Sign on the X
January 14, 2005 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Testing the limits of credit card receipt signatures. Are there any?
posted by DBAPaul (62 comments total)

 
Depends on the store. Sometimes, a store will have a policy to check for your ID. But more often than not, they don't. The measures are pretty slack. You can take in the main squeeze's card, sign "Quonsar's chihuahua" and it will generally go through. No surprise here.
posted by ed at 6:57 AM on January 14, 2005


In case nobody bothers to click the link, Zug was fantastic in its day.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:11 AM on January 14, 2005


Unfortunately, already posted by #1 himself (albeit with a different link). Still funny, though, and it has been a year and a half.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:17 AM on January 14, 2005


in sweden, you ALWAYS have to show a valid ID when you use a credit card, so i print "please check photo ID" in the signature space.

when i travel to the US, i am pleasantly surprised how many cashiers actually read this and ask for a photo ID.

there are, of course, those who don't look at all.

and then there are those who are absolutely confused by the lack of a signature....
posted by three blind mice at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2005


Am I wrong in wondering why I have to produce four forms of ID to write a check but not a one when I use a check card?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:19 AM on January 14, 2005


I don't know about other places... but supermarkets here usually have a card reader for eftpos and credit card transactions, and it's the customer who does the card swipe. Normaly I use debit for my groceries and so swipe my card, and then put it back in my wallet while we go through the "select your account. any additional cash out with that? enter your pin." spiel. Out of habit I tend to do the same when using credit and put my card back in my wallet. Generally the signature slip goes back in the draw without a second glance. A few times a I've seen the cashier start to check it and, realising they don't have the card give up without saying anything. Only once have I ever had someone actually ask for the card back. I bet though the first slip I sign as "I stole this card" gets checked.

I've wondered what they are in fact meant to do if the signatures don't match. I've had a waitress come back and say my signature didn't look like a good match, but she just wanted me to sign it again and seemed happy with the second signature.
posted by adamt at 7:27 AM on January 14, 2005


I love when you forget to sign your new credit card, the cashier points this out, you sign your credit card at the counter, and then the cashier compares the two signatures they just watched you sign.
posted by dglynn at 7:29 AM on January 14, 2005


I remember customers screaming at me when I asked for id... even when the back of the card was blank.
posted by poipill at 7:29 AM on January 14, 2005


As Bruce Schneier pointed out in a lecture of his I attended, merchants have absolutely no incentive to check that the signature is correct. If it's fine, they've wasted their time and yours. If it's not, then they have lost a sale and might even be required to contact the authorities. In either case, it's much better for them to just accept the card. If you have fradulent items on your credit card bill, it's between you and the card company (and possibly the police).

Given all the "Bounced check fee $20" signs I'm guessing the merchants do not get paid for a check unless it actually clears (with sufficient funds and correct signature, etc). So in that case, they have a much larger incentive to make sure you are who you say you are, otherwise they miss out on money.
posted by nave at 7:32 AM on January 14, 2005


Given all the "Bounced check fee $20" signs I'm guessing the merchants do not get paid for a check unless it actually clears (with sufficient funds and correct signature, etc). So in that case, they have a much larger incentive to make sure you are who you say you are, otherwise they miss out on money.

Never thought of that. Good thinking.

As a consumer though, I'd like to know that if my card were stolen that it would be caught somewhere down the road.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:51 AM on January 14, 2005


I have signed my signature as one of the following for the last two years:

1. smiley faces and frowny faces
2. farm animals
3. stick figures fighting

I haven't had a single problem, and I use cards almost exclusively to any other payment.
posted by crazy finger at 7:53 AM on January 14, 2005


The measures are pretty slack
They're slack as Visa & MC know where their cards are at(there claim). Which is why you may have someone else use your card.

Depends on the store
Unless the store has it's own policy.

Now American Express, only the card signature holder, the name that appears on it, IS able to use it, not even your spouse.

Any merchants remember the olds system using the credit card books for verification or a phone call. Usually you only checked if the purchase was over $50.00.
posted by thomcatspike at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2005


I always assumed that the signatures were for the signer's benefit, not the business'. It never occurred to me that the business would or should care.
posted by kyrademon at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2005


Oh, man, this article is hilarious.

