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Credit card signatures: Useless? 1067

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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  • by thebra ( 707939 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:51PM (#12000302) Homepage Journal
    this comes in handy when I've had a "little" to much to drink at a bar or club. It's nice to know that my friends can sign for me.
  • by graphicartist82 ( 462767 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:53PM (#12000332)
    .. a guy I used to work with that signed all his credit card receipts and checks "I. M. Jesus Christ"

    nobody ever though twice about it.
  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:55PM (#12000361) Journal
    My signature is basically a W with a line after.

    Wow! Please to meet you Mr. President!
  • by OhPlz ( 168413 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:00PM (#12000446)
    Why? You're not found liable for fraudulant charges. All your doing is holding up the line. Even if they check, have you ever once seen a cashier question a signature? I haven't.

    When I used to cashier part time in college I always wished I could reject those cards. "Sorry, SEE ID isn't the cardholder's name. I can't accept this."

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:04PM (#12000508) Homepage

    I've come up with the ultimate 'Impossible to Forge' signature:


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:05PM (#12000526)
    You think Bush knows how to write W?!
  • My Story (Score:3, Funny)

    by iammrjvo ( 597745 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:07PM (#12000581) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I'm sure that everyone has stories about how useless they are, but I'll share mine.

    A month or two ago, checking out in the grocery store line, I got a new clerk. When I swiped my card, the person training her told her to check the card. I was using my wife's card with her name on it and it wasn't even signed. The clerk proceeded to take the card, she examined the front carefully and then examined the back. Then she handed the card back with a smile as if to say, "Yep. It's a real credit card alright."

  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:12PM (#12000655) Journal
    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.

    Where have you been shopping?! Where I live, the tills are all tended to by bored Vicky Pollard-types (especially at the petrol stations) who think a "signature" is something you can get from a boy in the back of a burnt-out Rover 100. They never look at the reverse of the card; I've changed the glyphs in my signature a number of times and it's never been noticed. Thank goodness for Patrick Stewart and his lovely chip-and-pin!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:12PM (#12000660)
    I can't wait for the morons who say that they always write "Check ID" on their credit card instead of their signature, when that actually technically invalidates your credit card, as part of your agreement with your credit card company is that you sign your fucking card. READ THE FINE PRINT, MORONS, I AM SICK OF ARGUING THIS WITH YOU.


    Unless of course your name is actually Check ID, I guess.
  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:12PM (#12000665)
    What is a signature? Is it not just a unique, identifying mark? Could not "Please See ID" be just as good of a signature as "John Doe"?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:16PM (#12000739)
    My business partner does this all the time - ... Satan

    Imagine how this guy [] feels every time he signs the bill ...

    (By the way, he's Czech and pronounces it "shaw-TAN".)
  • by itallushrt ( 148885 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:16PM (#12000747) Homepage
    As a heavy drinker that uses a debit card often at bars I'll be the first to tell you that just about any scribble will do.

    I sometimes just scrawl a blob for a signature and apparently it works.
  • by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <<z_gringo> <at> <>> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:18PM (#12000769)
    Yes, I learned a long time ago that the best approach is to make my signature a completely uninteligable squiggle.

    It's hard to duplicate, and no one can ever tell me that I didn't sign my entire name. the first time a purchased a home, I had a legible signature and they made me sign MY FULL NAME like eleventy billion times.

    Now, I just squiggle, and if they say that isn't my full name, I say, "yes it is... Can't you read?"

  • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:22PM (#12000827) Homepage
    I was at the cashier in a bookstore, about to pay for a couple of books. The clerk didn't want to take my unsigned credit card, and handed it back to me. He turned around to grab a bag or something, while I grabbed a second unsigned card, signed it when he wasn't looking, and proceeded to pay while everyone in line was chuckling.

    Bottom line: it's a security measure that relies upon untrusted and unreliable humans for enforcement, which makes it pretty weak. A more secure measure are ATM PINs, but they trade off the ease of online transactions (PINs should not be seen by merchants, requiring the bank to be in the transaction, etc.).
  • by yrogerg ( 858571 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:25PM (#12000877)

    My girlfriend is in a wheelchair, and many of the places that have the 'swipe your own card' machines are placed too high for her to reach. She gets me to sign her name and while I felt it rather ridiculous that no other method existed for her to sign her own card, I still complied.

