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Curious Why Nobody Checks Credit Card Signatures

By David Wade, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's David Wade David Wade
Multiple award-winning journalist David Wade co-anchors WBZ-TV Morning...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Do you ever get a little nervous when you realize how simple it is to buy things with credit or debit cards?

Debbie from Braintree does.

She Declared her Curiosity to WBZ-TV, asking why we bother to sign receipts, “when if cards are stolen anyone can use them?”

Is she right?

We performed a little experiment using a credit card belonging to WBZ-TV’s David Wade.

David gave Channel 4 producer Ken Tucci his credit card and Ken went on a bit of a shopping spree.

First stop was a Target store where Ken charged a toaster oven. Not only did they take the card, they didn’t even ask him to sign the receipt or the electronic pad.

Then to Best Buy for a set of headphones and a Bob Dylan CD. This time Ken signed, but no one compared that signature to the one on the credit card.

Same story at Marshalls, where Ken bought some kids’ clothing. He signed, but there’s no signature comparison.

Last stop was Stop and Shop where Ken went to the self checkout, so no one was checking up on him.

The grand total came to about $140 on David Wade’s card, used, with permission, by someone who is definitely not David Wade.

If they’re not going to ask to see identification, shouldn’t the stores at least check the signatures?

“They should do that, but unfortunately many of them are lazy,” said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky who runs Consumerworld.org.

A lot of times now, you don’t even need to sign if what you’re buying costs less than $25.

At Best Buy the check out person told our producer he didn’t have to sign for a purchase of less than $50.

The stores don’t want to do anything to slow down the sale, even if that means they don’t always know if you are who you say you are.

“Card issuers want people to feel comfortable using the card,” said Dworsky.

But given how easy it was for someone else to use Wade’s credit card, what kind of protection do we have?

“There’s a ton of protection for you under both state and federal law,” said Dworsky.

That’s because the law says you can only get stuck for up to $50 if someone rips off your card. Many cards offer zero liability, so losses become part of their cost of business.

Even though you may not be liable for much if someone fraudulently uses your card, that’s not all good news.

“All the fraud losses eventually get translated into higher prices for consumers,” warned Dworsky.

Credit card companies rely on their computer systems to make sure your card is valid when it’s used. That’s why it’s important to report a lost or stolen card immediately.

What makes you Curious? Declare Your Curiosity to WBZ-TV.

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