Have you ever written “See ID” on the back of your credit card, or seen someone else who has? Sometimes, people chose to include these instructions in the signature panel rather than simply signing their credit card. They may believe that the move will help minimize credit card fraud. The theory is that cashiers will force a would-be credit card thief to produce a driver’s license or another form of identification before processing the transaction.
Unfortunately, there are several flaws to this practice. First, not all cashiers or merchants actually examine the signature panel of a credit card. For example, many transactions occur with the card not present, such as telephone or Internet purchases. And although many retailers now allow customers to swipe their own credit cards, even the cashiers who handle their customers’ cards may not look at the credit card’s signature panel or compare its signature to the signature on the receipt. Finally, many credit card numbers have been compromised during high-profile data breaches over the last few years — and if a thief tries to use these stolen numbers to manufacture counterfeit cards or make online purchases, it doesn’t matter what’s written on the back on the plastic in your wallet.
How Card Networks View ‘See ID’
Besides the limited protection that writing “See ID” offers, the major payment networks generally frown upon this practice. For example, Visa’s published card acceptance guidelines for merchants that instructs merchants to treat cards that say “See ID” just as they would unsigned cards. These instructions advise cashiers to not only check the cardholder’s ID, but to have the customer also sign the card before it can be accepted. In particular, Visa’s guide cautions merchants that “a refusal to sign means the card is still invalid and cannot be accepted.”
Likewise, MasterCard also cautions merchants not to accept unsigned credit cards, and also asks them to require the customer sign the card in order to accept the transaction. American Express advises merchants compare the signature on the back of the card with that of the cardholder that presents it to avoid chargebacks. Finally, the Discover card asks customers to “sign the back of your card with your full name rather than ‘See ID’.”
How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud
Writing “See ID” on your credit card might appear to be a simple way to deter crime, but it’s generally neither effective or, in many cases, allowed. Instead, you can minimize the odds of card fraud by keeping track of your credit cards and making sure they are always stored in a safe place. For example, you can keep your credit cards in a safe at home, and not leave your purse or wallet in your car or in an unlocked office at work. And if your credit card ever goes missing or is stolen, you should immediately call your issuer to have it replaced. Having a transaction declined is a far more effective way to prevent your stolen credit cards from being used than writing “See ID” on the back on them.
But perhaps the most important step that you can take to avoid being the victim of credit card fraud is to carefully examine all of the charges on your monthly statement. Federal law prevents credit card users from being liable for more than $50 in fraudulent charges — and nearly all credit card issuers waive this amount by offering zero liability policies. But you have to find the fraudulent charges and report them to your credit card issuer to ensure you won’t pay, so you should monitor statements regularly.
And, if you ever have reason to believe your personal information was compromised alongside your payments, you can monitor your credit. A sudden drop in your credit score or mysterious line items on your credit report are signs your identity has been stolen. You can keep an eye out for identity theft by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCredit.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
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