On the back of my debit card I have scrawled 'Check ID' with a Sharpie. I believe that's how I will sign my receipts from here on.
posted by DuoJet at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2005


As someone who cashiers alot, I used to check every signature. Then again, I've been doing it so long that you'll probably never notice me do it. I check your wallet when you open it to see idea, or I look for a few major features of the handwriting, and then look for those.

Then we got those machines where people swipe their own cards, and the whole process became infinitely harder.

Fortunately, I don't work at a store where very many people have an interest in using stolen cards. And in the 7 years I've dealt with credit cards, I've only caught someone using a stolen card once.

I think it would be better though, if credit cards just used a pin instead.

With checks, yes, stores lose out if checks bounce, and it's the most common type of fraud at the front register (it's far easier to return something you paid for with a check for cash than it is to return something you paid for with a credit card). Not to mention that checks are the absolute most inefficent way to pay for anything.
posted by drezdn at 8:08 AM on January 14, 2005


Also, when I cared more about checking signatures, if it wasn't signed. I would ask to see your idea before continuing the transaction.

And, from my perspective, it's useless to write CID on your card. Whenever I see it, I always ask to check the ID, but only to make the customer think I'm a good employee. If you follow the rules of the credit card, you're actually not allowed to write CID on your card, and a retailer can refuse to take it if you have.
posted by drezdn at 8:11 AM on January 14, 2005


See your ID.
posted by drezdn at 8:13 AM on January 14, 2005


I'd like to know that if my card were stolen that it would be caught somewhere down the road.

There's nothing to catch until you report it stolen, except for Amex as noted above the only person that cares (as long as you keep paying the bills) if your card is stolen is you. Everyone else will be just fine with it, where's the prob?

Another thing I like about Amex, for the kind of card I have at least, it's not a forever line of credit, you have to pay up within 60 days or they disable the card.
posted by scheptech at 8:22 AM on January 14, 2005


I've only caught someone using a stolen card once.
Did you receive the reward, iirc it is around $100.00. I ask as most business claim the reward rather than giving it to the employee.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:23 AM on January 14, 2005


No, I didn't receive a reward. In fact, it was a bit of a hassle for me because I was almost required to show up in court because of it. The signature wasn't even what gave him away. He tried paying with a woman's credit card, I asked to see id, and when he opened his wallet, I noticed other women's credit cards, and told him I'd have to check with my manager on whether or not I could accept his card.
posted by drezdn at 8:37 AM on January 14, 2005


They're slack as Visa & MC know where their cards are at(there claim). Which is why you may have someone else use your card.

Is this true? It's not true in the UK and I would have thought Visa and MasterCard had global policies.
posted by ninebelow at 8:40 AM on January 14, 2005


What bothers me is when I use my debit card and am not asked to enter my PIN or to sign anything. This happens at Chipotle (Tex Mex fast food), and various other places.
posted by ORthey at 8:46 AM on January 14, 2005


O when will we be able to just use thumbprints!?
posted by gottabefunky at 8:52 AM on January 14, 2005


There's nothing to catch until you report it stolen, except for Amex as noted above the only person that cares (as long as you keep paying the bills) if your card is stolen is you. Everyone else will be just fine with it, where's the prob?


Let me rephrase that. It would be nice to know that if my card was stolen that it could not be used before I got a chance to cancel it.

If I were a cashier I'd sure feel like a jerk if I let some yahoo use a stolen card. I guess it's not my concern as a cashier whether or not the card or cash I'm accepting is stolen.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:59 AM on January 14, 2005


One time, I saw a friend have a related problem. They checked the signature on the receipt, but he hadn't signed his new credit card. So he gave them his license. They wouldn't accept it as proof of ID, because they couldn't check it against his credit card. So, he got the card back, signed the back of it (in full view of the clerk), and handed it to the clerk, who then checked it against the signature on the receipt. Lo and behold, they matched! Now that's security!
posted by defending chump at 9:00 AM on January 14, 2005


I didn't receive a reward.
Unfortunately for you the report (not the police report) about the stolen card to its company omitted the facts about you. Else the reward check would have been made out to you. Also you should have been rewarded for each one he was caught with. Why in my merchant class I was instructed to hand the card to the police and no one else and make sure my name was on every report.

