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Credit Card Security


Last Edited: August 11, 2008, 5:47 pm

If you've used a debit or credit card lately, you've probably noticed that you are never asked for any identification and, in many cases, don't even need to sign for your purchase.  When I bought some items in Walgreen's recently, I just swiped my card and she handed me a receipt. 

I realize this is so you never show your card to a cashier or clerk.  That was always the last thing I ever worried about because, after all, most of them do not have photographic memories and, even if they did, are simply trying to make a living like the rest of us!  IMHO ID theft is mostly committed by hackers and thieves, not people who checkout your groceries, at least in my experience. 

For about 40 years people have willingly handed servers at restaurants their credit cards.  Then he/she takes it from you, leaves the room for a few minutes, and comes back 5 minutes later with your slip to sign.  It only takes a minute to order lots of stuff online!  LOL   Yet suddenly, the same people who dine out all the time are afraid to hand a salesperson or cashier a credit card?  Doesn't make sense to me. When you reserve a hotel room or a car, you always give a credit card number to a stranger on the other end of the phone.  Then why would that person go to Walmart and worry that someone working her third job might remember your name and credit card number? 

It might take an extra 20 seconds, but I really don't mind if someone asks for ID or check my signature.  I want someone to wonder why a man who is 25 years old with red hair is using a credit card with a picture of a blonde woman in her 50s.  Yet, when I was at Target, I could have been any gender, race or age since I swiped my own card and she never saw it.

Don't get me wrong, because I definitely believe ID theft is on the rise.  I mean, recently over 40 million credit/debit card numbers were stolen by a group of hackers.  If you haven't read about this, here's one article from the New York times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/business/06theft.html?em However, the hackers weren't the cashiers who are busily scanning your items as people wait anxiously in line.

Well, this was just a subject I thought about today after making a purchase.  So it's our responsibility to keep an eye on our credit/debit card balances for fraudulent actitivity.  Frankly, I won't use my debit card any more except at the bank ATM, since it's too risky.  If you use one at the pump, did you know you might temporarily be charged for more than you paid, creating an overdraft?   See this article which explains it better than I can.  http://edition.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/personal/07/21/debit.card.holds.gas.ap/index.html

You might also fall victim to a scam where a thief installs a skimmer that stores the number of every credit card that is swiped at that pump.  That's been a problem in Florida for years, but I'm not sure it's nationwide.  Well, since I'm on the subject, I just googled a few words and guess what?  They're everywhere!  http://wtopnews.com/?nid=104&sid=1453928    If you're not paying cash, it's probably safer to ask the cashier inside the store to run your card.  Although I confess.  I pay at the pump with a credit card all the time. 

So while we're all swiping our little hearts out, nobody is watching ...  only the bad guys!  I'm not sure if all this "convenience" and extra "security" is safe for consumers! 

"And hey, let's be careful out there!"  Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues

Entry #161


colthmnComment by colthmn - August 11, 2008, 6:09 pm
An excellent post! For all those people involved with these various rings that produce new cards w/the acquired info and then sell them to consumers, I see how it has become even easier for them to make money. And the consumers that choose to buy into this, look how easy it is for them to take advantage. I only wonder if retailers bother to clear the card first by telephone just before allowing the purchase at least in some cases! Boy, I don't have any credit cards and I'm glad. And I have very little debt. This is scary stuff!!!
time*treatComment by time*treat - August 11, 2008, 11:54 pm
They don't ask for ID (as often) in the retail stores because it annoys more legit customers than it catches would-be crooks, in addition to creating a faster 'turnover'. It also can endanger the clerk. At the same time, you've been videotaped from 6 different angles by the end of your 'visit'. That video will be far more effective than the memory of someone working their 3rd job.
justxploringComment by justxploring - August 12, 2008, 4:22 am
Colthmn, thanks for your comment. I don't want to sound like a hypocrite, since I've mentioned on other blogs & threads that I've used cards for many years and feel safe. I still have a card that says "member since 1975." I find them to be very convenient & helpful, but I only use cards from the major banks and I'm very careful. So I'm sorry I wasn't clear when I wrote my blog entry, but you are smart not to get yourself into debt. With all the identity theft today, cash is probably a lot safer.

