Are businesses protecting themselves against potential credit card fraud?
"Please sign here... "
When you scratch out your signature on a credit card slip's dotted line,
The cashier is actually putting you through a security check of sorts.
But for many businesses comparing a signature on the back of a credit card to the autograph penned on the purchase slip is the only means of authenticating a customer's identity. In small communities where local faces are more familiar, merchants often forego the formality of asking for identification.
Shannon Hartling, head cashier at A.J. Walker's and Sons hardware store in Truro, said the bulk of their business comes from regular customers and therefore identifying credit cards is generally not a problem.
"You see them all the time, we don't get a lot of tourists' business here," she said.
As with many stores, the credit card security policy at Walkers involves comparing signatures on the card with the sales slip.
If a card is swiped and information comes up showing it was either lost or stolen, Hartling said, the store's policy is to then hold the card.
"In the last five years, we may have (had) one problem with credit cards," she says.
Similarly, cashiers at Canadian Tire in Amherst perform rapid security
checks by comparing credit card and slip signatures. If a signature match is in doubt, photo identification is required.
"It's a small town and you know a lot of your customers but if you
were to come in and your signature looks a little off, even if you
were having a hand-shaking day, we would ask for identification," said floor supervisor Kim Kaiser.
Spouses attempting to use their partner's card or a customer who has not signed their card will not be permitted to charge purchases, she added.
Corinne Martin, proprietor of the Economy Country store, said she recently received a, "wake up call" when a woman, claiming her car had broken down, requested a $100 cash advance on a Visa card.
"We are always trying to help someone out," she says, recalling the
woman's sad story.
Soon after handing over the requested cash, however, Martin found out the
card had been stolen. When eventually apprehended and charged by police, the woman had racked up hundreds of dollars in fraudulent charges.
As a result of the "valuable" lesson learned from that incident, Martin said, the Economy Country store has changed the way it now handles credit card transactions and staff insists on photo identification from unfamiliar customers making credit card purchases or for those seeking cash advances.