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Credit card signatures: Useless? 1067

Posted by Hemos
from the yep-and-you-betcha dept.
SpaceAdmiral writes "Everyone should remember John Hargrave's classic Credit Card Prank on Zug. He tried signing fake names on his credit card receipt, and no one seemed to care. But that's nothing compared to The Credit Card Prank, Part 2. Can he draw obscene pictures instead of signing his credit card? Yes, it turns out. Is there any way of getting your signature checked? . . . Yes, it turns out. But you have to do an awful lot."
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Credit card signatures: Useless?

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  • Almost useless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso (153703) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:51AM (#12000294) Homepage Journal
    A story I heard once somewhere on the web:

    "I once went to Target to buy a CD and used my new credit card to pay. After signing the receipt the cashier took my card and looked at the back and said "You haven't signed the back of your credit card.", I took my credit card back and signed the back of it and gave it back to her. She then proceeded to compare the back of my just signed credit card with the signature I had also just made on the receipt and said "Yep, they match". I just shook my head, took my stuff and left."

    Actually, despite my experience in the past with this kind of sillyness, I have noticed a lot more cashiers taking more care to make sure that the signature really matches. Just yesterday I went to Half Price Books and thought that the cashier was going to breakout a magnifying glass to ensure that the signature was authentic.
  • Not in the UK. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Space cowboy (13680) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:52AM (#12000308) Journal

    One of the first things you notice when on holiday in the US (buying petrol, stuff, whatever) is that they don't look at your credit card signature. Ever.

    In the UK (and I think most of Europe) it's a lot different. I've been asked to re-sign because my (legitimate!) signature wasn't quite similar enough. It doesn't help when you've got a 3-year-old card where the signature is pretty much worn-off anyway :-)

    Another weird thing about the US is that pretty much the entire world wants to know your social-security number. The only person in the UK who ever asks for my SSN is the taxman, and I want him to know, so I don't get two tax-bills :-) You never ever get asked by the electricity/gas people, the cable company, the phone people, your bank, the list goes on. I guess identity fraud is that much easier that way...

    Simon
  • Completely. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garcia (6573) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:52AM (#12000310) Homepage
    While I realize that this "article" was meant to be tongue in cheek, I'll say:

    Every time you make a credit card purchase, they're supposed to match your signature against the one on the back of your card. Nobody seems to check anymore, so I tried to see how far I could push it with wacky signatures like "Mariah Carey" and "Zeus," which you can read in the original Credit Card Prank.

    My signature is basically a W with a line after. I have been told it's "unique". I always reply, "it's fast." Signatures required for credit card purchases are lame. Checking my ID is even worse. I always make sure to be a PITA when they ask for my ID when I pay w/a CC. Paying with plastic is my way around hassle and if they're going to give me one I'm sure to pay them back with some.

    I was grocery shopping when I ran into a new type of signature-checking device: the electronic screen. Instead of a flimsy scrap of paper, you now sign your name right into the screen. Finally, I thought, a better way to check our signatures!

    For these I usually just put an X through it or a straight line. I always believed that an X was a valid signature. What happens if I'm truly unable to write my signature? I have to sign in that box in order for the signature to take so I do. I've never had a problem with someone questioning it (most are 16 year old kids that just don't give a shit).

    Going back to my ID issues w/CC's. My ID has a signature on it (for what reason I have no idea) but in order to get that signature on there you have to be writing for a certain amount of time. I had to write out my entire name (including middle name) in order for it to take. It basically means that the signature on my ID is worthless as I never sign anything like that. Why bother to require it if you aren't going to get a valid signature from me?

    If we are basing the validation of the signature to the back of a possibly stolen card don't you think that someone would attempt to at least forge the signature? I would think that would be the case.

    The world is ending if people seriously believe that a handwritten signature on the back of a credit card will end theft. Maybe we should all be required to have our signature stored in a national database. That surely will stop the terrorists!

    So to answer the question posed in the article title: "Credit card signatures: useless?" I have to answer, completely.
  • by hnile_jablko (862946) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:54AM (#12000354)
    When I lived in Australia, a woman at Commonwealth Bank told me that I could not write "Check Identification" on the back of the card with my signature. I insisted that my signature was there, but I still wanted someoene to check the id of the card holder. She was adamant about it. I asked for her manager who was also adamant. Why were they? Because there was no rule or code of conduct which said it "IS OK" to do this. So thereby it must not be done.
  • In other news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cheezemonkhai (638797) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:55AM (#12000357) Homepage
    I could sign my card Micky Mouse and it would still be accepted.

    My other half changed her signature so it was in hini rather than english character set, and they still accepted it when she did the english one without any questions.

    They are pointless.

    Anyway customers get arsey when you question them about the signature anyway so you lose either way.
  • It's true (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dledeaux (174743) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:55AM (#12000362) Homepage Journal
    These days, I just draw a line across the receipt. Nobody really seems to care. My latest thing has been so see just how short I can make the line.
  • I'm ----- (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalgimpus (468277) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#12000365) Homepage
    literally. I just put a line through. That's my signature.

    Signatures are pretty easy to forge... especially to an untrained eye.

    So I keep my "real signature" for important stuff. Some waiter doesn't need my signature. They charge regardless.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#12000373)
    I'm asked all the time to show my ID by various cashiers when I use my credit card in a store and it's a bit annoying.

