?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Bad Idea

“You don’t have to sign; it’s under twenty-five dollars,” the supermarket check-out clerk said chirpily. It was as if she were waving me through a border check-point because I looked honest, so she didn’t ask for my passport. Believe me, I wished I could have shown the appropriate document and signed my name.

All over the country merchants are giving passes to customers up to a certain dollar level. At my local Martin’s supermarket, it’s twenty-five dollars. At the local Walgreen’s it’s fifty. Regardless of the dollar amount, it’s a bad idea.

Here’s the scenario that will happen more frequently, especially with the holidays approaching. Sneaky Fraudster obtains a card belonging to someone else. He or she goes to merchants who don’t check signatures, whether it’s the twenty-five dollar level or the fifty-dollar level. Fraudsters are savvy enough to know the limit, so they purchase items with a stolen card that is under the dollar amount that requires a signature.

Then Upstanding Customer receives the monthly bill and discovers all kinds of minor purchases. He or she contacts the credit card in question and disputes the charges. Says the purchases are invalid. The credit card company says Upstanding Customer isn’t responsible for such fraudulent use and promises to remove the charges from the bill until further investigation determines their validity. Upstanding Customer feels justified, even with a few pieces of paper to fill out and send to the credit card company.

But here is what happens behind the scenes. Credit Card Company certainly isn’t going to just write off the monies in question; instead, it contacts Local Merchant and asks for proof that the person who used the card was or was not Upstanding Customer. In the past, a signature was the best proof. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Now Local Merchant can’t produce a signature, so Credit Card Company takes back the money for the product that it had given Local Merchant in the first place. Not only is the merchant out the money, but also the product.

When I complained to management at my local Martin’s Supermarket, I was told, “Customers love not having to wait in line.” I’m sure they do, but stop and consider how Local Merchant is going to recoup the lost money and product? It will hike prices and Upstanding Customer will pay more in the end. This impacts both customers who actually are in possession of their cards and those who are the victims of fraud.

So, doesn’t it make sense to spend a couple minutes in line to prevent Sneaky Fraudster from pulling a fast one?

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