The Great See ID Credit Card Hoax

Do you have 'See ID' written on the back of your credit card, or know someone who does? I used to, until I had an unpleasant run-in at the post office because of it. Turns out that the idea that it's safer to write 'See ID' on the back of your credit card rather than sign it is just a weird hoax that's floating around. (I used to have this blurb about my experience at the post office on my LiveJournal account, which has now become defunct. I've moved it over here so that it'll have a more permanent home, and because I keep getting comments from people who have had the same experience).


Posted on Thu Jul 31, 2003


My grandmother swears by "See ID". Although I am quite sure my cousin has used her credit card without any hassles, and without being asked for ID. Probably a good idea at the time, but doesn't work as well as they expected.
Posted by Alyssa Knox  on  Sat Dec 23, 2006  at  09:04 AM
It's not a hoax, I've worked for a government agency for a while and both the government and police will tell you to write SEE ID on the back of your credit card. This is because yes, you don't have a valid signature on the back, so the person taking your card has to read your government issued ID to verify that it is indeed your card. For some reason, the credit card companies are against this, but as to why, I'm not too sure...because to every credit card transaction, you have to leave your signature on a receipt, so that's what you compare to your government ID as well as the name on your credit card.
If you read:
it tells you their policy on the "see id"

and if you read on or search for "identity theft tips", they offer no help but to make sure you don't give out your information and read your credit card statements every month.
Posted by Sarah  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  10:48 AM
For some reason, the credit card companies are against this, but as to why, I'm not too sure...

Probably because your credit card is not valid unless you sign it. It states so right there on the card. By signing the card you are showing that you received the card and accept the terms of use. An invalid card is not an acceptable form of payment, though many merchants don't even look.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  12:01 PM
duh; what I was getting at is I'm not sure why the credit card companies don't accept the whole "see id" process as valid...obviously because their terms and conditions say they don't accept it, but I'm asking WHY do they chose not to accept it. Especially since the government encourages you to write "see ID, or please ask for ID" on the back of the card. The signature doesn't verify you received the card, the wrong person could get the card and forge a signature and use it...that's why they have you call their confirmation number verifying you received the card.
Posted by Sarah  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  01:33 PM
So the person taking your card has to read your government issued ID to verify that it is indeed your card.
Posted by RC Tank  on  Wed Aug 29, 2007  at  01:32 AM
I just received a new Visa card in the mail, when I called the number to activate the card they told me at the end that my card was activated and that I should now "sign or write 'See ID' on the back of the card".
Posted by Tim  on  Wed Oct 03, 2007  at  10:45 AM
If you follow the above URL, yoyu will see that Visa policy is to ask for ID only to have the customer sign the card!

Please read the story at the Denver Post at

Given the ease of illegal immigrants to obtain government ID, I'm not surprised that a criminal could get a forged one as well:

One of the Q&A is this:

Q: Why isn't "See ID" on my credit card signature line sufficient to prevent fraud?

A: Experts say phony photo IDs, even government-issued ones, are the easiest and most prevalently reproduced. Not having a signature on your card allows crooks to create their own version and use a photo ID to back it up.
Posted by Danielm  on  Thu Oct 11, 2007  at  09:28 AM
I found this website when my co-worker and I were talking about the very thing. The problem I have with NOT putting "SEE ID" on my card is how many of these clerks are handwriting experts. I event asked one of them what kind of training they received and they said "None". I think it would be safer to hand them a picture ID, then when I sign the receipt they can compare the signature on the photo Id with that on the credit card. My 2-cents, but what does it matter. We just had a large security breach with one of our grocery stores and now I have to change my card anyway!
Posted by Jean  on  Tue Mar 18, 2008  at  10:27 AM
I have worked as a clerk before and when I saw "see ID" on the back I would ask to see the person's id. So I guess it depends on the cashier.
Posted by Brandon  on  Mon Apr 14, 2008  at  12:40 AM
I work in retail, and we try to always check ID. It's difficult to do, since so many customers in our area don't carry an ID (they take buses or ride in groups so they don't have one with them). As far as why you shouldn't write "See ID" only on the back of your card, let's say you do and I plan to steal your card. I take it, sign it with my signature version of your name. Then I have a fake ID printed with your name, my picture and signature of your name. Viola! I can now match all three signatures. No, the salespeople aren't handwriting experts. We can't tell if a really good forger signs the receipt. But we can usually tell when the signatures are even somewhat different between your card, ID and receipt. And hey, the idea is to make it harder on a thief. A really determined identity thief will get you no matter what you do. But they'd rather go after an easy target. Leaving your card unsigned is not only a violation of your agreement with the credit card company, but it's leaving an easy road for an identity thief to travel. No forging necessary!
Posted by dsg  on  Tue May 06, 2008  at  09:10 AM
Visa has very specific rules regarding the use of 'See ID'. Unfortunately most people continue to argue with them over it.