    Since the U.S. federal government limits my liability to $50 for someone fraudulently using my credit card, and all of my credit card companies waive even that, I don't care who uses my credit card.

    I just had to have one credit card replaced because someone attempted to charge $9,000 worth of "computer equipment" to it while I was on vacation. It was actually the third incident of someone putting fraudulent charges on that card. The funny thing is that even my credit card company didn't care - it was I that insisted on getting new numbers on the card. Which explains why more and more vendors are asking for ID or checking signatures - they're the ones that lose money when fraud happens.
  • by dcclark (846336) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#12000378) Homepage
    I used to work in the box office at a performing arts center. We took credit card orders all the time, and all of us knew that we had to double-check the signatures. I remember more than one patron being very indignant when I refused to accept a card with "See ID" (or "CID") on the back, or worse yet, no signature at all.

    "Can I just sign the card now?"
    "I'm sorry, but I have no way of verifying your signature then."
    "But nobody else ever cares!"
    "I'm afraid that we do."

    It's times like that that a boss who backs you up is a very, very helpful thing. (We would still take a different, and signed, credit card from them. We weren't total jerks!)
  • no sig required! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by museumpeace (735109) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#12000382) Journal
    At my local starkbutts, I bought a pound of coffee and waited for the pen. and after an awkward pause, was told by the cashier that no signature was required any longer for purchases under $25...she was not even going to give me anything to sign.

    I did not feel comforted by that...my stolen wallets have always been used to by gas because of the no-signature-pay-at-the-pump option. anyone else encountered this?
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slungsolow (722380) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:57AM (#12000387) Homepage
    Been doing the same for years. I'd say my card is only checked 5% of the time. The scary thing is I use my card for just about every purchase I can.
  • Chip and pin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by R0UTE (807673) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:57AM (#12000400)
    UK has all switched over to the chip and pin system now so no signature required, even better, of course its extremely easy now to just watch everyone enter their pins so if u get that its straight to the cash machine and withdraw everything :)
  • My solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lxy (80823) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:58AM (#12000413) Journal
    I figured this out when I got my first credit card. If you sign your card, they will never look closely enough at it.

    A friend of mine told me that writing "See Identification" in the signature block on a card would work. It sometimes did, but even then merchants would "compare" my signature and OK it. I tried writing "SEE IDENTIFICATION" in large letters with a black Sharpie. Worked better, but not entirely.

    I finally came up with a permanent fix, that has yet to fail me:

    When I get a new credit card, on the back Signature area I take a black Sharpie and draw X's over the entire signature area. That forces the clerk to ask for ID. It works EVERY TIME. The only time it hasn't worked is when the clerk doesn't bother checking, but there's little you can do about that other than make a scene or report them to their manager. Besides, in some places (maybe all) a signature is not required for purchases $20.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Richie1984 (841487) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:58AM (#12000423)
    I write in "SEE ID" and then my signature next to it on my credit cars. I then say thank you to the cashiers who check my ID.

    That's quite a good idea, but over here in the UK we have a new scheme to counter fake signitures. Instead of signing for using your card, you simply enter your secure 4 digin pin into a terminal. If they match, then your identity is verified. Although, personally, I still don't trust this scheme. There are simply too many ways to have your identity stolen, and it is simply too easy to have someone secretly watch you enter a secure 4 digit pin. At least signitures need some mild degree of talent to forge.
  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:00PM (#12000445) Homepage
    If I were running the credit card companies, I would hold the vendors responsible for any loss due to fraud that was a result of their NOT checking signatures and ID's.
    THAT would put a stop to that.
  • My Father's Method (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:01PM (#12000460) Homepage Journal
    Instead of signing the back of his credit cards, my dad writes "Ask for photo ID". If they don't, he asks them calmly if the signatures match. If the cashier says yes, he asks to talk to their supervisor. He doesn't make a big fuss out of it most of the time, and tends to joke around with the cashiers more than make them feel bad, but it gets his point across. He also praises those cashiers that do actually ask for photo ID.

    I like it because it has the net effect of making cashiers more likely to check ALL signatures, not just his.
  • Signature (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:02PM (#12000482)
    The agreement you are making in signing the line is governed by contract law. All that is necessary is some indication you have agreed (and of course you have to understand what you are agreeing to but that's not relevant here). A simple x or even less can do it. Remember how the early settlers in the Americas took land from the native peoples. The native people in general did not write in the language of the settlers, so an X sufficed as a signature (or sign that an agreement had been made). Now if this guy had been using someone else's card without permission this would be news. Well, actually it is news because most people do not have even a basic understanding of contracts (in the U.S.). It is a failure of the compulsory schools and a means to the extraction of (the little) money from the have-not's into the hands of the have's.
  • Walmart's policy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ShyGuy91284 (701108) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:05PM (#12000528)
    I was working at a Walmart last summer to help pay for college (should I be posting this as AC?), and they are pretty clear to the cashiers there to check ID if it is unsigned, and to verify the signature if it is signed. Being one of the largest corporations in America probably has something to do with their strictness on the issue. Although you do feel pretty bad when some old lady doesn't have another form of valid ID and an unsigned card....
  • Best Buy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordBodak (561365) * <msmoulton.iname@com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:06PM (#12000554) Homepage Journal
    Best Buy is the only place that has ever checked mine.

    The card is about 3 years old, the signature has worn off completely, and I can't resign it (so far no pen seems to write on the mangled signature panel). So they always check my ID.

    But what's the point anyway? I can go online and spend thousands of dollars with no verification, so what is the point of checking my ID in store?

  • digital signatures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:09PM (#12000618)
    Even worse is that, now, most DMVs make you sign your identification card digitally (like you do with your UPS deliveries). What's the problem with this? Well, when I signed mine at the DMV in 2000, they said "sorry, that isn't valid - sign again".

    "What the hell are you talking about? Of course that's valid. That's how I sign my name."

    They said that you can't sign your name with any squiggles or crossing lines. My name has a line from the first letter of my last name that slashes through the top of the other letters in my last name. They said that was not valid. So I had to sign it again, without it.

    Now, how is that a big problem? Try signing for something where they require checking the signature on your photo identification. I've had people say "have you changed your signature recently?". I even had to sit at my own bank for half an hour once, while they worked out how to deal with my signature not matching - exactly - that on my card.

    In other words, I have to sign my signature like the one on my identification card. But the one on my card is not my valid signature, because that's not how I sign things - nor have I ever in my entire life.
  • Different in Europe (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:10PM (#12000625)
    I found it interesting that whenever I'd go to Europe every single clerk would carefully scruitinize my signature and compare it to that on the credit card. What a contrast to the States, where they don't even bother to look 99% of the time!
  • Chip and Pin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:12PM (#12000658)
    Here in the UK we're now moving to Chip and Pin which is a great idea if it wasn't for the fact that the idiots who designed the machines didn't consider the fact that someone might be looking over your shoulder.

    As such, you get this box thrust into your hands and you're asked to type in your PIN in full view of all the people around you.

    Sometimes you can cover it up with the other hand, but this gets a little difficult if you are actually holding the machine with one of those hands.

    Unsurprisingly Chip and Pin fraud is still climbing [thisislondon.co.uk] although the banks are spinning it by claiming it would be worse if we didn't have it. Hardly the end to card fraud that they originally claimed.

  • The other way around (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 88NoSoup4U88 (721233) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:12PM (#12000673)
    My uncle had his -signature- denied on a formal paper (I think it was for a loan/morgage on his house ; Something financial);
    His signature excists of yer normal scribble, but the O in his name, has a smiley face (he's very consistent with that :) ).
    When the bank noticed his signature they said they could not allow it, and wanted him to re-sign.
    After he showed various ID on which his autograph -did- have that smiley, and they -still- wouldn't want to accept it, he turned to another bank, where they did not give him any slack.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:14PM (#12000696)
    I've worked in retail for a while and I'll say that in some respects it's the customers that are the problem. Most of the places I've been have had a loose policy of checking the backs of unsigned cards/CID/"SEE ID" cards. Whenever I've had to work the cash register I do diligently check the ID of the person I'm ringing up.

    More often than not, though, people that are ringing you up won't enforce those rules because the customers will get pissed that you are wasting their time with checking for ID. I remember one time that I wouldn't accept an unsigned card from this lady. I would have accepted it with ID, even though technically the card isn't valid until it's signed. The lady didn't have any ID on her though. So she said that she would sign it right then, so that I could accept it. I told her that doing so would defeat the purpose of requiring a signature or ID. She started getting pissed at me that I wouldn't accept it. I suggested to her that she go up to the ATM and get some money. After a bit, of arguing with me and my manager she did and came back with some cash to pay.

    The problem is that most cashiers try to avoid people like this by just accepting everything. Not only that, but the people waiting in line start getting pissed that it is taking so long to pay for their items if you are spending too much time putzing around with someone's Credit Card and ID. One thing that I have noticed is that most cashiers will ask for ID, if you pull it out with your card though. I guess they think that since it's already out, then they can just glance at it to make sure it's right.
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:20PM (#12000804)
    A few years back a thief broke into our van while we were at the beach with my parents. We didn't notice the theft until later that afternoon(only the credit cards were stolen). On one card the crooks racked up nearly $15K in less than 15 minutes at Dillards. We met with the Dillards manager the next day only to be told that their corporate policy it to not check ID or validate the signature.
  • by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:23PM (#12000854) Homepage Journal
    Actually no, I made the point that he doesn't make a big deal of it. He never asks for a supervisor if there's any type of line, and is actually very kind about it. Sometimes he'll just say "check again" and immediately provide his driver's license. It comes across as more of a learning experience for the clerk.

    Based on your response, I'm sure you also set all your passwords to "password" since any password can be cracked anyway, right? Leave your doors unlocked too? The point isn't that it makes it 100% secure and trustworthy... it's that any amount of increase security is a good thing.
  • by Ugmo (36922) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:28PM (#12000930)
    I was a clerk in a video store and a cashier at a department store while working my way through school. I would check all Credit Card signatures. Credit cards were required for membership at the video store, most people would pay cash for the rentals.

    I confiscated 3 or 4 cards and destroyed them while a cashier after getting "Please Call" back instead of an authorization.

    I never caught a bad signature (a couple missing signatures, I would check the Driver's license and look at that signature and photo and tell the person to sign the card later)

    I would occasionally get a customer that did not want me to bother checking signatures and one guy belittled me while I was checking. "Oh, now you are a handwriting expert. Oh, how secure." etc etc.

    I told him it was better for him that I at least try to catch forgers.

    Not really useful to the discussion but that guy still bugs me when I think about it. I was trying to protect his credit not inconvenience him. No wonder clerks don't bother to check.

  • Re:Not True (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chriseyre2000 (603088) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:28PM (#12000931) Homepage
    In the UK Tesco's used to pay the £50 bounty for finding stolen cards to the cashier. They had the highest recovery rate going.

    Then the management decided to keep the money and they have dropped back to being like everyone else.
  • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@neverb o x . com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:29PM (#12000946) Homepage
    You realize how incredibly fucking stupid that policy was, right?

    If someone steals a credit card, the first thing they'd going to do is check the signature to forge it. If there's no signature, they're going to sign it with something they can forge.

    So all you accomplished was to piss off legit card holders. And, FYI, while there is a requirement that credit cards be signed, or you check ID, there is no requirement that they be signed in advance.

    And it's prefectly valid to use 'CID' as your signature, so you quite possibly were violating your agreement with the credit card company by refusing to accept valid cards for no reason. If they signed the receipt with 'John Doe' and the credit card said their signature was 'CID', you know what you're supposed to do? The thing you always do when the signature doesn't match...check ID!

    As an aside, what thief would use a credit card to get into a preforming arts center? It's almost as stupid as buying gas with it. Hey, this card's been stolen, let me use it somewhere with a lot of people and where I'm then going to hang out for two hours watching a play. No way they'll catch me!

  • Re:Not in the UK. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alan_g_Dundee (721988) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:30PM (#12000958)
    I had a guy once who signed the slip then I noticed he hadnt signed the debit card. I politely told him I could not accept it as the card has to be signed before being presented to be valid.

    He then signed the card, very slowly as he had to check the name on the front of it. I said I could not accept it as it defeated the purpose of me checking the signature and if he wished to go to the bank and withdraw cash thus proving he is the cardholder I would process it. I also (rightly) suspected that he was not the cardholder.

    He then walked to the front of the store and veered over to the other set of counters which were some distance away. I radiod the supervisor of the counter to warn them and headed over.

    I'm glad I did because she then rejected the card due to the signature he had wrote 2 minutes before not matching the one he just wrote at that cash desk.

    Being the duty manager some days I had to deal with this sort of stuff all the time, customers asking to see management because their card wasnt accepted, reasons included:

    *signature slip being worn away so card was void

    *signature being completely different to that on the card

    *People using their spouses card

    *people not signing their card before attempting to use it

    Maybe once a day we would also get someone whos card brought up "voice approval" or "declined - keep card"

    I would generally explain that I had to phone up *their card company* to authorise the transaction and suggested that either the bank had made a mistake or they had either unkowingly slipped into their overdraft or spent more than usual that day so the bank was doing a routine check to ensure all was well.

    Most people understood that this was their own bank wanting to check that their customers card hadnt been stolen and unusually large amounts being spent before it could be reported.

    Occassionally we would have someone whos card was not approved after calling their own card company who would huff that they would go elsewhere and no amount of explaining that it was their own bank who had declined them and not the store would help them see sense. I wished to follow them to the store they so loudly insisted they were taking their business to see them be declined their.

    Our store was pretty vigilant on credit card fraud because any time a card was seized the reward from the bank would go into the staffroom fund to pay for parties.
  • by schmoli (105622) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:30PM (#12000966) Homepage
    You're right on, In fact I was at an Ikea in Canada once, when I tried to pay for my merch with a CC that had "See ID" written on the back, an Ikea employee told me they couldn't let me pay until I actually signed the back of the card with my name, which I then did.
  • by technothrasher (689062) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:30PM (#12000978)
    Instead of signing the back of his credit cards, my dad writes "Ask for photo ID". If they don't, he asks them calmly if the signatures match. If the cashier says yes, he asks to talk to their supervisor.

    Being on the other side of that, it seems some customers like to play a retarded "I'm better than you" game with it. Often, they'll hand me their credit card and then about 1/2 second later say, "You didn't ask for my ID! Didn't you look at the back of the card? What's this world coming to!" This is invariably before I've even had a chance to turn the card over.

    Since I'm not just a lowly paid cashier, but actually own the store, I can guarantee you I check people's signatures and ask for ID. I don't want to get stuck with a chargeback!

  • by kotku (249450) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:35PM (#12001055) Journal
    I was standing in a supermarket checkout line in Cambridge in the UK once and this pretty festy looking homeless dude is in front of me with a 6 pack of Tennents Super Strength lager. Anyway he whips out this busted up debit card, all scratched and bent, obviously stolen or found. The pimply checkout chick just takes the card and incredulously turns to the bum and asks him if he would like any cash out with his purchase. In the UK you don't have to type in a pin to get cash out with purchases at the supermarket you just have to sign and well...... You should have seen the guys eyes light up. It was going to be his lucky day. "50 pounds please"

    The cashier then takes the card and swipes it. Unfortunately for the alkie bum the card was too damaged and wouldn't swipe through the machine correctly. If he had been a bit luckier he would have easily made off with 50 quid and a 6 pack of lager. What was really astounding was the robotic attitude of the checkout chick to the obvious scam. She would have happily handed over that 50 quid if the card had swiped.
  • by MajorBurrito (443772) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:39PM (#12001109)
    I used to work at a software store, and the regional manager was very concerned that all employees check signatures for all credit card purchases. We even had this long set of rules, and one of them was, "The credit card must have a valid name in the signature area". It is illegal, after all, to put something besides your signature on your card.

