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My grandma is a very wise woman. She’s taught me so much — to say “yes, ma’am,” never “yeah;” to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck; to always crack eggs into a separate bowl while baking in case they’ve gone bad… the list of lessons goes on and on.
But I admit that recently I’ve grown skeptical of one of her long-standing practices. For as long as I can remember, my grandma has written “See ID” in Sharpie on the back of her credit card instead of signing it. It’s allegedly for security purposes, but the more I learn about money the less I think that’s legit.
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I called Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention programs, to run a fact-check. She told me that the “See ID” move dates back to when customers would physically hand their card over to a cashier. The theory was that “See ID” would thwart a thief because their license wouldn’t match the name on the card even if they could forge a signature.
But, as Stokes points out, times have changed.
“When’s the last time you handed your card to someone other than at a restaurant?” she asks. “I don’t think it makes a difference anymore.”
It’s not just my grandma. People have been recommending the “See ID” (sometimes abbreviated as “CID”) strategy for years. It’s been highlighted by the TODAY Show . It appeared in a 2008 post on the blog Personal Finance Hacks, with an added tip to “try writing the ‘See ID’ in a different color ink to draw extra attention.” It’s on the website for Utica College’s Center for Identity Management and Information Protection.
However, Mohamed Abdelsadek, executive vice president of insights and analytics at Mastercard, confirmed that it’s outdated advice.
“Perhaps back then, it may have made some sense,” he adds. “It adds absolutely no security these days.”
In fact, Mastercard announced in 2018 that it was making cardholder signatures optional on not only cards but also receipts for transactions. Citing advances in fraud protection, so did American Express, Discover and Visa.
Abdelsadek says that was done in part because the use of the signature as a means of identity verification was limited and hard for merchants to deal with. Mastercard has since shifted to EMV chips , contactless payment initiatives like tap to pay and biometrics. (It has a card with a built-in fingerprint sensor that activates whenever dipped into a point-of-sale machine.)“There’s a whole lot of technology around it,” Abdelsadek adds. “It creates a much more secure and seamless checkout experience […]