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PCI-DSS: Card Present - Signature

What to Know
Signature and identification

The final step in the card acceptance process is to ensure that the customer signs the sales receipt and to compare that signature with the signature on the back of the card.  When signing the receipt, the customer should be within your full view, and you should check the two signatures closely for any obvious inconsistencies in spelling or handwriting.

While checking the signature, you should also compare the name, account number, and signature on the card to those on the transaction receipt.

  1. Match the name and last four digits of the account number on the card to those printed on the receipt.
  2. Match the signature on the back of the card to the signature on the receipt.  The first initial and spelling of the surname must match.

Note:  The embossed name and signature do not need to be the same.

For suspicious or non-matching signature, notify your supervisor discreetly that it is necessary to make a Code 10 call.

Note:  If the transaction is accepted with a non-matching signature and it turns out to be fraudulent, your business may be liable, even if all other procedures were followed.

Unsigned cards

While checking card security features, also make sure that the card is signed. An unsigned card is considered invalid and should not be accepted. If a customer gives you an unsigned card, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Check the cardholder’s ID. Ask the cardholder for some form of official government identification containing their photograph, such as a driver’s license or passport. Social Security Cards are not acceptable forms of identification. The ID serial number and expiration date should be written on the sales receipt before you complete the transaction.
  2. Ask the customer to sign the card. The card should be signed within your full view, and the signature checked against the customer’s signature on the ID. A refusal to sign means the card is still invalid and cannot be accepted. Ask the customer for another signed credit card.
  3. Compare the signature on the card to the signature on the ID. If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, and you accept it, you may end up with financial liability for the transaction should the cardholder later dispute the charge.

Note:  The words “Not Valid Without Signature” appear above, below, or beside the signature panel on most credit cards.

“See ID” in lieu of signature

Some customers write “See ID” or “Ask for ID” in the signature panel, thinking that this is a deterrent against fraud or forgery; that is, if their signature is not on the card, a fraudster will not be able to forge it. In reality, criminals 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 you not to look at the back of the card and compare signatures—they may even have access to counterfeit identification with a signature in their own handwriting.

“See ID” or “Ask for ID” is not a valid substitute for a signature. The customer must sign the card in your presence, as stated above.

Note:  A refusal to sign means the card is still invalid and cannot be accepted. Ask the customer for another signed credit card.

Suspicious behavior

In addition to following all standard card acceptance procedures, be on the lookout for any customer behavior that appears suspicious or out of the ordinary.

At the point of sale

  • Purchasing large amounts of merchandise with seemingly no concern for size, style, color, or price
  • Asking no questions or refusing free delivery on large items (for example, heavy appliances or televisions) or high-dollar purchases
  • Trying to distract or rush sales associates during a transaction
  • Making purchases, leaving the store, and then returning to make more purchases
  • Making purchases either right after the store opens or just before it closes

Of course, peculiar behavior should not be taken as automatic proof of criminal activity. Use common sense and appropriate caution when evaluating any customer behavior or other irregular situation that may occur during a transaction. You know what kind of behavior is normal for your particular place of business.

If you feel really uncomfortable or suspicious about a cardholder or transaction, notify your supervisor discreetly that it is necessary to make a Code 10 call. In any situation where making the call with the customer present feels inappropriate or unsafe, complete the transaction, return the card, and make the call immediately after the customer leaves. See:  Code 10 Calls for additional information.

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