    So one day, I'm working and this college girl comes in and picks up Wing Commander 3 from the shelf. She walks up to me, smiles, and gives me her credit card. In the signature area is written: "Please ask for ID". So I ask to see her ID, and she smiles at me and says, "Thank you! You're the first person all day who's asked to see my ID." Now, I'm starting to get a good vibe from her, until I remember the rules. I compare her driver's license signature to her credit card, and I'm about to hand it back to her and ask her about the game as a way to get her to talk to me (she's probably buying the game for someone, but who knows, maybe I'm about to meet a single, female gamer - they DO exist!) when the manager wanders over. I suppose he'd seen her dig out her driver's license. Crap. So now I have a choice - it's really too bad that I loved my job. So I hand her back her license and credit card and say, "I'm sorry, I can't accept this credit card." Well, her smile disappears pretty quick. I try to explain the rule, but she pays with cash and leaves the store pretty quick.

    Next time the regional manager was in the store, he complimented me on my performance - my manager must have told him about it. Still, I would have rather had her phone number than a compliment from the sleazy regional manager.

    And I never saw her in the store again.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michrech (468134) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:39PM (#12001121)
    The local Wal*Mart registers are set up to do this. The only ones that don't are the automated ones. Wierd thing happened, though. I chose "Credit" on the screen and then swiped my card as asked, except when I swiped my card, it went through as "debit", so the machine rejected it.

    Don't know if they ever fixed that lil' problem...
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ReverendLoki (663861) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:40PM (#12001138)
    I write in "SEE ID" and then my signature next to it on my credit cars. I then say thank you to the cashiers who check my ID.

    My GF's younger brother did this. He then spent a semester as an exchange student in Mexico. Went to purchase something from a shop where the clerk had absolutely no understanding of English, and despite his best explanations, the clerk couldn't understand that this wasn't his name on the back of the card. The only way the clerk let him pay for his merchandise was if he signed the slip by the name "See ID".

  • The reason why. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:41PM (#12001157) Homepage Journal
    Video Cameras.

    Go ahead, try and write a bad signature, then claim you didn't make that purchase; they'll show the videos of you Entering the store empty handed, picking up the Merch, your time at the Cashier, and Exiting the store, laden with goods.

    Theft, Fraud, Perjury...

    Same at the Gas Station, they got an image of your license plate and car.
  • by Godeke (32895) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:43PM (#12001180)
    You don't have driver's licenses with signatures??? If you *do* (and I don't know what state doesn't) then you are just an arrogant idiot who is doing nothing to protect the credit card company or the credit card user or your company. Freaking power trips: "but I have no way of verifying your signature then". How the heck do you know that the card wasn't signed by the crook when you *weren't* being a prick? The customer wants to back it up with ID and you tell them no.

    Personally I write both See ID and a signature because I want the signature on the card to match the signature on the ID. Do you bother to honor that request? Or are you just a prick for the sake of being one?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:43PM (#12001191)
    Talk to any lawyer. Writing "see ID" on the signature block is the worst thing you could ever do! If you haven't also signed the card then you are in violation of the Visa cardmember agreement and the whole $50 or $0 liability thing is out the window because Visa could prove you were neglegent if your card is ever stolen and recovered and they see the dumb-ass move you pulled. Seriously, when asked for ID I always provide my library card - not once has anyone questioned it - ever. Faking an ID is easier than faking a signature.

    Also, despite many state attempts at reducing ID theft risk by limiting the info on your drivers license there is still a risk and some states still have SSN's on licenses. So, you are basicaly handing your ID over to what appears to be some moron behind the counter that has a photographic memory and steals your life!

    Do not, ever, under any condition provide your ID to a cashier - make them call Visa and report a "code 10": http://usa.visa.com/business/accepting_visa/ops_ri sk_management/card_present.html
  • Re:Completely. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:51PM (#12001308) Journal
    I always believed that an X was a valid signature.

    And I always thought "X" was a valid signature for people who are illiterate and therefore can't sign their name, but that it had to be countersigned by a literate witness who could verify it. Anyone know the legalities of it?

  • Re:pay attention (Score:3, Interesting)

    by truesaer (135079) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:56PM (#12001375) Homepage
    VISA (I don't know about Discover) *specifically* says not to write "see id" on the back. The card isn't valid.


    As stupid as this is, you are right. I just found on VISA.com a page that says "see id" can't be used. However, it then says that they can sign the card on the spot, ask for government identification and compare the signatures.


    It almost defies logic that VISA doesn't allow them to just compare the signature on the charge slip with the government ID, but companies are stupid. Still, the OP was obviously wrong when he said he couldn't allow them to sign the card on the spot. That is exactly what VISA tells merchants to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:59PM (#12001417)
    So what you are trying to get me to believe, is that if I make 10,000 in online purchases, but my CARD is not signed, then I owe nothing?

    Think it through.

    When I get gas, and I swipe at the pump, no one knows if the card is signed. If I make a purchase using my credit card, anywhere but at a checkout, who would know if my card was signed?