In your employer’s defense, they may have not claimed the reward as today it a forgotten fact about the cards. I’ve found supervisor/manager/owner who don’t tell the cashiers about the perk so they may claim it though.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:05 AM on January 14, 2005


Add, back when minimum wage was $3.25, $50 to 100 in a day was a lot, why we cashier were observant about this. It is sad that you didn't receive the reward because it makes cashiers much better at their work since there is a reward system in place.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:09 AM on January 14, 2005


What bothers me is when I use my debit card and am not asked to enter my PIN or to sign anything. This happens at Chipotle (Tex Mex fast food), and various other places.

This works with my debit card because it's Visa branded. So, it can work as either a credit card OR a debit card (but both come directly out of my checking account). I get asked on about 1/3 of my purchases if I want to use credit or debit when I hand them my debit card. Debit: Enter PIN. Credit: Sign my name.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2005


What bothers me is when I use my debit card and am not asked to enter my PIN or to sign anything. This happens at Chipotle (Tex Mex fast food), and various other places.

They are processing your debit card as a credit card, and thus do not require a PIN. You also would not be able to get cash back. If this bothers you, perhaps you can contact your financial institution and have them suspend this ability.
posted by recursive at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2005


If I were a cashier I'd sure feel like a jerk if I let some yahoo use a stolen card.

In order to do anything about it, you'd have to be absolutely certain it was stolen. Someone would be pretty pissed off if they lent their boyfriend or girlfriend their card and some zealous cashier confiscated it. Usually, where I work now, if there's an issue, we let them walk out the door, and call the cops with a good description of the person, the license number, etc. It doesn't come up often where I work though, we tend to have more problems with check fraud.

Re: not having to give your pin for the debit transaction. It was rang as a credit transaction. If the transaction is less than $50, you don't need to sign for it (my understanding at least). The thinking goes, if you've stolen someone's credit card, fast food is probably the last thing they would use it for.
posted by drezdn at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2005


When my signature wore off my old debit card, I noticed a curious trend: for any item under $10 (cup of coffee, carton of milk, whatever), I would always be asked for ID; for any item over $10 (DVDs, clothes, restaurant bill), I would never ever be asked for ID.

And yes, poipill, sometimes I did want to scream at those cashiers who carded my for a $2 cup of coffee... I mean if someone steals my card, I'm fine with them helping themselves to a Starbucks.
posted by falconred at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2005


signed the back of it (in full view of the clerk), and handed it to the clerk, who then checked it against the signature on the receipt. Lo and behold, they matched! Now that's security!

D'oh! Did I not tell this exact same story here?

Anyway, thanks AskMeFi, I now know to sign my cards with a sharpie.
posted by fixedgear at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2005


Locally, banks charge the customer when they use their debit card for a DEBIT, but they charge the establishment when the debit card is used as a CREDIT card.

And they encourage customers to say if asked that it is a credit card.

/OT
posted by DBAPaul at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2005


From one who spent ten years working retail:

The habit of not checking ID got started because a few customers became offended that you "dare question my identity" or "call me a thief". When you work the register, getting an abusive customer is like touching a hot stove: you never forget, and you will pretty much do what you can to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Good cashiers (yes, there are some people who still want to do their jobs well no matter how low it may be on the social ladder), learn subtle tricks for confirming ID like drezdn mentions above.

The people who don't sign their credit cards because "someone might steal my signature" strike me as naive. If I were to steal an unsigned credit card and sign the cardholder's name in my handwriting, then I've just increased the odds for walking out without triggering suspicion.

Ultimately, those little signed pieces of paper sit in a cardboard box for as little as a few months to five years. The only time they're looked at is if and when the credit card company issues what's called a "chargeback": the customer has reported an unfamiliar charge on their card. This is sometimes just a mistake on the customer's part, but a copy of the signed credit card slip is faxed to the credit card company so that--among other things--the customer can check to see if they recognize their signature on the slip.

