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

    by Buzz_Litebeer ( 539463 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:54PM (#12000340) Journal
    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.

    I know it isnt a lot, but it helps me feel a little more comfortable that had I been a criminal trying to get a bad credit card accross I would have been foild.

    Then you have Wal Marts and such that you swipe the card yourself.... ugh.
  • Re:Not in the UK. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:56PM (#12000383)
    Yes, this is amazing. I don't understand why this has become the norm in the US. The Social Security office doesn't send the number in the mail for security reasons when every other company uses it as an ID number. Fraud is much easier this way for sure and the system of using it like an ID should be changed.
  • by kmartshopper ( 836454 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:00PM (#12000444)
    I can't tell people how many times I've written everything from swears to promises of money if people read my signature when I sign and haven't had a single person say anything to me. This problem is significantly greater when I sign electronic pads at businesses after swiping my card. They don't even ask to see the card.

    And credit card companies complain about rampant theft and people filing bankrupcy... yet the security on these cards is ridiculous. They promise to pay ALL debt incurred due to a stolen card, yet they give out miniature sized cards to put ON YOUR KEYCHAIN and no one gives half a shit about what you sign when you swipe the damn thing. The whole system is a joke.
  • See ID (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:00PM (#12000453) Homepage Journal
    The safest thing to write is 'See ID'.

    Well, it's safe because it forces them to check the ID of the card's user, and it's funny because you can really tell if they care or not, since maybe people check it 1/10 of the time.

    Of course, someone could still buy gas, order online/over phone with it., etc.
  • by flu1d ( 664635 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:03PM (#12000499) Homepage
    I don't know if this is true with every state but in Colorado my signiture is on my drivers license. With my bank card its probably pretty easy to forge my signature. Why wouldn't you accept the See ID or CID? My ID has my picture and my signature, there probably wont be enough time for someone to make a fake ID before I cancel the card and thus looking at my ID will probably be more of an assurance than just looking at some scribbles on the back of my card.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus punct> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:04PM (#12000511) Homepage
    But as this article is proving is "no you don't have to have talent to forge".

    And smart cards you're talking about are WAY better than what we have here [america]. First off, having the card doesn't net you anything. You need the pin to get it todo anything.

    Second, the reader doesn't get anything useful off you. This stops magreader thieves from stealing your card info.

    Third, you actually need the pin to make it work.

    I think guessing a 4 digit pin is harder than writing "shamoo" on a receipt...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:08PM (#12000596)
    When you go to closing look at the first time you sign your name vs. the 68th or what ever is required. If you signature is consistent my hat is off to your, mine (now I do have a very long last name) steadly degenerated.
  • Re:Completely. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arexu ( 595755 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:12PM (#12000664)
    While I realize its an annoyance to you, when I worked retail selling books, I checked every time, becuase I worked in a holiday destination (Honolulu) and cards do get stolen there.

    I looked at the signer, to see how comfortable they were reproducing the signature, then at the signature, to see how close it was. I didn't expect perfect duplication every time, since I don't sign the same every time myself.

    Signature checking is no panacea, its another step in reducing CASUAL fraud. Scammers are going to be practiced, and may well get by my eyeball check, but I'll catch the guy who just snagged your wallet at the beach across the street.

    As to your attempted pissing away my time because I took an extra 20 seconds to look at your signature, big fat hairy deal. I'm on shift til I'm done, and when my shift ends, I'm gone, with you still there or not.

    If you don't care to get it checked, goodie for you. Free check anyway! I check because people get robbed. What's your reasoning -- I'm wasting your time? I waste more time counting your change out, or waiting for your reciept to print than I do watching you sign and looking at the back of your card.

    Carping and timewasters don't bother me, I'm got a piss-poor customer service attitude already. I've had customer complaints because they didn't like the way I DIDN'T argue with them. What can YOU do?
  • Re:Completely. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RikF ( 864471 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:13PM (#12000677)
    "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."

