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To Sign or Not to Sign? Does the "See ID" Practice Really Work?

ID There's a lot of confusion among consumers about whether writing ‘See ID” on the back of a credit card is a smart move. I can certainly understand why, since there's a great deal of conflicting information available on the web. While it’s tough to prove this practice will actually prevent identity theft, I personally find it hard to believe it hurts. However, as far as Visa and Mastercard are concerned, a credit card is technically not valid unless it's signed. Merchants are even instructed to not accept credit cards without signatures.

I’ve never had this happen myself, but I’ve heard of certain businesses that have strict guidelines about not accepting cards with ‘See ID’ written on the signature line. The U.S. Postal Service is apparently one of the most common culprits. Many people have been following this practice for years though because it basically makes them feel better. That’s why I do it. Why not? It does sound logical in theory. If your credit card were to fall into the hands of a thief who wanted to use it to make a purchase, the merchant should look at the back of the card and then require proof of identification before processing the transaction. Of course, that’s how it should work in theory. In reality, I can count on my toes the amount of times a cashier has even looked at my credit card over the past several months. The implementation of technology that allows consumers to swipe their own cards has become quite common at a lot of retail locations as well. Walk into any Home Depot, Safeway, or visit the local gas station, and you don’t even have to interact with a human being to make your purchase. Just swipe your card and you're on your way. The bottom line is there's no fool-proof way to guarantee your credit card will never be used by thieves. But if it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, why not sign the back of the card and write ‘See ID’ as well? That seems to be the best option. It may prevent a thief from using your card to make an in-store purchase, which will save you the time and effort it takes to dispute the fraudulent charges and protect your credit score. In addition, be sure to check your credit card account online often and utilize an identity theft prevention service, such as Identity Guard, for added protection. You may not be able to guarantee that a thief will never use your credit card, but the sooner you know about it, the better. *Updated on March 23rd, 2012

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past twenty years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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