Credit Card Hack: Write "SEE ID" On The Back

by MB on April 17, 2008

See ID on Back of Credit Card

Here is a great little tip for those worried about Identity theft.  Leave a little room after your signature and write "See ID", on the white strip on the back of your credit/debit card.  If the person taking your card does their job correctly, this little extra step may stop a thief from illegally using your card.

I say "if they do their job correctly" because both Visa and Mastercard require that the signature on a receipt match the signature on the card.  When performing this comparison the merchant should notice the request for additional identification.  You may even try writing the "See ID" in a different color ink, to draw extra attention

While researching this piece, I found a lot of conflicting information on wether or not the card has to be signed. Several sites recommended writing "Check ID" on the back of the card and nothing else.  This makes sense to me, since by signing you are giving a thief a handwriting sample to use in forging your name.  However, I think the evidence is pretty clear on this subject: you are required to sign the card.  Not only is the wording "Not Valid Unless Signed" – or something similar – on the back of all cards,  I found this information on Visa’s risk management site:

Dealing with unsigned cards

If the signature panel is left blank…

Visa Card Not Signed

  1. Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government identification, such as a driver’s license or passport (if local law permits).
  2. Check the signature. Be sure that the cardholder signature on the transaction receipt matches the one on the card and the additional identification.
  3. Complete the transaction. If the signatures appear reasonably the same and the authorization request is approved, continue the transaction. If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, do not accept the card.

If the card has a "See ID" in place of a signature…

Visa Card See ID

  1. Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government identification, such as a driver’s license or passport (if local law permits).
  2. Check the signature. Be sure that the signature on the card matches the one on the transaction receipt and the additional identification.

If the signatures appear reasonably the same and the authorization request is approved, go ahead and complete the transaction.

That’s about as clear as it gets: "Request a signature".

Some of you may be saying: "What’s the big deal? Liability on fraudulent credit card charges is limited in most cases". This is true, but think about all the time it will consume – not to mention the sheer aggravation – to clean up a big fraud. Small precautionary steps can save you big time in the event of identity theft.

Another item to consider: some banks are now offering credit/debit cards that feature your photo. These give you both the convenience of a charge card and photo id in one package.

By using these two hacks, you will greatly reduce the risk that your card will be used for fraudulent transactions should it be lost or stolen.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ Taking Charge April 17, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Unfortunately, I’ve talked to people who have written “see ID” on their card and were never asked for an ID. Have you read the credit card stunts the guys from Zug.com have pulled? They got away with signing things like “Mickey Mouse” and drawing pictures as signatures on credit card receipts. They tried the “see ID” thing too, and nobody ever asked or cared. While I think it’s not a bad idea to try it, there are no guarantees anyone will look or ask for your ID.

lulugal11 April 17, 2008 at 12:35 pm

While I agree with you that this ‘might’ help you need to let your readers know that even with Check ID written on the card most cashiers do not check the ID.

I have made several purchases that required me to hand over my card and the person never even checked the signature on the card, much less asked for ID.

I told them they need to check my ID and they shrugged it off every time. The only time they bother to look at the ID is for large amounts…even if you request it.

dsg May 6, 2008 at 9:01 am

I work in retail part time and we are pretty good at checking IDs. Problem is, we have very few people who actually BRING an ID for us to check. We’re faced with accepting the card based on comparing signature on receipt to the one on the card. We still get a lot of people who write only See ID on the signature line. They always tell us that they do it to avoid identity theft. Um, I can have a fake ID printed with your name but MY signature & picture, then steal your card and sign it. Guess what? When I use your card to buy something, the signature on the receipt, ID and card will match PERFECTLY! If you sign your card and I try to buy something, the signatures most likely won’t match well enough to hold up in a court of law. It may be inconvenient if I can forge a signature fairly well, but in the long run you’ll get your money back or the card company will refuse the sale. If the signatures all match though, lots of luck proving that I wasn’t you.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: