I was mailing a package at the post office yesterday when the clerk noticed I had not signed my credit card. This did not please her.
“Can I see your ID?” she barked.
I handed it over.
“Thank you for checking my ID,” I said.
“You should really sign the back of your card,” she said.
Is it safer to sign your credit card? Or not?
“I figured it was safer NOT to sign my card, because then you’ll ask for my ID,” I said. This also did not please her. But it did get the attention of two other clerks. As you can guess, they were also not pleased.
“But they can use a fake ID,” a clerk said. “And still sign for you.”
This made little sense to me. Even if I had signed the back of my credit card, the clerk is unlikely to compare the signature on my card to my signature on the receipt.
Usually the clerk takes my credit card while the receipt is printing, keeps it while I sign, then hands back my card in exchange for the signed receipt, which gets stuffed into the register.
I can’t remember the last time a clerk compared the two signatures. Can you?
So even if I had signed the back of my card, a thief could still forge my signature knowing that the two are almost never going to be compared.
But let’s say a clerk did compare them. Even if the signatures weren’t a close match, do you really think a clerk is going to stop and say, “these signatures aren’t an exact match. I can’t accept this!”
I didn’t want to start a fight with the postal clerks.
There were three of them, one of me, and I really wanted my nephew to receive his birthday present. So instead I offered another solution.
“I’ve been meaning to write in ‘SEE ID’,” I said.
The clerks didn’t like that, either.
“Did you know that we’re not supposed to accept your card if you haven’t signed it?”
“I didn’t,” I said.
“Yup,” said the clerk, waving to a wall taped with signs. I had no idea which sign he was referring to.
He didn’t clarify.
“And they could still sign for you,” he ribbed me.
I nodded. I saw the clerk was almost done ringing me up. In other words, she was going to accept my unsigned credit card and mail my package. I kept quiet. But the other clerk wanted to talk a bit more.
Which is when I was truly horrified.
“Visa sends us letters saying not to check IDs,” one clerk said.
“What?” I said.
“If it’s signed,” he said.
I was shocked. If I wrote in SEE ID without a signature, they could turn down my card. But if I signed it, they’re being told not to check my ID. Now, I did not confirm this policy with VISA or Mastercard, so it’s very possible that it is not true, or not 100% true. But if it is, I am truly shocked.
All someone has to do if they steal a signed credit card is to create a fake ID. And if you know any underage college students, you know how easy that is. Because nobody checks the signature on your receipt with the one on your card. So even if the forged signature is not a close match, it really doesn’t matter.
So what’s the safest policy?
Here, the clerks and I agreed. The safest solution is to sign the back of your credit card AND write in SEE ID. Also, don’t lose your credit card.
What do you think?