So, in a sense, it doesn't really matter what you sign or how you sign it (it really only matters to the credit card companies, as far as I know). As long as the back of the credit card and what you just put on the credit card slip match, it's likely to be accepted.

And me, I always checked ID when things didn't look right.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:58 AM on January 14, 2005


I did want to scream at those cashiers who carded my for a $2 cup of coffee...
Not that long ago, a purchase less than $5.00 was rarely authorized because of the cost involving the credit transaction from the bank to the merchant. With the current systems I have made charges under .50 cents which is saddened by the realization the merchant lost money.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:19 AM on January 14, 2005


For the past two or three years, my visa card has had a chip in it. But it has only been in the last few months that more and more stores require a pin code instead of a signature.
This is good for two reasons. One is security.
The second:
Few people in Belgium actually own a credit card and do most of their payments with debit cards.
In the rare instances I do pay with visa, there is always that chance that the cashier doesn't know how to process it. Usually after several unsuccessful attempts to handle it as a debit card and then realizing its a Visa, they have to call the manager or someone else more experienced to take over.
posted by Timeless at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2005


They are processing your debit card as a credit card, and thus do not require a PIN.

Well, sure. But if it's being processed as a credit card, which it is, it should then require a signature.
posted by ORthey at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2005


thus do not require a PIN.
To rid most credit card fraud, using a pin # would stop it. Look at ATM fraud compared to credit cards, adding more people have ATM cards. I have heard it hint at that the reason for not implementing this type of a system is the insurance companies. Basically the insurance companies would lose money in the whole racket of it.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2005


I'm sad that he didn't sign as "Washington Irving"
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:57 AM on January 14, 2005


But if it's being processed as a credit card, which it is, it should then require a signature.

Unless if the transaction is less than $50.
posted by drezdn at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2005


If the transaction is less than $50, you don't need to sign for it .... if you've stolen someone's credit card, fast food is probably the last thing they would use it for.

I work at a credit union that issues Visa cards, so I just asked the guys in the next office about this. Essentially, the merchant is saving time and money by not collecting signed drafts for all of these small transactions, but they're also opening themselves up to risks. Without a signed receipt, the card-issuing financial can reverse the charge if their customer reports the transaction was not theirs.

Usually, though, the issuer won't charge these back to the merchant because the amounts are so small that the cost of processing it is greater than the transaction was in the first place. And drezdn, as a matter of fact plenty of stolen cards get used for stuff like fast food and gas/cigarettes at convenience stores because small-time low-lives know they can get small transactions authorized before the card's reported lost or stolen.

On preview: What TCS said, but let's also make cardholders liable if they give their PIN away or are stupid enough to write it on a little sticker on the front of the card.
posted by Hlewagast at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2005


I got hit for £2,500 of card fraud about four month's ago (that's about $4,700USD) and this was with a chipped and PIN'd debit card (which has apparently been stolen by a Royal Mail employee and cloned) so as far as I can see they are not overly secure either. There is always a technical or social bypass for any security method.

The thieving little shits were always using just under £100 on each purchase and apparently cloned it 5 or 6 times as it was used all over the country within an 8 hour timescale.

All the crap caused by this ended up with me being homeless and unpaid for two months. What a laugh those criminal gangs are.
posted by longbaugh at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2005


Locally, banks charge the customer when they use their debit card for a DEBIT, but they charge the establishment when the debit card is used as a CREDIT card.

DBAPaul - I work in the financial services industry and this is not exactly accurate. When you use your Debit Card at a POS Terminal, the seller (the store) is charged a flat processing fee, usually a few pennies. Unlike ATM usage there should be no service fee to the customer. If you institution is doing this to you, they are probably in violation of the Debit network's terms of service.

Seller's would love everyone to use the Debit/Credit combo card as Debit cards. The transaction fee levied to the seller is partly a function of the fraud risk. The Debit card with its PIN is at a much smaller fraud risk then the credit card. Hence transaction fees are flat fee's instead of a percentage of the purchase like with the credit network.

