Around the Internet, the worthiness of signing the back of a credit card has been kicked around to a fair degree. One school of thought says, “no” because you’ll give the thief access to your signature, which can then be copied on checks. Another says “yes” because stores are not allowed to accept a credit card that isn’t signed.
Police in Apple Valley today released details of a brazen robbery in which a woman, paying her respects at a funeral home (located next to the police station, apparently) , had her car broken into in a “smash and grab,” in which the woman’s purse was taken.
The thieves then headed for the nearest Target store, and used the woman’s credit card to charge $529 worth of goods.
Question: How can someone steal a credit card and then, assuming it’s signed, charge $529 at Target?
Possible answer: Clerks don’t compare signatures.
Some people write “Require ID” in the signature space, some people sign their name which then — theoretically — is checked by a cashier against whatever is signed at the store.
It’s the first line of defense against credit card fraud, unless cashiers don’t check the signature. A TV station in Cleveland a few years ago found that most clerks in a random test didn’t bother.
Comedy writer John Hargrave once tried to prove how useless the credit card signature is, by signing credit card receipts in outrageous ways (see image), to see if any cashier noticed. He use hieroglyphics, stick figures, the names Mariah Carey and Beethoven, Kris P. Creme, and — while visiting the New England Aquarium — Shamu. No one said a word.
Queried on the policy of checking signatures, a Target Corporation spokesperson promised an official response later today.
Target spokesperson Bethany Zucco says they don’t check signatures on cards anymore because of the electronic machines in which customers swipe (perhaps the wrong term here, but you know what I mean) the cards through the machine. “We can’t discuss how because it’s proprietary but we did testing and found that it’s more effective and accurate than comparing signatures,” she said.