My last blog entry discussed how the people you hand your credit card to may be recording your private information and selling it. Now, add oblivious and apathetic clerks to your list of people to be on the lookout for, in addition to scheming waiters.
On my web crawl, I came across John Hargrave, a humorist on Zug.com, who tried really hard to get caught committing fraud. He signed everything but his own name on the line at the bottom of his credit card receipts: Mariah Carey, Beethoven, Lassie, Zeus. He used hieroglyphics, stick figures, and a matrix. He also walked into a Krispee Kreme store, bought some artery-strangling pastries, signed his name as “Dunk N. Donut”—a blasphemous move in context—and, while the cashier was looking, took pictures of the receipt and the store. Apparently that didn’t raise any alarms, so he kept going and going: he segmented the experiment in five parts, and there’s a sequel, too!
It’s sort of disheartening that the safety of your money and your identity may potentially be in the hands of a finger-rapping, pimply 16-year old cashier. But for now, I suspect that our credit card companies are spending more on ad campaigns telling us that they’re keeping us safe rather than walking their pompous talk. It’s inflammatory! So be your own watchdog, because no one’s going to watch out for you better than you will.
Heading back to the restaurant scene, what if you see your full credit card number on the receipt itself? That’s not good. Since 2005, it has been federal law that “only the last five digits of the card account number can be printed on electronically printed receipts provided to the customer.” According to this amalgamation of state laws on the National Conference of State Legislatures website, most states (in varying degrees) have consequences for printing out the whole number. Your number should be mostly X’s, and it should raise red flags if it’s not.
What if your card does end up being compromised? Well, you should know that credit and debit cards are not considered equal before the law, so you deal with each in a different way. With the Truth in Lending Act, the most your liability will account to is $50 for fraudulent charges on a credit card. Most banks waive even that. Keep an even closer watch on your debit card, though. They are subject to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. You’d have to know and act with regard to any fraudulent charges within two days. If you do something about it before the 60-day mark, your liability is limited to $500, but after that, you could lose everything.
They don’t call it the Age of Information for no reason: danger lurks everywhere. So arm yourself with this information and slip it along to your friends. Fight back!