Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Not Valid Until Signed"

I feel the need to blog this because it has everything to do with the state of security these days...

I went to my local post office the other day, and along with the normally grumpy man at the window in this one-room shanty I got a little extra attitude.  As many of you reading this, I never sign the backs of my credit cards as a rule.  I know it's really not buying me all that much in terms of security or fraud protection - but I figure if I lose my card I really don't want the jackass who tries to use it to also have my signature to copy later.

That being said, I bought a small book of stamps because there are still companies that require you to mail things in the post and went up to the window to pay with my credit card.  The man at the window takes my card, swipes it, and then looks at the back of the card where instead of a signature it says "Require Photo ID" ... then hands the card back to me and says "Sign this or I can't take it".

I looked back at him curiously for a moment, then said in a polite tone "no".  His answer to me was to hand me back the card and ask for a different form of payment.  When I asked why - he told me it's because the "law requires me to sign my credit card ...see, it says so right there".  Actually, he's wrong, there is no such law that I know of, and I've used that card a million times without ever being told to sign it.

So I took the card back, paid cash and left ... but now I have this burning question in my brain - can a merchant really refuse my card because it's not signed?

The answer, according to my Bank of America rep ... is absolutely NO.  For the record, as far as I can tell, you are NOT required to sign the back of that card, and there is nothing that legally says you must ...

Of course, my local mailperson was just following the rules ...or trying to be the grumpy bastard he normally is ... or just doesn't know better.  I don't know which of those (or all?) are true but the bottom line is I'm not going to sign my card, and you shouldn't either.


Anonymous said...

Except that by signing the back of your card you are doing two things.

1) Agreeing to the contract with the bank (there is a reason that many cards say "not valid until signed").

2) Providing evidence for an outmoded security layer that is vague at best.

To top it off, merchants cannot require you to show ID to prove the card is yours. It is in every visa merchant card agreement I have read. Mastercard doesn't require it sometimes, but only for merchants that have a high volume of sales. However, these merchants are supposed to deny your purchase if it is not signed, because they cannot verify that you have entered your contract with your bank. A bit of a catch-22 there sometimes.

Unknown said...

I am with you on that. I never sign my CC's and have taught my wife to do the same. Additionally, I also utilize the feature which allows me to place a photo on the front of the CC. Sadly, even this does little to prevent fraud due to theft.

CG said...

print out thelaw or lack thereof and go shove them up his grumpy ass!

Chris Abramson said...

This has been standard for me for the last 6 years. There is no law that says you have to sign the back of your card. If the Grumpy little man in the PO had any bit of a brain in his head he would do like every other retailer does and ask to see photo ID like oh say your drivers license that has your signature on it. Dear god why do some people have to have such a power trip.

Mark D. Adams said...

Hopefully you've found this out since October when you made this post. There is no law, but it is a regulation of the credit card companies that the merchant isn't supposed to accept the card unless it is signed.

As a result, the "See ID" that people often write in the signature bar of their card, in theory should only work the one time. In the event of an unsigned card, the merchant is supposed to ask for ID and then require that you sign the card in front of them, before accepting it for payment.

To ensure payment, the merchant should compare the signatures, should verify that the last four numbers on the front match the ones on the back and on the electronic receipt, and examine the hologram and other security measures of the card. If there is an inconsistency, they should do a code 10 authorization.