    I have no idea what your small print says, but try out your theory online with an unsigned card sometime, I bet signed or not, you are still on the hook for the purchase.
  • Some new credit card machines require at least a few somewhat recognizable characters. At Harris Teeter when I use my credit card, I have to alter my signature in order for the machine to accept it. I find this somewhat amusing, and somewhat disturbing.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dirty (13560) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ttamytrid]> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:13PM (#12001656)
    Get a credit union. My credit unions refunds ATM fees charged by other banks. Ie, I go to bank C, take out $20, bank C adds on $2. My credit union at the end of the month gives me an extra $2 so the net cost of using bank C's ATM is $0 to me. Of course I do my best to never use an ATM that charges fees because the more money my credit union has, the higher interest rates they pay out, and occasionally they give year end bonuses to members if they had a really good year. Also, I find ATM fees to be nothing but pure greed.
  • by stuartkahler (569400) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:21PM (#12001787)
    I stumbled onto the best way to get cashiers to check ID. I had an account that I maxxed out for an 18 month 0% deal. I wrote 'DO NOT USE!' on the front in sharpie to make sure I wouldn't accidently charge something and go over the limit. When the 0% was over and I paid off the balance, I started using the card. Almost everyone noticed it and asked that I show ID. A few people were a bit rude about it, but I just mention that I put it there because of lazy cashiers who don't bother to do their damn job, and it shuts them up quick.
  • by Alomex (148003) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:24PM (#12001854) Homepage
    Using an owner instrument [such as AMEX] is a little more tricky. In that case, the cashier should make a cursory check to see if the signatures match, and may ask for ID, however, much more than that is placing liability back on the store instead of the Loss Prevention department of the bank or credit card company.

    Actually afaik, AMEX explicitly tells the merchants not to check the signatures of their platinum and centurion customers. They believe that (a) such customers should not face the hassle of having their signature questioned and (b) their expert system will be better at flagging the fake purchase than the cashier will be at picking up the fake signature.

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12001916)
    On the other hand, AMEX is an owner instrument. Only the owner of the card is allowed to use it. IIRC, Diners' Club is the same way. You must be the owner of the card...

    Amex cards say right on them that they are not transferrable. This saved my butt a few years ago.

    My card was due to expire, and my new card hadn't shown up yet. About the time I was starting to wonder I had a call from American Express. Had I received my card? No. Did I live alone? Yes. And a bunch more such questions.

    It turned out that somebody had stolen my card from the mail and had gone on a shopping spree. I asked, very specifically, what my liability was, and they said zero, because the merchants hadn't verified the identity of the person who had used the card, and it was abundantly obvious that the name on the card and the person using it didn't match.

    My bill was interesting that month. About 20 pages of charges, then 20 more pages of refunds for fraudulent charges.

    ...laura

  • by Halo- (175936) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:29PM (#12001928)
    For example, loaning it to your friend to make a purchase. He/she makes other purchases on the card, well... you are screwed.

    Here's a fun little story to amplify your point:

    When I was young(er) and dumb(er) I once gave a phone card number to a friend in another state so they could call me in emergencies. I figured since it had a $50 limit I was insulated to a $50 dollar lesson even if they went insane and called Peru. Plus, it was a major issuer (AT&T), so I didn't expect problems.

    Turns out, nope, I wasn't protected at all. The "friend" turned out to have emotional problems and abused the hell out of the card. The phone company was more than happy to let $2500 bucks worth of charges accrue. The fun part was that I was liable because I had given a third party the original access. The _really_ fun part was that when I discovered this was going on (and there was only like $350 charged), I tried to get the charges stopped. I tried reporting the card stolen, explaining the situation, pleading with the issuer, etc... Nothing worked. They told me it would take at least 7-10 days to put a stop on the card because "these things take a while to filter through the system." (bear in mind this was a "global communication company") So even though the issuer knew the card was out of my control, and going vastly over the "limit" (which I was told was actually a "suggestion") they let it run up for more than a week.

    The point here, is that if you haven't done something dumb, you usually have no problem with any sort of fraud. If you have, I suspect sometimes the issuing companies let you get dug into as deep of a hole as possible because they know you are on the hook and have no recourse.

    So when you do get bitten, even by doing something which seems not to be a big deal, it can bite you VERY hard.

    (And yes, I ended up paying the whole bill...)

  • Re:Almost useless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrsev (664367) <[mrsev] [at] [spymac.com]> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:35PM (#12002010)
    I live in portugal and here many things are very primitve but the banking system and cell phones are not. For both being "late adopters" they had the advantage of getting better systems.

    At a Portuguese ATM from ANY bank or ATM in a supermarket or petrol station there are NO charges at all. Furthermore you can pay all your bills by ATM and even check your balance and last 10 "account movements" from anywhere.

    Now what they have is something amazing: You can buy from online retailers in Portugal and some of them will give you a code that you can take to an ATM and pay that way. You never enter any bank details online. Actually you can even charge your cellphone and pay taxes to the state.

    Now how did they get this system.... well the banks all needed ATMS at the same time and it was much cheaper if they colaborated.

