Curious Why Nobody Checks Credit Card Signatures

By David Wade, WBZ-TV

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

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.

More from David Wade
  • adarc

    So what in the world makes anyone think that someone who gets paid minimum wage should be able to tell the difference between your signature, and someone else writing your name?

    • beaches

      that’s what I.D. are for you don’t have to check signatures, just the two names are the same. Any moron can do that, not to say everyone who works at a place that takes credit cards is a moron. I’m sure they can see the names are the same.

    • EMC

      Right you are.
      A signature proves nothing. Anyone can sign a card, and a signature can not be validated as to the rightful card holder.
      Proof of other ID such as a driver’s license should be mandatory. A driver’s license can also be forged but it would eliminate the majority of thieves

      • Lori

        When I was in retail back in high school we were told to check signatures and if they didn’t match up we were to check ID. They also told us that if the persons card said check ID we were to check ID. I have carried that over to the few retail jobs I have had over the years (while job searching for a better office job).

  • Rob Reed

    I have “check ID” written on all cards and they still don’t ask.These people should be held resposible if they don’t do their jobs.It takes two seconds to look at the signature strip.

  • Jeff

    I just don’t understand why Credit Cards don’t have a pin # that must be entered for them to be valid for a purchase…DUH

    • Stacy

      That is a great idea !!!!! We have a pin for debit cards, why not for credit. I as a customer who has ” See Id” on back of mty debit/credit card, rarely get asked to see my id when I have purchased something.

  • David

    I want to know when Ken Tucci (the thief) is going to return my stuff for a refund?!? – David Wade

  • taxedout

    You don’t have to show ID to vote, what’s the Big Deal??? And they wonder why there is so much fraud!!!

  • Becky

    To be technical, for a card to be valid it requires a signature on the back of the card. For all of you that put “See ID” on the back you just made your card invalid and some places won’t take it at all.

    • Lori

      There is a way to get around that. Sign it then also put SEE ID.

  • jaygee

    Some stores and gas stations require the holder of the card to punch in a zip code. It takes only a second and definately helps weed out thieves. Your credit card can also be compromised while one is actually in possession of the card. Modern technology has made that possible as many of us have found out.

    • EMC

      I am off my game! I thought asking for zip code was a way of tracking a customer’s shopping habits.
      Maybe I’ll put it to a test the next time and punch in a different zip code.
      I’ll let you know the results from my jail cell.

  • Jeff L

    I a, a water at a small restaurant and I ASK FOR IID ALL THE TIME. You would be surprised at how many people get mad at me for it. I tell them it is for there own protection. And they still get mad

    • EMC

      I appreciate it when a vendor is looking out for my protection… and theirs.
      I was recently the attempted victim of credit card theft The online vendor was vigilant and stopped the purchase. My credit card co rep. told me that the vendor would have been on the hook for fraudulent charges had they gone through. I didn’t know that.

  • Emmit066

    Asking for an ID is for the protection of the customer. Jeff, if you were to ask for my ID I would be more than happy to produce it. My cards all have my signature as well as “See ID” on them.

    Everything has been made so that we are inconvenienced as little as possible during our shopping experience. you know what, inconvenience me on a simple thing like checking an ID. If someone does not have their ID on them, how did they legally drive to the store in the first place? In a restaurant, they always have their ID when they are over 21 and want a drink……

  • krtucci

    This is Ken who did the shopping for this story. There’s no way I’m returning the purchases until David Wade takes back what he said about Bob Dylan. lol

  • Donna

    The story on the mass plate give me a break get rid of the green mass plate syou can’t read.Why don’t the owners get new ones if they want that ugly green?

  • Donna

    The story on the mass plate give me a break get rid of the green mass plate you can’t read.

  • Ron T

    Absolutely agree about requiring the use of a PIN # regardless if it is credit or debit purchase. All ATM machines require a PIN #, as will as debit use for point of sales at a store as well.

  • Ferd

    I only write PHOTO ID REQUIRED on all my cards. Only a fraction of the places that I’ve used the cards even LOOK on the back. I love giving the sales people a hard time about it because fraud is why our rates are so high

  • Cynic

    Wait until someone tries to use my credit cards and finds that they are all maxed out.

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