vehicle, faked insurance papers.

I lose $4500. That's a tonne of money for a mom and pop store.

Why? Why should I lose? I did everything I should or could.

So someone gets a little pissed off when I ask for I.D.? Screw it, leave my store then.

The merchant takes all the risk. ALL OF IT. All the customer has to say is 'it's not my signature' and the merchant is toast. The card issuer isn't out any money, it's all clawed back, the only person who has lost is the merchant. So next time when yer a little angry because someone asks for your ID. Just give the guy a break and let him do his job.
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#12 of 91 Jason Harbaugh

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Posted December 04 2004 - 07:59 PM

Quote:
Tip: Never have your Social Security listed on any form of ID like a license or state id. Just use your card when you need it.

My Virginia driver's license # is my SS#. I didn't know it was going to be that. The DMV is a big enough hassle as it is and if there was an option to not have your SS# I sure didn't see it or missed it.

What I hate are the credit cards where your signature never sticks. A couple weeks in the wallet and that sig is gone. I've even had perminant marker. So I get asked to see my I.D. a lot. What's funny/scary/annoying is that most people just go through the actions of asking, and looking. They rarely ever actually compare names or signature of the I.D. and the card/receipt. They just glance down and say 'ok'.

In the many years of retail I worked, I have seen a lot of strange signatures. The Ask for I.D. one became popular. But there was also a guy that signed it "Me" and my all time favorite was this guy that signed his card with a tic tac toe game, completed even. Everything he had was signed that way. But in all those years, I only discovered one stolen credit card. The signature was so far off so I asked for her I.D. She dropped everything and bolted out the door.

#13 of 91 James T

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Posted December 04 2004 - 08:02 PM

Quote:
And if you sign it, they can forge your signature on the CC slip so that it matches your card.

It's a lot easy for me to forge a signature if it's my signature on someone else's card.

I think this was posted here years ago, but it seems to fit the topic
http://www.zug.com/d...._05_index.html

#14 of 91 Jason Harbaugh

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Posted December 04 2004 - 08:49 PM

LOL James.

This is priceless:
Quote:
Finally, I know of no law that says your signature has to be in your own alphabet. So I found a website which converted my name to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Although "John Hargrave" was too long to remember, "John" was just snake, bird, caterpillar.

Posted Image

#15 of 91 Dome Vongvises

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Posted December 05 2004 - 01:20 AM

Quote:
Dome, what's "Merchant Agreement" and how does one claim it?

I'm glad you asked. It's basically an agreement between the card issuing body (e.g. Mastercard) and the merchant. One of its rules is that you cannot ask for additional identification if the card is "valid".

Click Here

I'll paraphrase one of the rules here under their sections:

9.11 Honor MasterCard Cards

9.11.2 Cardholder Identification
A merchant must not refuse to complete a MasterCard transaction solely because a cardholder who has complied with the conditions for presentment of a card at the POI refuses to provide additional identification information, except as specifically permitted or required by the Standards.


Quote:
I get pissed as hell at cashiers who ask to see my ID. Part of my agreement with my credit card is that I sign the back and the store accepts it. That simple.

Dave, that's what's considered a reportable offense. Not only can the company get in trouble, the individual such as myself can as well.

Quote:
If you don't sign the back of the card, you run the risk the merchant not willing to allow you to use that unsigned card at their store. YMMV.


And according to Visa, anybody can forge a signature on the back. According to Visa's fraud prevention tips on behalf of the merchant, they can ask for the person to sign the card in front of them with I.D.

Believe it or not, I had somebody come in with an unsigned card and had no I.D. whatsoever. He walked back out the store, signed it, and claimed I didn't have to see I.D. Right.....

#16 of 91 Patrick Sun

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Posted December 05 2004 - 03:11 AM

Might as well perform DNA tests for the use of a credit card, then.
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#17 of 91 DaveF

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Posted December 05 2004 - 03:25 AM

Quote:
And if you sign it, they can forge your signature on the CC slip so that it matches your card.
Yes, but there's the possibility they will do it poorly and be caught. If they sign your (stolen) card with their own handwriting, they don't even have to try to forge it. Their signature will always match.

An unsigned card inconveniences you but makes a thief's life easier. You want to make it the other way around.

Dome - thanks for the explanation of Merchant's Agreement. I knew nothing about the alternate ID issue. I've also never been asked to show alternate ID when paying by credit card. What sort of things makes a merchant ask for secondary ID, besides not recognizing the customer in a small town?

#18 of 91 Leila Dougan

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Posted December 05 2004 - 03:31 AM

I absolutely refuse to show my ID. My cards are signed and that's all Visa and Mastercard require. I will and do report retailers who violate this policy. In fact, when a cashier asks me for ID I tell them know and if they insist, I ask for a manager. If the manager gives me some bullshit about it being "corporate policy" I keep calling up the chain. Usually getting to the regional manager solves it, but once I had to talk to someone way high up in the corporate office and they firmly told me this was NOT corporate policy. All the nimwits and the lower level all seem to insist it is, though. But a quick call to Visa/Mastercard often changes this supposed "policy" but sadly it only lasts a few months before the stores start right back up again.

As far as the practical side of things go, if a 16 year old clubber-wannabe can get a fake ID for $25, I'm confident a professional credit card thief could get one too. Nevermind the fact that checking ID is hard (like actually making sure the person on the ID is the person standing there). Most caschiers take a quick glance and have no idea what they are even looking at. Checking for ID does absolutely nothing but inconvenience the customer and violate the merchant agreements.

#19 of 91 Leila Dougan

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Posted December 05 2004 - 03:34 AM

Quote:
Believe it or not, I had somebody come in with an unsigned card and had no I.D. whatsoever. He walked back out the store, signed it, and claimed I didn't have to see I.D. Right.....


In that case, you should have called the Visa fraud line right then and there (even with the customer standing there). You would have been instructed to cut the card, most likely. At the very least, Visa would have been aware of the situation. If you just refused the sale the customer would have just walked out and gone somewhere else.

#20 of 91 John Alvarez

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Posted December 05 2004 - 03:52 AM

Does this apply to a Visa or Mastercard from any institution?


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