Walmart and a couple of other big stores got into fist-a-cuffs with Mastercard and Visa when they wanted to force their customers using Debit/Credit cards to use the Debit network. If they could have gotten away with this they would have saved loads of money from transactions fees. However, the credit card networks prevailed in settlement and now you are free to choose whichever network you wish.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2005


I used to work retail, and our manager drummed it into our heads that we were to check credit card signatures. I got good at doing it without being obvious, because you would be surprised at the number of people that get visibly annoyed, some to the point of getting really nasty, when they notice you checking. I even had one guy get pissed that I asked him for ID -- and his license was signed PLEASE CHECK ID!

I now realize this was stupid. I doubt, in the 1 second, completely amateur evaluation I gave of signatures, that I would have caught any but the most stupid, lazy, and palsied of forgers (and that would have been iffy) -- anyone that took 2 seconds learning to sign kind of like the existing signature is going to be OK'd by even the most conscientious of merchants. Second the merchant is completely out of the loop, they don't take a hit on credit card fraud (whereas check fraud amounts to straight-up theft, they lose every penny). Lastly, credit card companies insure their customers they are not liable beyond $X, yadda yadda, and have actually gotten OK at security. I know several people (me included, at Christmas shopping time), who have had their cards denied, only to receive a call from the creditor minutes later asking if my card was stolen, as purchasing patterns had changed.

Today, the signature is a waste-of-time formality. Any and all security that exists in the system is implemented by the computers that OK the purchase at check-out.
posted by teece at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2005


Ha! That link was a riot!
posted by Hands of Manos at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2005


Any and all security that exists in the system is implemented by the computers that OK the purchase at check-out.
That would include those self-checkout machines starting to appear at Home Depot and BJ's and the like. Their security is a joke. You're required to sign on an "electronic pen pad" with a special pen, but the machine can't look at the signature on your card, let alone compare it to what you signed on the pad. Any scribble is sufficient for it to decide that your "signature" is genuine. I don't even look when I "sign" at those machines.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2005


Yes to what Hlewagast and drezdn said.

I did the accounting at a major brand gas station/convience store for the last 3 years, and the this is my experience:

If the credit card company is suspicious of a transaction for any reason they will "chargeback" the retailer, meaning they give the retailer a (short) deadline to fax back or mail in the orginal signed slip. If the transaction is under a certain amount ($50 - $70 depending on the credit card company) as long as the retailer is able to produce a signed slip - regardless of what signature - the credit card company does not hold them responsible. If the retailer is unable to produce the signed slip in the alloted time frame, they credit card company doesn't pay the retailer for the transaction so the retailer is out the money.

I caught fraudulent transactions several times, and twice I recovered a stolen card, but was never given a reward, nor did the owner of the store recieve any compensation. Unless there was a "hold card" flag on the account, there is no reason for me to confiscate a card, particularly since doing so could put me at risk. If it's a legitimate customer, they're annoyed to wait for me to phone for authorisation and/or the police (depending on the particular circumstances) if it's a criminal type they often get violent when they realize they've been found out.

The following is speculation:
Maybe the 'formality' of the signature is so it can be called fraud if someone is using the card without permission. Otherwise wouldn't it just be theft, but fraud if they signed it due to the attempt to forge the cardholder's sig?

Not quite on topic: I also caught and confiscated plenty of counterfeit money. It's a thankless job. My boss appreciated that he wasn't out the bucks, but customers didn't like it when I wouldn't accept and wouldn't return their fake money. (You're supposed to turn it into police and if it turns out to be real - which it never did - the original can be returned to it's rightful 'owner'). You also can't get a conviction for someone trying to pass counterfeit bills unless you have the acutal bills.
posted by raedyn at 1:33 PM on January 14, 2005


Yes to what Hlewagast and drezdn said.

I did the accounting at a major brand gas station/convience store for the last 3 years, and the this is my experience:

If the credit card company is suspicious of a transaction for any reason they will "chargeback" the retailer, meaning they give the retailer a (short) deadline to fax back or mail in the orginal signed slip. If the transaction is under a certain amount ($50 - $70 depending on the credit card company) as long as the retailer is able to produce a signed slip - regardless of what signature - the credit card company does not hold them responsible. If the retailer is unable to produce the signed slip in the alloted time frame, they credit card company doesn't pay the retailer for the transaction so the retailer is out the money.

I caught fraudulent transactions several times, and twice I recovered a stolen card, but was never given a reward, nor did the owner of the store recieve any compensation. Unless there was a "hold card" flag on the account, there is no reason for me to confiscate a card, particularly since doing so could put me at risk. If it's a legitimate customer, they're annoyed to wait for me to phone for authorisation and/or the police (depending on the particular circumstances) if it's a criminal type they often get violent when they realize they've been found out.

The following is speculation:
Maybe the 'formality' of the signature is so it can be called fraud if someone is using the card without permission. Otherwise wouldn't it just be theft, but fraud if they signed it due to the attempt to forge the cardholder's sig?

Not quite on topic: I also caught and confiscated plenty of counterfeit money. It's a thankless job. My boss appreciated that he wasn't out the bucks, but customers didn't like it when I wouldn't accept and wouldn't return their fake money. (You're supposed to turn it into police and if it turns out to be real - which it never did - the original can be returned to it's rightful 'owner'). You also can't get a conviction for someone trying to pass counterfeit bills unless you have the actual bills.
posted by raedyn at 1:34 PM on January 14, 2005


errrghhh... sorry 'bout the double post. *kicks machine*
posted by raedyn at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2005


As if any cashier is a trained handwriting recognition expert!

The local post office has a sign reading "We only accept signed credit cards. 'See ID' and 'CID' are not a signature!"

Nevertheless, I found this experiment amusing.
posted by ilsa at 1:41 PM on January 14, 2005


I used to write "CHECK ID" in the signature space with a sharpie marker (anything else rubs right off), which worked for awhile, until I went to the post office. The lady at the counter there, who looked as if she'd just heard that her entire family had died a horrible death, looked at the card and said "It's not signed... I can't accept it."

So, as others mentioned, first I tried to show her my ID, didn't work. Then, I signed it in front of her (writing sloppily over top of the CHECK ID print), which then allowed her to accept it.

Now, though, I've decided to appease these kinds of moron cashiers by getting a nice thin sharpie, writing my signature on most of the bar, and then in the remaining area, with a thicker blue sharpie, I wrote "PLEASE CHECK MY ID" in block letters.

I've actually gotten a few compliments on this method, since cashiers no longer have a reason to complain that I "didn't follow the rules written on the card." I'm also asked more often for ID than previously. I think the "PLEASE" and the lovely blue shade have something to do with this increase.

I also always sign my receipts in some very ridiculous zigzaggy scrawly mess that nobody could possibly mistake for a signature.
posted by odinsdream at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2005


Oh, and BTW - Signing CHECK ID or SEE ID is also against the terms of service on your MasterCard or Visa branded cards and a retailer following the letter of the law would not accept them.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2005


The reason things are so much more lax in the US is that we have this wonderful thing called the Consumer Credit Protection Act. Among other niceties, it insures that a customer is not legally liable for any more than $50 if a card is stolen and the cardholder reports it stolen within 48 hours of discovering that it has been stolen. And most card issuers will waive even the $50. This law, however, does not cover debit cards, but, for continuity's sake, any debit card with a Mastercard or Visa logo MUST, under the issuer agreement, be covered by the same policies. Result? There's virtually no reason for anyone in the US to care whether his/her credit/debit card is stolen or used fraudulently, because for all intents and purposes the cardholder is never liable.
posted by esoterica at 4:53 PM on January 14, 2005


I have signed the back of my debit and credit cards with either "Stolen" or "S. Tolen". Very rarely am I even asked about it.
It only caused a problem once when at the Springfield Armory museum store in MA when the clerk called the police officer over (SA has thousands of firearms on display) to check my ID.
posted by buzzman at 5:51 PM on January 14, 2005


buzzman kind of beat me to it, but the best signature is "This card is stolen".
posted by Octoparrot at 6:47 PM on January 14, 2005


Kirth Gerson: Those self-checkout machines are not verifying the signature in any way. They're just recording it so the company has the slip in case of chargeback.

