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How to protect yourself against simplest form of credit card theft

RICHMOND, Va. — Reviewing bank statements is now a nightly ritual for one Midlothian couple after hundreds of dollars were taken from their account, shortly after the data breach that hit major stores like Target last year.

Alison Markow tells CBS 6’s Lorenzo Hall that she thought her husband, Brant, was keeping a secret.

“It wasn’t me. I was not buying stuff and getting into trouble that way. I was assuring her that I was not in Reston going shopping or anything,” Brant said.

Actually, hackers obtained their credit card information and went on multiple shopping sprees in Reston.

“I felt very violated, I guess, that someone had my information and I didn’t know what other information they had besides my credit card number,” Alison said.

couple

Then months later, the Markows still don’t feel safe, even though companies have taken major steps to keep your money safe with new anti-theft technology.

New technology sounds great, but CBS 6 went to find out how these stores hold up against the simplest form of theft, when someone just steals your card and swipes it at the register.

In recent weeks, CBS 6 News has reported on a number of thieves taking debit and credit cards and then spending hundreds of dollars.

To find out if using a credit card that’s not yours is as easy as it seems, Hall handed three cards to our CBS 6 Interns, Krista Willard and Matt Leonard.

interns

One card has a picture on the front, another has no signature and the third, has “check ID” written on the back.

“I’ve used other people’s credit cards to buy stuff before. I mean, not ones that were stolen,” Leonard said.

CBS 6 traveled to nearly a dozen stores, chosen at random across central Virginia. Stores like Kroger, Target, Pleasants Hardware and Walmart allow you to swipe your own card, with no mechanism in place to catch thieves.

Pleasants and Kroger only require a cardholder’s signature after a certain amount of money is spent. Target said your card must be flagged by your bank or credit card company first for them to notice.

We also tried stores that actually handle your card and swipe for you.

Using the card with no signature first, Leonard was able to freely make purchases at Mongrel in Carytown and Chick-Fil-A.

“He just seemed rushed and didn’t seem too worried about it,” Leonard said.

When he tried the card with “Check ID” at Buzz and Ned’s and Sugar Shack, the cashier’s did check, but still went through with the sale, even when he couldn’t produce a matching ID.

“I said, ‘It’s not my card.’ She asked whose it was and I said, ‘My friend’s,’” Leonard said.

Willard got the same reaction at Arby’s, Lamplighter Coffee and Traveling Chic Boutique. Using a card with a picture that clearly doesn’t match, Krista was never questioned.

“I figured because of the picture there was a greater chance, it was a little riskier that she would say something, but, I don’t even think she flipped the card over and looked at it,” Willard said.

checkid

From there, Hall went inside all the stores to find out why and was told, “I’m not sure,” by Lamplighter Coffee, “It was a mistake,” by Mongrel, “This was a slip-up,” by Arby’s, “Employees are supposed to check,” by Chick-Fil-A and “Employees are still training,” by Traveling Chic Boutique.

Buz Grossberg, Owner of Buzz and Ned’s took it a step further. He met with managers immediately after we informed him of our investigation and reminded them about the importance of having cashiers thoroughly check your debit and credit cards.

“We are as much to blame as our cashier because we should be checking them way more often,” Grossberg said.

CBS 6 took our findings to Nancy Thomas, President of the Richmond Retail Merchants Association. Thomas told us, she is disappointed and is urging retailers to better train their staff.

“The responsibility of the retailer is really in the training. It’s not just about giving good product service or the goods that you offer your consumers. It’s about protecting them as well,” Thomas said.

Thomas also urges consumers to better protect themselves by reviewing bank and credit card statements daily.

CBS 6 should note, none of the stores listed have done anything illegal, but are urged to check credit and debit cards if they are not signed or have “Check ID” written on the back.

CBS 6 have not yet heard back from Sugar Shack or Wal-Mart.

2 comments

  • Marcus

    From The Consumerist (July 19, 2014) :
    Can a merchant ask to see my ID? / I wrote ‘See ID’ on my card, so I am protected from fraud… right?
    This one is a little complicated. Sometimes merchants are supposed to ask to see your ID, and sometimes they’re not. Writing the words “See ID” on the back of your card doesn’t actually help you.
    Here’s how it breaks down.
    In general, merchants can check your ID, but usually won’t. MasterCard says a merchant “may request but not require” a customer to show ID, and American Express simply instructs merchants to “verify that the customer is the Cardmember.”
    The Visa merchant guide is a little different. It says, “Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID… merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot… refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID.”
    Based on that, Visa recommends its merchants not spend time asking for ID.
    But of course, there is a big exception.
    At the time of purchase, when a customer swipes their card, the merchant is supposed to compare the signature on the card with the signature on the receipt. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or if the back of the card is unsigned, then merchants are instructed to ask for a photo ID to compare with.
    If your card is unsigned and you’ve left the signature line blank, your card is technically not valid. (The words “not valid unless signed” are on the back there, just next to the signature box.) In that case, both MasterCard and Visa instruct the merchant to ask for your ID, then to ask you to sign the card and make sure that signature matches the one on your ID.
    As for “See ID,” Visa’s merchant guide specifically addresses this… and finds it useless. The company points out that “criminals often don’t take the time to practice signatures. They use cards as quickly as possible after a theft and prior to the accounts being blocked. They are actually counting on [merchants] not to look at the back of the card and compare signatures.”
    And, in fact, many merchants don’t — a huge number of stores use point-of-sale terminals where the customer swipes his or her own card and clerks never actually ask to see it… even though they are supposed to.
    Realistically speaking, if your card number is stolen it’s just as likely that the criminals in question got the information from a skimmer, hack, or data breach and didn’t steal your actual, physical card. That number is then likely being used online, or on a cloned card. If that’s the case, then it doesn’t matter what you wrote on on the back.

  • Jim

    When you can’t find your card call your bank and report it missing. Their is no need to check on your credit card every day you will be just fine if you check the statement you get every month.

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