    But instead of signing her name, I just wrote things like "she can't reach" or "this is dumb".

    A month or two after we received a phone call from VISA who questioned her on all these 'signatures' and wondered why they didn't match, and why she wasn't signing her name.

    They were polite, but asked that her actual name be used from now on.

  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:26PM (#12000889)
    What they're supposed to do is:

    If they see you haven't signed your credit card, they're supposed to ask to see another form of ID with your signature. That's what they're supposed to do. At least that's what my back tells its customers when issuing new credit/debit cards. For this reason, many people DON'T sign their card (some of my friends do it this way). I always do sign it, though, figuring if it's ever lost or stolen, hopefully the signature will be checked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12000927)
    "My signature is basically a W with a line after"


    Heh! Easy - you ever considered changing your signature to something a little more... complex?
  • daffy duck (Score:2, Funny)

    by Pu'be ( 618443 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:30PM (#12000976)
    I always sign mine as Daffy Duck.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:34PM (#12001034)
    What costs less than $20 at Starbucks?
  • One day in a shop I went to pay for a purchase and noticed that my credit card had changed form VISA to MasterCard! On closer examination, I discovered that I had someone else's card. Apart from the user name and the logo it looked just like mine.

    My card was missing so obviously it had been switched during some previous transaction. I checked back through my receipts and found, to my amazement, that I had paid for a weekly supermarket shop, a tank of petrol and a small car repair on this other guy's card.

    The purchase before had been for a meal on a train home from work a few nights before. On the train they have the habit of collecting several payments at a time and taking them into the kitchen to process. I had been sitting opposite a gentleman at the table and guessed it may have been him.

    I live in East Anglia and get off the train at Diss, the stop before the end of the line so I knew this chap would have to get off in Norwich. From there he could have boarded another train or drove off into the countryside. Luckily, when I checked directory enquiries, there was one listing Norwich phone book with his surname and initials. I phoned him up and asked if he had my card in his wallet - he did! What's more he had made three purchases on my card.

    I drove to him and we swapped cards. We waited for the statements to arrive and I ended up sending him a cheque for about 30 pounds.

    A lucky escape - it's a good job we were both honest. After my experience I'm not really surprised to hear about signatures not being checked. I can understand how it might happen in shops where they know me but all my purchases were not. Here in the UK Chip & PIN is being introduced so that should prevent a similar thing happening. But I always check my card carefully when I get it back now.

  • by the_pooh_experience ( 596177 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:54PM (#12001343)
    There you go, ruining a perfectly good whine-fest with these tacky "facts."
  • by gwhenning ( 693443 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:54PM (#12001351)
    I always write "See ID" on the back of my cards. Most people don't bother to check, but some do and then I tell them this story.

    When my wife and I were out appliance shopping we went into the local Best Buy. We picked out a washer, dryer, and a couple of other things totaling about $1,800. When we got to the front the cashier was more interested in talking to the young girl standing next to the checkout stand than to even acknowledge my wife and I. With no greeting, and no eye contact, he completed the entire transaction and handed me back the card. It wasn't until I had put my wallet away that he asked to check the signatures. When he saw that the signature line said "See ID" he asked for my ID. I told him that I couldn't show him my ID because the card was stolen and it wouldn't match. His jaw dropped to the ground as he frantically started to void the transaction.

    When I got his manager to the front I explained that by not checking before hand he had made the merchant liable for any damages caused by using the stolen card. When the manager told me, " if there had been a problem they would have simply voided the transaction, thus clearing any problems for the person whose card had been stolen." I pointed out that many credit card companies took out the transactions immediately, but processed the returns only after they had been "cleared" by the merchant. (Try it, Target & Best Buy will pull immediately, but not return for a couple of days.) Since they would have just tied up my entire credit limit, if my wife had been out using her legitimate card at a business dinner, it would have been declined causing great anguish on her part possibly opening to a pain and suffering type lawsuit.

