June 23, 2005

Free advice from a lawyer

Handy advice from a lawyer who writes from his own experience, a passalong email.   

Your checks

  • When next you order checks, have only the initials of your first name printed. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks
  • Never have your social security number printed on your check.  You can always add it if necessary.
  • Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone.  If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address.
  • When you are writing checks to pay on your  credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.

Your credit cards

  • Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".     See update.

Your wallet    

  • Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in  your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call  and cancel.      While you’re at it, make a photocopy of your passport.
  • Next to each card, write down the toll free number to call if the card is stolen.  Don’t forget the number to the Registry of Motor Vehicles 
  • Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Thieves work fast.  The key to stopping them –and limiting your damage - is to cancel cards quickly.

If your wallet is stolen    

  • File a police report immediately where it was stolen. This proves to credit providers that you were diligent and it’s the first step toward an investigation if there is one.
  • Report your cards stolen and cancel them. Believe me, you will be SO glad you  made that photocopy
  • Call the three national credit reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number.  This prevents thieves from applying for credit cards in your name.  Such an alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.   
  • Here are the numbers you need.  Keep this with the photocopy of your credit cards.

1. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2. Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3. Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289   
4. Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271 

UPDATE:  From two commenters.    Seems as if you must sign the card as Visa merchants will not accept the card if not signed.

UPDATE 2:  If you haven't seen Zug's hilarious credit card prank, you owe it to yourself to be one of the 30 million who have done so. Only then are you ready to appreciate credit card prank 2   It seems as if no one ever checks the signature.  Many thanks to Mike at Info Sec News Blog

Posted by Jill Fallon at June 23, 2005 04:18 AM | Permalink

Placing "PHOTO ID REQUIRED" on the signature line may result in your card being refused by a merchant. More details available at:


Posted by: Chad Cloman at June 30, 2005 09:42 AM

Page 24 of the current "The Card Acceptance and Chargeback Management Guide for Visa Merchants" states that the merchant should refuse cards that are not signed. I used to use the "see ID" trick, but had two merchants refuse to accept my card unless I was willing to show ID AND sign it on the spot.

quoting VISA's guide:

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.

Posted by: David Burrows at June 30, 2005 11:44 AM

Signing the back of the card is something that only very strict merchants require (i.e. the US Postal Service). See: Credit Card Prank

Posted by: Mike D. at July 1, 2005 01:11 AM

The link for above...

Posted by: Mike D. at July 1, 2005 01:12 AM

Not many people even care about your signature unless you're purchasing high cost items.


At the link above, he tests the limits of what passes for a signature on credit cards.

Posted by: jon360 at July 1, 2005 03:48 PM

Put both your signature *and* SEE ID on there.

Works like a charm, if the cashier actually cares.

(note- in Florida no one EVER asks for it. I went to California. Everyone asked for it. Go figure)

Posted by: circuit breaker at July 1, 2005 05:39 PM

This 'see ID' thing is a pet peeve of mine. It seems like most everyone who does this is from a privileged background, and *has NEVER worked retail*.

Put yourself in the position of the retail clerk for a minute. These jobs are incredibly menial, low-paying, and generally miserable. When I last worked retail (some 5+ yrs ago), this 'see ID' thing was first starting to come into fashion. My experience (admittedly pretty bitter, but I don't think uncommon) was this: I would always compare signatures, but when I looked on the back and saw 'see ID', the person would hardly ever _offer_ their ID, they'd just look at me with this shit-eating grin...'now is when you ask me for my ID, ha ha, ha ha'.

And I would think...'bah, fuck you, you self-centered upper-middle-class asshole with health insurance and lots of money, you do NOT get to order me around on this today'.

"...if the cashier actually cares". What makes you think these people are being paid to care about YOU? These people are not being paid enough to care about ANYTHING.

Posted by: kat at July 3, 2005 12:54 PM

Because of the large static-electric charge built up on the glass plate of photocopiers, you run the risk of erasing the magnetic stripe on your cards. I don't reccomend you do this, or let businesses do this. Take the extra couple of minutes and write down the info.


Posted by: PHiZ at July 3, 2005 02:01 PM

Even if you do put "see ID" on the back of the card it creates no more of a requirement than not having "see ID" on the back of the card so it is a completely useless thing to do and makes you look like a smart***.
Partial Account number on checks written to pay credit cards? Why put anything on them at all, the company knows your account number, its on the slip of paper your required to include with the payment. Better still sign up for the free (usually) web based bill pay with your bank and just send the payments that way, why risk identity theft or loss of payment by mailing checks. Even better why waste everyones time by using checks at all?
Be careful with the copied papers in your wallet, some documents only the original are valid (Social Security Card for example) if you try to carry the copy and not the original. Or if someone breaks into your "safe place" and takes your copy, they then have all the information in one place.
I carry two wallets with part of my important things in each so even if one were stolen I only loose half of my important stuff.

Posted by: Eugene at July 4, 2005 07:04 PM

hi can u please let me know if your exhusband is trying to file bankruptcy and he transfered a deed within the last year what happens

Posted by: lex at July 5, 2005 09:01 PM

If this affects you in any way, You want the advice of your own lawyer

Posted by: Jill at July 5, 2005 10:09 PM

If this affects you in any way, You want the advice of your own lawyer

Posted by: Jill at July 5, 2005 10:09 PM

Zug has established a precedent that he'll pay any bill, regardless of what the signature on the receipt looks like.

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