A few thoughts on identification

I’ve gotten in the habit lately of asking people for their id when they present me with an unsigned credit card.

Did you know that according to Visa, unsigned cards or cards that say “see id” are invalid? Technically, I am supposed to ask the customer to present another form of id and sign the card in my presence.

“If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, do not accept the card.”

I tried to follow Visa party line all of twice, and the first time the gentleman (one of my favourite clients, I might add) said:

“Oh, gosh, I just got this card and I forgot to sign it. Thanks for reminding me.”

And the second time, the prissy stuck up snooty bitch treated me to a 15 minute tirade on why the card was “more secure” unsigned, and how she “saw in a tv special” that you should never sign your cards, and so on. It was intense. So I modified my response to the Visa policies–I accept any signed card, and I ask for identification otherwise. A surprising number of people thank me for asking for id. Some of them look angry. But all of them fork it over.

I should point out that it’s not just Visa who has this policy. Every major issuer of credit cards (Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club, etc) has the same policy: an unsigned card should be considered invalid. It’s really frustrating to me that there’s so much misinformation about credit card security out there, because it makes adhering to credit merchant policies extremely difficult. Technically, I can get in trouble for accepting an unsigned card, and the business I work for could have their merchant services revoked, making us unable to accept credit cards. Why should I take that risk because many credit card users are more willing to take the word of late night television than their card agreements for the proper way to handle their credit card?

Credit card executives have said in numerous forums that unsigned cards are invalid. Yet still the masses believe misinformation. Life can be frustrating sometimes.

I recently waited on a gentleman from Spain, who told me that in Europe you get asked for your identification every time you use a credit card, period. (I noted that his card was signed.) This seems like a much more sensible policy, really. Sign your card, and present clerks with the card and your identification for them to compare.

The issue of asking for id and universal id is a difficult one, and not something I’m going to discuss today. Let it be said for the record however that I am often out of the house without id because I strongly object to the idea that I should be identifiable at all times. I would rather not enter a “papers please” era. However, the issue of id and customer service is clear cut to me–in certain businesses, no id=no service. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. It’s for your protection. When I am asked for my id in bars, restaurants, or merchants, I provide it. And you can choose not to patronize those businesses because of their id policy, whereas it’s much more difficult to avoid the outside world altogether.

For clerks at the register, some ways to avoid credit card fraud:

Ask for a valid form of identification with a picture, preferably government issued. Compare the name on the card with the name on the id. When they sign the charge slip, compare the signature on the card, id, and slip to make sure they match.

Try to avoid manually processing cards. If you have a funky swiper (like we do), this might be difficult, and if you do manually process a card, make sure all the security/antiforgery features are intact.

Always ask to see the credit card physically, if possible. For phone sales, this is obviously impossible, but if you are a business which holds reservations with credit cards, ask for the card when clients check in. Credit card companies prefer you to physically imprint the card.

If the customer is rushing you, buying a lot of merchandise without really looking at it, or otherwise behaving oddly, it is entirely reasonable to be suspicious.

If, when you run the customer’s card, it comes up “declined,” politely ask for another card. Cards can be declined for a wide variety of reasons. If a message pops up asking you to call for authorization, politely inform the customer that you need to “call (credit card company) for your security” and if possible have another member of staff relieve you so that you may go to the back to make the call. Make sure you have the authorization numbers for the cards you accept posted somewhere handy–we have them taped to our register. (I’ve made authorization calls with customers glaring at me and tapping their fingers on the counter…it’s not very enjoyable.) For the codes “pick up,” “no match,” or “hold card,” you are supposed to “retain the card if you can do so peacefully.” Good luck with that.

For consumers:

Always sign your credit cards, and present them with identification.

If you have multiple credit cards, a not uncommon occurrence in this age of usury, try not to carry more than two at once.

Monitor your credit card statements carefully–most companies now provide online real time updates, and all have phone services. If you see a suspicious transaction, report it immediately. All credit card companies have fraud avoidance and grievance handling systems in place–you will not be held responsible for unauthorized transactions made on your card, although it may take over a month to have them removed.

Be aware that some businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, often “preauthorize” your card for a larger sum than that of charges. This particularly applies in restaurants, where it is assumed that you will be tipping on the card. Usually the preauthorization vanishes overnight–if it doesn’t, call the business and politely confirm the amount of charges. (I noticed the other day that a local restaurant had actually pre-authorized me for less than the amount of sale, but the next day I noted the charge was correct.) However, for those of us running close to the credit limit, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on preauthorizations, because it’s a great way to get your card declined.

Of course, the best way to avoid credit card fraud is to not have any at all.

And hey–please be respectful of the clerks and service people who are trying to protect your security and their businesses. If you are asked for id, be courteous: remember, you can refuse to provide me with your identification under the law…and I can also refuse to provide you with service.

[credit card security]
[asking for id]