    Wow - what an odd point of view! I am always far more annoyed/concerned when it is obvious that my signature has *not* been checked. I'd much rather they spent a few extra moments checking that I was the legitimate user of my card, rather than the guy who just mugged me for it (the worst cases being those where they swipe the card, hand it back and only then give you the receipt to sign!). Of course this is becoming less of an issue now that Chip and PIN is being rolled out across the UK but personally I'd be happy if I could order a card with 'Only Accept With Photo ID' printed on it (and yeah, I'd have it as an optional thing - I'm not a fan on compulsory ID cards)
  • Argh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:14PM (#12000713)
    Writing 'See ID' on your card is an excercise in retardedness more than anything else.

    The signature panel is not there to prove your identity... its there to show that you agreed to the terms of the cardmember agreement. (ie you agree to pay) It has NOTHING to do with your card's security.

    When you sign a credit card draft, it says something to the tune of "I agree to adhere to the terms of the previously agreed to cardmember agreement". Your signing the card signals that you agreed to adhere to that agreement.

    Its an outdated and silly mechanism that still exists because the precise meaning of electronic signatures still varies in some jurisdictions.
  • by Pointed Stick ( 304605 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:15PM (#12000722) Homepage
    I know everyone in concerned about credit card security, but please consider:

    1 - Don't just write "see id" on the signature line of your card. Most people don't realize that credit cards are transferable. That is why they almost always contain the phrases "NOT VALID UNLESS SIGNED" and "AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE". If you fail to sign your card, then the person who steals it will just sign it for you. It doesn't matter if the signature matches the name on the front of the card. It only matters if the signature on the back matches the signature on the receipt. If writing "see id" on the back of your card makes you feel safer, great, but please remember to also sign the card.

    2 - If you want someone to check your ID when you sign your card, please hand it to the cashier with your credit card.

    3 - The security of your credit cards is primarily your concern not the concern of the cashier. I assure you that someone who refuses payment to some yuppie that forgot their driver's license would almost assuredly be reprimanded when that same person calls in to complain. And they WILL complain. People are not reasonable. YOU may be, but trust me, not everyone is as understanding as you are.


    -Pointed Stick
  • pay attention (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:16PM (#12000741) Journal
    If you do not take cards with CID on the back, It will be only a matter of time before you are reported to VISA/Discover. Both accept that customers want an ID back up on their cards and accept this. Basically, you run the risk of losing the ability to use charge cards at the facility. At that point, how happy do you think that patrons will be? And yes, you were total jerks.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alfboggis ( 528706 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:21PM (#12000814)
    IMHO the PIN system is a great improvement over just checking a signature. I know from bitter experience that signatures are rarely checked, so effectively once someone has your card they can use it.

    If they need a PIN as well, their job is made much harder. I would guess that most card thefts are opportunistic, where anyone's card would do. If the thief spies you entering your PIN, they then have to target you specifically to rob you of your card.

    In addition, requiring a PIN to be entered forces the checking process, rather than relying on the cashier's vigilance.

  • Re:My solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:23PM (#12000855) Journal
    Your "solution" is stupid.
    You can't change the system. The signature area is for signatures. You are going to have tons of trouble with your silly "solution". Why not write "the user has a mole above his lip" or some other idenitifing mark? Why not because its for signatures and clerks are going to play your game.
  • Let's face it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FrankieBoy ( 452356 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12000926)
    Say you lost your signed credit card and some nefarious type found it. With about 2 minutes of practice they would be able to forge your sig good enough to get by the minimum-wage-high-school-attending cashier so why bother with this lame security device from our distant past. Another reader mentioned signing onto a screen which does not seem to check your sig against any database but makes it easier to store I guess. If the stores can roll out this technology then there should be nothing standing in the way of biometrics. Im currently typing this on a ThinkPad T42 with a fingerprint reader and it works great so to me it would seem that the technology is ready for prime-time. Maybe using bio-metrics and having a picture card backup if the biometrics fails to match would be the answer.
  • by keithslater ( 691128 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:35PM (#12001062) Homepage
    You've got to be kidding me. It's annoying that some one asks for 2 seconds of your life to look at your ID to verify that your name matches your card.