This whole thing is funny, but as many people have pointed out, the signature only matters if there's a question about the charge in the future. At the point of purchase, it doesn't mean a thing.

Also, CC companies have gotten very good at spotting fraud. Last spring, my wife and I bought a house that was (and still is) in great need of repair. So of course, we immediately started making near-daily trips to Home Depot. After about three days of this, I got a call from the credit card company to ask me about some unusual charges. She listed off a string of house-related purchases, and finally I just said "Yeah, we just bought a house." She said "Oh! Congratulations. Thank you for your time."

Most credit card fraud now is caught long before the customer ever gets a statement.
posted by rusty at 4:40 AM on January 15, 2005


MasterCard has an e-mail address where you can report a merchant violation such as requiring ID, which I usually do. There's no reason for an individual merchant to request my ID for a credit card transaction. From a risk management perspective, here's what the perspective is for each player:

Cardholder: Since it is Visa/MasterCard policy to allow merchants to accept cards without ID, it doesn't matter if a few merchants do so. A thief will know which Furthermore the cardholder is unlikely to suffer losses in excess of $50 or even that much (the bank might waive this liability if the cardholder informed them on time).

Merchant: The card issuer has indemnified the merchant against liability for fraud if they follow their contractual procedures. That means checking for a proper signature. Whether the card was signed in front of the register is irrelevant. Whether ID is checked is irrelevant and can only serve to make it more difficult for customers to make purchases.

Card issuer: The entity left holding the bag when credit card fraud occurs in the U.S. But Visa, MasterCard and the banks decided there is more money to be made by requiring merchants NOT to check ID than requiring them TO check ID. Considering how much money they make per transaction, the amount that they lose to fraud is probably dwarfed by the amount they make from people who make transactions without proper ID (they left it at home or they are using someone else's card). The card issuer just want to make it as easy as possible to spend money, and having an ID check doesn't help this.
posted by grouse at 6:56 AM on January 15, 2005


I was under the impression that merchants absorbed all the costs of credit card fraud in the US. Aren't they responsible for all chargebacks?

http://www.merchant911.org/articles.html

From another site:
Credit card fraud is a growing epidemic. However, contrary to what most people think, the consumer is not at great risk due to credit card fraud. By federal law, you are limited to no more than $50 in responsibility for fraudulent credit card charges and most credit card companies lower that to $0.

The people who are at most risk are the small business owners on the internet who barely make a living as it is. They are fully responsible for any charge backs due to fraudulent credit card charges. It doesn't take many such fraudulent transactions to virtually wipe out the small business owner.


Are the rules different on the internet than for brick-and-mortar establishments? I assume they are since you don't have to sign anything.
posted by aerify at 7:26 AM on January 15, 2005


Ah, yes it is.
posted by aerify at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2005


Are the rules different on the internet than for brick-and-mortar establishments? I assume they are since you don't have to sign anything.

Yes. In a "card present" transaction such as in a store, the card issuer is liable for fraud. In a "card not present" transaction such as over the phone or the internets, the merchant is liable. They can choose not to take the risk by not accepting credit cards, but they'd lose a lot of business.
posted by grouse at 7:33 AM on January 15, 2005


Locally, banks charge the customer when they use their debit card for a DEBIT, but they charge the establishment when the debit card is used as a CREDIT card.

This is correct, despite what has been said. Fifth Third Bank does this. I don't know of any others which do, but Fifth Third is large enough that this warrants attention from retailers.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:03 PM on January 15, 2005


Ah, yes it is.

One of the biggest reasons that I chose to use PayPal as my transaction processor, despite some inherent problems with PP, was because they have a significantly lower problem with chargebacks, and because they charge much lower fees to accept credit cards than I can get with any other provider. If you don't own a brick and mortar store, the fees that credit card processing companies want to charge are absurdly high.
posted by dejah420 at 4:09 PM on January 16, 2005


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