    Dont get me worng many things here suck but some things (like the ATMs) are very good.
  • by ghostis (165022) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:36PM (#12002018) Homepage
    As others have noted, if you read the card holder agreement, the signature on the card accepts the terms of the that agreement. If you read your receipt, the signature on the receipt signifies that you agree to pay the retailer the sum charged. I do not think authentication is mentioned anywhere. So, this is my problem with credit cards and debit cards used as credit cards: there is no authentication at the time of purchase. I would like to see broad deployment of "smart" credit cards in the US. I am not a cryptographer, but I think a credit card purchase should depend on at least the following: the holder knowing a secret (PIN?), the card knowing a separate secret, the card issuer knowing a third secret, and an algorithm that ties the secrets together. That way, there is some hope of proving that the relationship between the three entities is valid at purchase time. The current system only works, because there is such massive indemnification (no responsibility for unauthorized purchases over 50.00). The indemnification does not keep fraud down; it only foists the cost of fraud onto the retailers who then raise their prices to cover themselves.

    My .02.

    -ghostis
  • Hell*Mart (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:42PM (#12002092) Journal
    When Ninja Gaiden came out for the XBox, I headed over to the local Wal-Mart to grab me a copy. Taking it over to the register, the upitty cashier first demanded proof that I was 17 (I was 21 at the time and have always appeared older for my age. Example: At my sister's 15th birthday dinner, when I was 13, the waitress handed me the wine list.). Upon being begrudgingly satisfied by my driver's license, we went through the purchase. When I handed him the receipt, he literally took the credit card back out of my hand and compared my signature on the back to my signature on the receipt. "Ummmm...ok, I guess it's close enough. But try to do it better next time or I won't sell it to you."

    It's the closest I've ever come to outright decking a store employee. Jump through hoops to get your signature checked? Nah, just find the newly promoted manager at Hell*Mart.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oliana (181649) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:45PM (#12002152) Homepage
    I had "Check ID" in large black letters on the FRONT of my credit card. About half of the time, they didn't and one time they took my card, read "Check ID" outloud, laughed a little and proceeded to not check my ID
  • Checking for ID (Score:5, Interesting)

    by angle_slam (623817) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:05PM (#12002410)
    I received a $200 Visa Gift Card for XMas this year. The name on the front says "Guest Card Recipient". I signed the back with my normal signature. When I buy stuff with it, I was invariably asked to see my ID.
    • Did they expect my driver's license to say "Gift Card Recipient"?
    • When they realized my legal name isn't "Gift Card Recipient", why did they let me buy it?
    • (Unrelated question) Why is it that a grocery store will ask to see my ID when making a $3 credit card purchase, but I've NEVER been asked to see ID at a restaurant, even though I can charge hundreds of dollars at a restaurant.
  • linked to phone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:13PM (#12002484)
    When my wife and I were traveling in Sri Lanka, we saw an interesting advertisement in one of the English dailies. A bank was advertising a credit card system under which you'd receive a text message every time your credit card was used. Idea being, I suppose, that if fraud occurred the owner would learn of their impending bankrupcy instantly.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jedrek (79264) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:17PM (#12002534) Homepage
    I have one service that a lot of my non-european friends find amazing: text messages on transaction. Every time there is a transaction made on my account - wether it be a credit card charge, an ingoing/outgoing transfer, deposit, interest payout, etc - I get a text message to my phone immediately. So even if I were to lose my card, I'd be informed the second someone used it - at which time I can call the bank, deny the charge and get it blocked -- even if I didn't know I'd lost it.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cat_Byte (621676) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:25PM (#12002654) Journal
    The mag stripe contains only the 16 digits of the card. (I used to work for MasterCard).

    I used to work for a company that wrote software for pc based cash registers. Unless things changed, we had to parse out all #s following the card # just to get # to populate by itself. There was no uniform layout of information. Some had the extra 4 digits you see on the back of the card, some had the expiration date, some had #s that I never figured out what they were. We even had access to the cool monthly # that would make it skip actually submitting card payments in the nightly batch so we could swipe real cards all day to test. That was a dangerous toy...grin...I resisted using it.

  • Re:Almost useless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xugumad (39311) on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:19PM (#12003303)
    On the PIN number thing, I'm tempted to put a small slip of paper in my wallet, with "0619" written on it. Anyone stealing the wallet may well try it is my PIN, and it won't work. So they turn it upside down (becomes "6190"), and it still doesn't work. If I'm really lucky, they turn it back the other way, try one more time, and the card is now locked.
  • Re:added crime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RaguMS (149511) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:50PM (#12003645) Journal
    But what if you sign your own name? ANd the store still accepts it, is it fraud too then?

    Personally, I do not believe it is fraud. I have been asked several times to go to a store and purchase something for people I know. I bring their credit card to the store and make the purchase. I sign the receipt with my name. One time at Circuit City, I was asked why the signature did not match, so I explained the situation - that the card did not belong to me and I was making a purchase for the person named on the card. The cashier nodded and completed the purchase.

    I've never had trouble doing this... but I am curious which criminal charges would be brought if it was a thief authorized to make those purchases.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kencurry (471519) on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:57PM (#12003734)
    I had the same experience when I bought my first home. The escrow officer/lady actually chastised me for not knowing how to sign my name properly!

    I was so pissed, but I meekly complied and let her tell me how to sign all the documents like I was a five year old.

    later, I realized that I had paid her to treat me like that.

    Several closed escrows later, I sign the damn papers how I want, the less legible the better.

    Escrow lady - kiss my ass!
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Monday March 21, 2005 @04:11PM (#12003953) Journal
    Maybe you don't have any real money?