Regarding a call for authorization, that is something one rarely does in a store. I worked in retail for years and the credit card terminal automatically clears the card with a number that is printed on the slip, so there's no reason to contact the processing center unless prompted by the terminal. If it's been reported stolen, the salesperson will see "call" on the display. You are never supposed to ask for a license or photo ID unless there is no signature on the card. I was just saying I wouldn't mind if there was something wrong and the store was only trying to be careful. After all, what's the point of putting your photo on a card and then not using it for identification? I took a lot of card numbers over the phone too, even for big purchases like $5,000. However, that was a different type of business where I had the client's name, address & tel #. Sort of difficult to steal a 7 piece dining room set that's being delivered to your home. LOL Only if there is suspicious activity or if the customer recently moved or hadn't used the card in a while was I prompted to call for authorization. This is going to sound terribly snobby (and it is) but at one store I was instructed not to even ask for ID if someone wrote a check since we were dealing with "upscale" clients. (the manager's words, not mine) Another store manager was just the opposite. I had to make a photocopy of the driver's license & write down everything. We got some complaints, so eventually we added check authorization. That was a very big pain because it took so long. Then we'd get "decline" and the customer would get upset, so we accepted the check anyway. (makes a lot of sense, huh?)

Time*treat, I understand what you mean about customers being annoyed, but I never thought stores were concerned about endangering the cashiers. I always assumed it was because people are concerned about protecting their privacy. Here is a .pdf file from Visa. I don't expect you to read 141 pages, but look at pages 28 & 29. This was published in 2007.


Page 28 clearly instructs the retailer to check the last 4 digits of the card against the receipt and to compare the customer's signature with the one on the card. However, asking for ID like a driver's license is prohibited in many states and a consumer can file a complaint against the store. Still, the store staff is supposed to take appropriate action when something doesn't look kosher and be aware of unusual activity. My point was that, in most cases, nobody has even checked my signature against the card, that is, if I was asked for one. I could have signed it Madonna or Minnie Mouse. As I said, I was only commenting on the deviation from the written guidelines as I knew them.

As I wrote before, I just wrote this after making a purchase and not even signing the slip. At least at Target you sign the electronic key pad.   I also said I use cards all the time, but I wanted to warn people about using a debit card for purchases. Even if your bank protects you from fraud, it could tie up your money for weeks and you could be charged with overdraft fees, not to mention the angry creditors who got bad checks.   

Those video cameras you mentioned don't help much when people are wearing dark sunglasses and big hats. Did you know that you are supposed to remove your sunglasses when entering a bank? Tell that to the people in Florida!   The "no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses" rule doesn't seem to catch on. Robberies were up 40% in 2007.   I think we're all so afraid of offending people, that we stopped using common sense.     

spy153Comment by spy153 - August 12, 2008, 12:04 pm
I think banks would benefit better if they posted guards at the front entrance and checked everyone like they do before going into a court room. Just my opinion.

I got rid of the credit cards a long time ago. I only use-very rarely-prepaid cards now. Or gift cards for "on the fly" purchases. They are just too much of a hassle. Too many ways people can steal your money with them. This way, I can't lose any more than I have put on there for that particular purchase. Everything else gets denied.
justxploringComment by justxploring - August 12, 2008, 2:15 pm
Interesting - I've never seen a guard in my bank.   In the movies & on TV, they always show a guard getting shot during a robbery. I really can't remember seeing one at any local bank. The problem is that everything costs money. On another board (and on LP) I mentioned that MA savings & coop banks are covered by additional insurance besides FDIC. But that costs the bank premiums. Then the consumer won't get high interest on savings. Someone has to pay for all this stuff. However, I agree to a point that there's nothing wrong with asking people to be inconvenienced just a little if it protects all of us. I mean, I know people who had to take their shoes off at the airport. My sister had her hair done up and was asked to take out the entire do because she had bobby pins. You can't even carry on a bottle of shampoo any more. So asking people to remove their sunglasses and hats before entering a bank so the cameras can video their faces isn't a big deal to me. I can't see without glasses, so I wear my sunglasses all the time. But I take them off when I get to the drive-thru so the teller can see my face. It would be kind of funny if an ATM said to you before dispensing the money "take off your hat and remove your sunglasses & look into the camera." :-)   I've seen the robberies on the news and the men were wearing hoods and dark glasses. However, I doubt if it would have mattered. I mean, if someone walks into a bank to rob it at gunpoint, would he care about the rules? It's a small deterrent however. Not sure if it matters, since I could put on a wig and thick glasses or even a fake nose and nobody would recognize me anyway. I think fingerprinting is a bit invasive. That's where my feelings are divided, since I definitely do not want anyone violating my privacy. Yet that would solve everything. Mine are already on file at the FBI and the FLDFS, so I need to wear gloves if I want to disguise myself! LOL

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