    I don't always resort to that story, but the kid ticked me off. I wonder if the manager even wrote him up for not acknowledging the customer.
  • by kaszeta ( 322161 ) <> on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:06PM (#12001545) Homepage
    Even worse is that, now, most DMVs make you sign your identification card digitally (like you do with your UPS deliveries)

    I'm always astonished how poorly most digitizers work (Target, Best Buy being the worst I usually run into), with results that only vaguely look like my signature.

    It could be worse, when companies like UPS started doing this, the quality and resolution was *terrible*. Back in 1997 or so, my brother sent me a package which I signed for, and they were advertising the "you can track your package online, and even see who signed for it." The resulting signature [] was so funny, I kept it. (Before you flame me for posting my signature, look at the actual image).

  • by PhraudulentOne ( 217867 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:12PM (#12001641) Homepage Journal
    Mine is also just a squiggle. Its a fairly elaborate squiggle, and I get a lot of weird looks when I sign, but I just laugh and say I'm a doctor. Jokes on them, I'm not a doctor!
  • by mlrtime ( 520968 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:21PM (#12001795)

    I bet you've been waiting 8 years for a Slashdot article that allows you to post that image, how does it finally feel?

  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:22PM (#12001829)
    I think guessing a 4 digit pin is harder than writing "shamoo" on a receipt...

    My name is shamoo, you insensitive clod!
  • by kabloom ( 755503 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:23PM (#12001841) Homepage
    I might just test this by signing in hebrew next time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:26PM (#12001882)
    That looks like a good seed for Conway's 'Life' game.
  • by billh ( 85947 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:26PM (#12001887)
    I've been using a squiggle for about ten years now. It is the same every time, and it is on my driver's license. I had no problem signing a mortgage, buying a car, getting married, filling out legal paperwork, etc. I only ever get comments on it from the occasional retail clerk that actually compares it to the back of my credit card. Strange.
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:33PM (#12001975)

    It could be worse, when companies like UPS started doing this, the quality and resolution was *terrible*. [...] The resulting signature [] was so funny, I kept it. (Before you flame me for posting my signature, look at the actual image).

    If you squint your eyes just right you can make it out! Bad idea to post your signature, Mr. ;,!.'',_!.

  • by N3Z ( 746334 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:52PM (#12002245)
    The resulting signature was so funny, I kept it.

    Hey, that's my signature!
  • by sonoluminescence ( 709395 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:59PM (#12002346)
    Then you have Wal Marts and such that you swipe the card yourself.... ugh.

    Yeah but at those self service things I always make sure to check that the signature on the card is really my own. :p

  • by Morgon ( 27979 ) <> on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:53PM (#12002973) Homepage
    The player number is spot on, but his position?? "Right Wing"?

    Proof that conservatives are the instrument of the devil!
  • by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @04:29PM (#12003412)
    When I was in college, I wrote on the back of my Debit Card (I kid you not) - "Just run the Fucking card". I got quite a few laughs out of most store clerks.

    This one time however, this lady got her panties all in a wad over it and felt the need to call her manager to the desk (this after a long line) to ask him what she should do. She seemed really offended and annoyed. He shrugged and replied simply: "Just run the fucking card".

    Because of the manager had a good sense of humor, I shop there almost exclusively.
  • Funny story (Score:2, Funny)

    by shimmerkid ( 661737 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @05:35PM (#12004236) Homepage
    I was in China 2 weeks ago, and my co-worker tried to pay for our dinner with his credit card. The waiter came back after my co-worker signed the bill, and turned over his card, which had "CHECK ID" written in block letters on the back of it. The waiter would not let us go until my co-worker wrote "CHECK ID" in block letters on the signature line of our bill.
  • by joshsnow ( 551754 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @09:16PM (#12006820) Journal
    You've done this before, haven't you? Go on, admit it! :)
  • by BlueHands ( 142945 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2005 @12:47AM (#12008622)
    nice thought but I think it could be improved upon...

    instead of hoping they will try reading through it,write badly. 9's and 4's can look alot alike, so can 1's and 7's

    Yea for an Americain education system that never force me to learn how to write!!

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken