Monthly Archives: January 2007

Sign here

I went to Banana Republic to purchase a pair of pants and brought them up to the cashier. After signing the sales receipt, the cashier looked at my signature and then looked at my card. He then proceeded to rip off a strip of blank register tape. He handed me the blank paper and said, “Could you sign this for me please?”

“What for?” I asked.

“Your signature didn’t match, so I need to have you sign this paper again.”

Boy, did I feel uncomfortable. He wants me to sign a blank piece of paper? What was he going to do with it? I refused. “If I sign this paper, it will look the same as the receipt I just signed.”

“Well, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m required to get your signature again.”

I asked him what he would do with the signature once I signed the blank paper.

“Oh, I don’t need to keep it. I just need for you to sign it. I’ll even give it back to you.”

I signed the paper. He looked at it, and crumpled it up. I then held my hand out. He looked at me and then handed me back the crumpled paper. I placed the paper in my pocket and walked out, not understanding what had just happened.

The only thing I could figure was that they felt that if I signed my name again, it would be a better match with the one on my credit card. What I didn’t understand was why he didn’t simply ask me for some other form of ID, like my drivers license. My license has both my picture and signature. That would seem to be a much better form of identification than my signature.

Besides, my re-signature looked identical to the sales receipt I signed. Perhaps it was just a test to see how I’d react. Who knows. While I think he was following orders, I don’t really think that their method of confirming that the credit card was mine really proved anything.

And my credit card number is…

Lets face it. Your credit card number is never truly safe unless you never use your card. Every day, there are opportunities for your credit card number to get into the wrong hands.

I’ve spoken to friends who have never shopped online. “Is shopping online safe and have you ever shopped online?” they ask. They seem to have “heard” from some unknown source that shopping online is bad and will cause your credit card number to be compromised.

My response? “Do you go to a restaurant and pay with credit card? When you had the waiter your card, he walks away. Do you follow him? Are you sure he hasn’t copied your number down?”

You can see the wheels.

If your credit card ever truly safe? What does the waiter do when he walks away? I trust that he’s running the card through the machine, but can he quickly grab an imprint of the card for use later? Can he press your card quickly into a small mound of silly putty to get the number? Sure he can.

Does he? Probably not… but he could if he wanted to. Can your card number be compromised when it’s used online? Sure! Is it? Probably not, but again, it could be.

I called State Farm today to pay my bill with a credit card. I read the number to the operator who then read it back, along with the expiration date to me to make sure she had it right. Was a customer in the office while she was on the phone with me? It’s possible, and even likely. Is my card number now in the hands of another State Farm customer? Possibly.

The bottom line is that your card number is just not safe and for me, the convenience of having a card and using it far outweighs the need to worry everytime I use it.

I’ve been using credit cards since 1987 and so far so good. My number has never been used by anybody other than me. I buy almost anything and everything with my credit card and pay my bill in full each month.

My favorite story however involves a visit one day to Macy*s. I had a registry there and wanted to buy out the remaining items. We were told to go to a special office where a woman would help us to place the order. We sat in her office with the door open. Occasionally, other customers could be heard mulling about.

“Your order is complete. How would you like to pay for that?” she said.

“I’ll be using my MasterCard.”

“Ok, what is the number.”

I recited the first 4 numbers in a soft voice. She repeated them in a voice that was only slightly lower than the store’s PA system.

“Umm…” even softer, I said the next 4 numbers.

Not taking the hint, she said the second set of numbers as loud as the first.

“Excuse me.” I said. “I’m not really comfortable with everybody hearing my credit card number. Here’s my card and use it so that I don’t have to say the number out loud for everybody to hear.”

“Ok.” she said.

I handed her my card and she placed it down next to her.

She then proceeded to look at the numbers and like Austin Powers, she had no internal monologue. Now she was reading the numbers out loud AND typing them into her computer for validation.

“Excuse me, but would you mind not repeating the number out loud?”

“Oh sorry.”

She started over, and again said the number out loud, but maybe not quite as loud as before. If anybody was standing nearby, they could have easily heard my credit card number.

I let her finish and I took back my card. I didn’t cancel the number and in the end, my card number was not stolen and all is well.

So far.