    I just really can't understand why it's annoying. The people in our society who act like they should never be bother by anything and that the world revolves around them is the only thing that's annoying here.
  • Re:Not in the UK. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:38PM (#12001104)
    For this reason, many people DON'T sign their card (some of my friends do it this way).

    Pretty stupid, IMHO... because all the thief has to do is sign the card ... before he goes on his shopping spree!

  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:47PM (#12001250) Journal
    This is why you don't keep your life savings in a checking account....
    that is what a *savings account* is for.
  • by xTMFWahoo ( 470364 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:48PM (#12001258) Homepage
    I've had "SEE ID" on all my cards for years (4-5) and haven't had a problem. The problem is that people rarely ask for ID. I thank them when they do!!
  • Re:Completely. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stuartkahler ( 569400 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:49PM (#12001280)
    Assholes like you are the reason that so many stores are willing to take my stolen card until it finally comes back declined from the bank. If carrying a picture ID is too much hassle, just use cash.

    And I'm more than happy to shop at stores that require ID. They get less chargebacks and pay a lower percentage to the bank, so they can charge me less for what I buy.
  • by MNJavaGuy ( 619805 ) <pond0019&umn,edu> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:50PM (#12001294)
    It was refused because your card is not valid unless it has your signature on the back of it. That signature is there to show that you have read your credit card contract and agree to it, not to act as a security feature. Any store that has accepted that card would have been out of luck if you were using it fraudulently, as the card company will not cover it if the card has not been signed. How they know that is beyond me though.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:52PM (#12001322) Homepage Journal
    Debit cards require a pin if they aren't VISA or MasterCard "check cards". But the greedy banks have rendered that useless by starting to charge people for using them in that manner.
  • by Phillip2 ( 203612 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:53PM (#12001336)
    You should do. First you are paying for fraud through you credit card charges. And secondly, even if you liability is limited, when someone does rip of your card, then it's still a pain in the ass getting it fixed.

    What I don't understand is why the US is not moving toward a PIN based system. France did this a decade ago. The UK is finally in the throws of doing this.

  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mopower70 ( 250015 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:56PM (#12001377) Homepage
    Except that technically, unless your name is "SEE ID", merchants are not allowed to accept your credit card. On every card I've ever seen, it clearly states "Not valid unless signed."

  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus punct> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:56PM (#12001378) Homepage
    See the trick is to replace "greedy" with capitalist.

    It's all about making more money. Nobody does anything for the actual progress or requirement of it anymore. I mean banks QoS goes down [e.g. fewer hours, more rude tellers] but the fees go up?

    I could see if the QoS was going up as well.

    Essentially the capitalistic workforce has nothing todo with doing a good job.

    So you live your life in mediocrity trying to value your life by the amount of monies you accumulate.

    Go humanity!

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

    by repvik ( 96666 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:06PM (#12001546)
    Uhmm. DUH?

    The the pin is not stored on the card. You can copy the card as much as you want, but it won't be of any use as long as you don't have the pin.

    The pin could probably be read with interference, but that'd require some hefty equipment. That's not something your ordinary wallet-thief will have access to.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FooWho ( 839977 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:10PM (#12001622)
    Except the signature line on the back of your card isn't there for authentication purposes. It's your acceptance of the card holder agreement. Merchants are not supposed to accept a card that does not have a signature on the back of the card.
  • Re:added crime (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scyber ( 539694 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:14PM (#12001670)
    But what if you sign your own name? ANd the store still accepts it, is it fraud too then?
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:22PM (#12001819) Homepage Journal
    It was absolutely the right thing to do, as another poster [] noted above. There was a guy in our local paper who wrote an angry letter to the editor, blasting the local BMV for not taking his "SEE ID" credit card. I wrote back the next day and advised him to stop embarassing himself in public...
  • see, thats why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:34PM (#12001985) Homepage Journal
    your credit card company would not make any money.

