Credit Card Fraud Protection

More on credit card fraud, phishing, and an email advocating a gas boycott:
Internet ScamBusters #80

Today we have a really interesting ‘Snippets’ issue for you. You’ll learn more about credit card fraud (wow, did we get some fascinating feedback and new info since last week!), a new Internet Explorer bug that is inviting phishing scams, and a new email going around on gas prices and a gasoline boycott.


OK. On to today’s snippets…

Credit Card Fraud

When we wrote our article on ‘Credit Card Fraud: 21 Tips to Protect Yourself‘ last week, we certainly did not expect the avalanche of feedback on #5 of our list:

5. Sign your credit cards as soon as you receive them.

The feedback was almost unanimous — subscribers suggested NOT signing your cards. The question, however, is whether or not this advice is correct.

First, here are three sample emails we received:

— email #1

1. The current issue on credit card fraud is excellent. When I receive a new credit card I no longer sign it on the back. Instead I print the words: “SEE I.D.” That way when I use my card, and the merchant inspects the card for a signature, they have to ask me for I.D., at which point I can produce my drivers license, which has both my picture and my signature. While this requires a bit more effort, I believe it is more protective than simply signing the card. Those who perpetrate scams can forge signatures as quickly as I can sign it.


— email #2

2. Thanks for great newsletters, and for the latest tips regarding credit cards. I don’t agree with signing them, though – if they are stolen a thief has a perfect copy of your signature. I never sign them, and rarely have any problems – only rarely am I asked to provide any proof of identification.

Best regards, Allan

— email #3

3. Greetings From San Diego:

I appreciate all of this information that you are providing. It’s a lot of work, but you are helping so many people.

With regards to #5 of the list of 21: a lot of people out here in California are signing their credit cards, but not with their signature. They are writing on there, “ask for photo I.D.” What is your take on that?



— end of emails

So, the question is: is this the correct advice to reduce credit card fraud? Should you — or should you not — sign your credit cards?

To answer this question, we called the fraud departments at MasterCard, Visa and American Express.

All three advised that you definitely SHOULD sign your card.

MasterCard told us that this idea — not to sign your card — is an urban legend that sounds sensible, but is not a good idea.

American Express warned us that merchants are not supposed to accept your credit cards if they aren’t signed. Visa agreed — in fact, they said that the merchant is instructed to not finish the transaction until you sign your card!

So, not signing your credit card is an example of a very popular urban legend that is false. And we stand by our original advice — sign your credit cards immediately when you receive them.

More on Credit Card Fraud Protection

Right after we finished last week’s issue on credit card fraud protection, we got a call that one of our credit cards had been compromised.


The caller went on to explain what happened. He then told Audri that he had to close the account, and that he needed to verify some information.

He started asking verification questions, and Audri got suspicious that this was really a scam — instead of an attempt to correct a scam. So, she said she was uncomfortable answering these questions on the phone.

The caller provided exactly the right answer: he told her to call the phone number on the back of her credit card and ask to be connected to the fraud department.

Audri did this, and discovered that the call had indeed been legitimate. The credit card did seem to have been compromised.

She asked that Visa overnight new cards, which they did.

The lesson to be learned? Don’t answer questions about your credit card when you receive any phone call or email. If the call is legitimate, the caller will respond appropriately as he did in this case.

You can find other interesting suggestions to reduce credit card fraud that we received from our subscribers — related to single use credit card numbers, problems caused by portable phones, and credit card numbers being displayed by merchants — by visiting this page on credit card fraud protection suggestions.

Internet Explorer Bug Invites Phishing Attacks

Another serious bug in Internet Explorer — even if you have all the up-to-date patches — was found this past weekend. If you use Explorer on a PC, you should check out the article at:


The folks on TechTv recommend that you might want to consider trying an alternative browser, such as firefox:


Gas Prices and Boycott

A very popular email is making the rounds — it’s about gas prices and a gas boycott. Click here to learn if this email on gas prices is real — just a hoax…

Internet ScamBusters in the News…

You can also find a good review of the ScamBusters site in the most recent issue of the Eureka Times-Standard. The article is called “Don’t get conned — check out Scambusters.” You can find a link at the top of our press page.

OK, that’s all for now. We hope you have a great week!