I stole this card

by Volker Weber

How crazy would I have to make my signature before someone would actually notice? In my lifetime, I have made nearly 15,000 credit card transactions. I purchase almost everything on plastic. What bugs me about credit card transactions is the signing. Who checks the signature? Nobody checks the signature.

Credit card signatures are a useless mechanism designed to make you feel safe, like airport security checks. So my question was, how crazy would I have to make my signature before someone would actually notice?

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I remember two incidents which correlate to this, both back in 99/2000 while I was in college in Michigan.
Buying something at OfficeMax (I think it was) and paying with a VISA photo card, the cashier looked at my signature on the receipt and the turned the card and said in awe: "Wow, cool, with picture... cards rule!". One has to admit that the picture was not even a thumb's nail in size, so it could have been basically anyone with somewhat similar hair-color and style. BTW: The card still is in use with the same picture and back then I had long hair, no I don't. So much for the similar hair style...

Starting a tab in a bar, we had to give a credit or debit card as security to the waiter. Later (and I mean LATER) when we were about to leave, I paid by charging the amount to my card. I thought. Actually I received someone else's card who happened to have a card from the same issuer. Which was the bank on campus which gave a free account to every incoming student, so 70% of the students had such a card. This other guy's tab was charged to my card, mine to his. Our group had a signifcantly larger thirst, I must admit. At home I noticed the error and had my card locked, of course.
The next weekday at the branch office, I told the clark what happened, they tried to call the other guy but couldn't get a hold of him. So we ordered a new card for me and she said they'd get back to me about the difference between the charges. Never heard of anything though.

So much for the security of face-to-face credit card use. I rather prefer to use my card online with a SSL/TSL encrpyted site of a somewhat reputable company.

Ragnar Schierholz, 2005-01-08

I have been signing my Deutsche Post Paket-Receipts with "Minnie Mouse" for ten years now - finally a kindred soul! Of course they never notice, but will give my packages to anyone who claims to be a neighbor, while my husband needs several documents to prove he is entitled to pick somehting up.

Carola Heine, 2005-01-08

Our experience has been that here in the United States ...even though we typically print SEE ID on the back of the card AND we then sign it ...most often neither the signature nor our identification are checked. If we are in a restaurant and the server actually does check our ID, we tip more.

In Europe we found it to be different; we were often (not always) asked to show a passport when using a credit card. I have heard a story (unconfirmed) of someone traveling in China who had "SEE ID" on the back of their card; their signature WAS checked, and was only accepted if they signed with "SEE ID".

Joe Litton, 2005-01-09

I know of at least 2 big shops in Belgium that do not accept credit cards without an additional proof of identity (usually passport or identity cards) if the amount is above 500 EUR.

They always explain that this is because they have previously been 'stinged' by credit card fraud.

Alex Boschmans, 2005-01-10

England are currently phasing out signatures for all credit/bank cards - a new chip and pin system has been in place for a while now.

Steve Castledine, 2005-01-10

Since moving from the US to Germany I find I'm using my credit card less because so few places accept it. In the states we used it for everything because 1. Everyone store accepts them. 2. It was easier to track monthly expenses. 3. Not only was there no fee and no interest because we paid it off at the end of every month, BUT there was even a cash rebate that added up to $454 USD last year. (Amex/Costco Cash Rebate Card)

Had a funny experience with a friend visiting Hamburg from the states. We were in a shoe store downtown that said they didn't accept credit cards. When the salesman found out my friend was a tourist they offered to take it as a convenience to her. I was like, "Wha?" I must have missed the sign out front that said "We conditionally accept credit cards to accomodate foreigners but not residents who are potentially repeat customers."

Dave Oeskovic, 2005-01-11

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