    1)the signature is an agreement to pay what you charge, nothing more. The security aspect was added on later as a 'feel good' measure.

    2)They(the stores) make more money this way. it's quicker, which means more purchases.

    The credit card bean counters look at this every year, they make more money not pissing off the stores then they would with more secure transactions. Now, if somebody comes up with a secure way of doing business, that doesn't slow the transaction and the customers don't mind the credit card companies would implement it.
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fejikso ( 567395 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:09PM (#12002442) Homepage
    If you're keeping your life savings in a savings account, let me tell you, you're losing a lot of money every year, because inflation is approximately 4%. Check the laughable interest rate that any bank gives you. Don't be surprised if it's something like 0.2%

    You should keep your life savings in bonds, funds or stocks, not savings accounts. An indexed fund gives, very roughly, about 10% annually.
  • by FuzzyDustBall ( 751425 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @04:45PM (#12003587)
    All of you you See ID fanatics get out of my lane you are wasting my time. And doubly so for those that insist on calling a manager over or some of the other dumb crap people have done in these postings. If you can't simply follow the rules for making a transaction (ie sign card, sign recipt) Then please don't shop or possibly just wear a hat that says Im an a** hole so I don't get behind you in line. I mean I could write "check for birth marck on ass" The clerk doesn't need to do it thats not how the card works. I bet you are all the same people that have a coupon that says internet only and think "Hey they will accept this at the store".
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaAdder ( 124139 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @05:25PM (#12004121) Homepage
    Actually, no, not at all.

    A wireless webcam, card copier eqipment and a cheap ATM front mockup will set you back a measly few dollars. Its one of the most common ways to copy a card, read the CC#, the pin, all in one swipe.

    Often enough the victim doesn't know he/she's been had until the bill shows up or the card company calls about strange charges.

    Depending on the quality of the ATM front or the cam setup, the scam might be discovered in a day or two. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesnt. If so they move to another area, as discovery of the equipment doesn't have to leave any trace back to the villains what so ever.

    I dont really see how cameras and card copiers couldnt let you easily forge a signature as well btw.

    Since thousands of people are being fooled by this, how exactly can the card companies/banks effectively argue that its your own damn fault?
  • Re:Almost useless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @05:39PM (#12004274) Homepage Journal
    I would check on their rules for using "unsigned" credit cards like yours - while it's indeed less likely that yours might be misused, if it was, you may be liable for the charges.

    The "guy who was outraged" was 100% in the wrong - he lambasted the BMV and the front-line employee for doing EXACTLY WHAT THE CREDIT CARD COMPANIES TELL THEM TO. They are only interested in processing transactions, and to do that they need to abide by Visa's rules in this case.
  • by IBitOBear ( 410965 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @09:02PM (#12006668) Homepage Journal
    The requirement for fraud is, well, intent to defraud. IANAL, but my father was and one of his favorite bits of legal trivia was thus:

    I can sign your name if you tell me I can, so there is no fraud if I sign your name without fraudlent intent.

    Your signature doesn't have to be related to your name in any way; as long as it is something you use as your signature its valid. This goes back to illiterate persons "making their mark" to sign documents. You don't even have "a signature" you have as many signatures as you want to. For instance I have an added glyph I use on some kinds of documents, it cannot be represented in any current character set and it will botch any OCR scan. It has its uses... but it only shows up on some things.

    The "signature card" on a bank account and the place to sign on the back of a credit card exist solely to act as arbiters; they exist only to define what your signature is on that account. In this respect the signatures involved are simple, anonymous key matching operations.

    I can sign my name to where yours should be, but if I do so with the intent to pass-off and say that what I wrote is supposed to be your signature, it doesn't matter that the letters spell out my name, by presenting the document as something signed by you (the authorized party etc) I am engaged in fraud.

    If you mean to defraud it is fraud.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!