    It could be what they're thinking.. I know I feel stupid when I forget to hit the ATM and have to charge something like toothpaste.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @04:23PM (#12004093)
    >I confiscated 3 or 4 cards and destroyed them
    >while a cashier after getting "Please Call" back
    >instead of an authorization.

    I hope you mean that you confiscated the card after being ordered to by someone with authority to do so.

    I certainly would not have created this confrontation. I would have handed the card back and refused to do the transaction, or I would have left it up to someone in a management role to handle, and if that was *me*, I would call the police and have them handle it before confiscating someone's property. It doesn't matter if some bank service person told me the card was stolen or whatever. The determination of whether something is stolen property, or whether it is my right to confiscate or destroy it, comes under "due process of law", not "my own personal decision".

    If you had confiscated or destroyed someone's card on mistaken grounds, you'd be liable, wouldn't you?

  • Re:added crime (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dannannan (470647) on Monday March 21, 2005 @05:52PM (#12005321)

    That's a very good point. Most of the posts on this topic so far have all centered around the signature as an authentication mechanism, which this notion clearly demonstrates that it is not. (Also note that when you pay for things over the phone by credit card you don't sign anything either; all they might have is your caller ID.)

    Without measures like signature collection the system would be a farce. (Some people already think this is the case and choose not to participate.) Requiring signatures is just one way to lend some sort of credibility to the credit card billing system by linking some database rows to you in a real way.

    Look at it: a large financial institution sends you a monthly bill with arbitrary line items on it. All they want is some piece of evidence that links you to the purchases -- and results from a query in a database owned by the CC company don't count. They can say they require their merchants to collect signatures. It must then fall on you to say you've never even shopped there, or it wasn't you that signed, or the merchant isn't collecting signatures like they should. Now you have something specific about you and the merchant to argue about, which is more than nothing.

    When you make a purchase over the phone and don't sign, they can point out that there was a phone call from your home number. You could deny the phone call, or say it wasn't you, but now you are arguing about a phone call on a line owned by you, so you're involved in some material way.

    Interestingly enough, I bet that if the only evidence that it's your phone line is that the same credit card was used to pay the bills, that may not be enough to prove that you're actually involved, because they'd be effectively using their database to bear witness to itself.

  • Bank of America (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:55PM (#12006096) Homepage Journal
    Although I personally think they suck on most things, this is one area they've got an impressive system. My credit card number got stolen recently (still don't know how, but I'm guessing a vendor using the old mechanical slider to get the card number may have made "extra" copies).


    Anyway, BoA's procedure is simple. A little longer than necessary, but simple. You notify an agency (who notifies two others) that the card number is being misused. You then spend 30 minutes convincing a Bank of America teller that you are who you are (and that's actually admirable security). The card is then locked down. You then talk to a third person about the disputed charges, and they then send you a report card you need to fill in.


    Wha's good about a process as long and complex as that? Simple. They HAVE a process. Americans seem to assume that money is there to be stolen, so there are usually no procedures of any kind at all. No safety checks, no verification. The FBI openly say they won't touch online fraud that is worth less than something like $15,000. Which means that they don't give a damn about anything that happens to people, just corporations.


    America has nothing similar to the Data Protection Act. The retention of data that could be misused or abused is therefore entirely OK. With nobody taking responsibility for dealing with online fraud and identity theft, there's zero incentive to NOT put such data at risk.


    This is just my personal opinion, but in cases of identity theft, I'd argue that those responsible for the safekeeping of the data are just as criminally culpable as the thief. If irresponsible behaviour and criminal negligence really was regarded as criminal, we might see some major improvements.


    There was a documentary a few years back, on Russian crackers. Apparently, major banks TO THIS DAY have unsecured dial-in lines that directly access the bank's computers. By unsecured, they made it clear that this included no passwords or other authentication of any kind. Apparently, banks lose a good few million on a yearly basis to skript-kiddies with a war-dialler.


    This is a broken, defective system. That is the only way to describe it. Personal information needs better protection, and critical systems need hefty security. In general, this isn't happening.


    On security, I give America a grade of F-.

  • obscene signature (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SaulPwanson (869707) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:41PM (#12007045)

    Two years ago, I began signing documents with a simple graphic that my friends call "the booby lady", a line drawing of a naked (and extremely busty) female form, nipples included. Since then, I've co-signed a bank loan, signed a lease, gotten a new driver's license, and signed innumerable credit card statements and other documents. I've only had about a dozen experiences over these past two years when the signature-requester even noticed that my signature is odd (nevermind that I always sign documents sideways), and only a handful of these make any kind of verbal acknowledgement.

    My new signature has only been challenged twice, and both were employers: the first (which was my employer during the signature change) apparently got a complaint from a female employee in human resources, noticed that my signature at hire was different from my current one, and told me to "print my name instead of using my signature" if I needed to sign anything for them in the future. The second (my current employer) simply wanted some official documentation that this was my legal signature before they hired me, so I went over to the DMV and got a new driver's license with nothing more than a double-take from the employee that watched me sign the license.

    So not only can you sign anything you like any way you like, as very few people (less than 5%) will even bother to check that it matches, but also, as far as I can tell, *no one* will prevent you from legally changing your signature to something completely nonverbal and nonsensical.

  • by Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) on Tuesday March 22, 2005 @12:19AM (#12008842)
    Unless you were testing to see if it had been reported stolen.

The sooner all the animals are extinct, the sooner we'll find their money. - Ed Bluestone

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