If the card has a
Posted by Charybdis  on  Tue May 06, 2008  at  10:17 AM
Charybdis is absolutely right. The problem with "Ask for ID" is that not only does it invalidate your card (according to the cardholder agreement), but it opens you up much more to identity theft.

Suppose I work at a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble and I want to steal your identity. You show me a credit card. I now have your name, credit card number, and expiration date. But that's it. I don't have anything else. Now, if you show me your ID I get your address, city, state, zip code, driver license number, and birthday. That is MUCH more information than you had to give me to complete the transaction. Why would you give me so much information?
Federal law limits your fraud liability as a credit card holder to $50 for this card, but this is only if the fraud involves the card itself, not the number. Liability for fraud involving only the number is $0. Let me be more clear: If they have your card you are liable for no more than $50; if they don't have your card you are liable for nothing.

If you are liable for a maximum of $50, does that mean you are giving up all the additional information to avoid paying that $50? Is your personal information worth only $50? Is giving hundreds of strangers this information worth that $50?

Let's suppose I want to steal your identity. You can argue that I don't have your social security number...but that's ALL I don't have. I know the address for your mail. I'm sure I can find more information in there to fill in some of the blanks. In fact, all I needed to order something from or any other online site is your credit card number, expiration date, CSV code, and the numeric portion of your address (the house number) and maybe your zip code. That's it. Now I can use your card. Of course, if I charge it up you are still not liable for the charges because you still have your card. I could create my own card by programming the magnetic strip with your information and then all I need is your zip code to charge up some gas. Again, you are not liable for those charges.

So if you are not liable for anything, why would you want to give strangers so much personal information when VISA/Mastercard require them to honor your card even if you don't show ID?
I had my main credit card printed with my first initial, last name. That's it. When I hand it to a minimum wage employee at Ralph's I don't have to worry that they got any more information than they needed. Hell, they don't even know my first name; they don't need it.

And sorry, Sarah from Texas, but I would never assume that a government agency knows squat about what's best for consumers.
Posted by Adrian  on  Sat Jul 05, 2008  at  03:14 AM
Thanks Adrian
Posted by Credit Expert  on  Thu Sep 11, 2008  at  05:51 AM
I want to thank you all for your very thoughtful conversation on the advantages and disadvantages of writing "Check ID" or "See ID" in place of a signature on the back of a credit card. This is a rare gem in user generated content.
Posted by Carl Ingalls  on  Mon Jan 05, 2009  at  09:34 AM
❓ I was wondering even if the card says SEE ID cant people steel use your number infrot of the card
Posted by ivslain  on  Tue Feb 24, 2009  at  05:53 PM
As a longtime hospitality employee I have been confronted by people who refuse to sign their cards. I simply refuse to check them in until they do so. As mentioned above, the card IS NOT VALID until signed, which means if there's a problem with the charge the vendor who accepted the card can be left in the lurch.

And how tough is it to have a fake i.d. made up that matches the name on a stolen card? Much easier than forging a signature.
Posted by Fran  on  Tue May 19, 2009  at  04:42 PM
All of the identity theft scenarios presented are certainly plausible given the "SEE ID" variable, but they miss the point. SEE ID isn't a deterrent, it's a delay. If a thief acquired my physical card marked with SEE ID, he would have to fabricate matching government ID in less time than I can identify the missing card and cancel it... probably less than a day. For a thief who might steal a handful of cards a day, why go through the trouble when you've got all these other perfectly valid and SIGNED credit cards?

Of course this "security feature" is rendered null by merchants who never bother to check (and aren't required to by the card providers), but the threat that a merchant might check is going to make those SEE ID cards less likely to be used.

As for a signature on the card being the acceptance of the agreement, yes, that is how it works, but it's also incredibly stupid. Why is signing the card the evidence necessary to accept the agreement? If I'm activating the card, isn't that good enough? What about my signature on the application I sent you? What about digital signatures? There plenty of ways to acknowledge a contract than by signing a highly sensitive and woefully insecure piece of plastic, thereby making it even more insecure. Seriously, if I can sign my tax returns with a "digital signature," why can't the credit card provider find a way to accept something similar? Credit card providers hold people's financial lives in their hands (and data records) and consistently manage to shock me with their inability to understand even the most basic concepts of data security. They're dealing with millions of data breaches every year costing incalculable losses for both the card holders and the card providers, and they're going to get snippy about whether I sign my frickin card? Give me a break...
Posted by Sam  on  Sat Jun 06, 2009  at  10:25 PM
I have heard about this hoax for years, in several different versions!
Posted by Kreditkort  on  Sun Oct 04, 2009  at  11:25 AM
The real hoax is that the credit card companies enforce their own rules! Over a period of weeks, I have tried to get Visa to stop Dollar Tree from requiring ID to process credit card transactions. Nothing has been done.
Posted by Gerry  on  Tue Jan 26, 2010  at  11:07 AM
I used to think that if I just didn't sign the back that no one could copy my signature as there was none on my card.
Posted by Credit Card Processing Blog  on  Thu Jun 03, 2010  at  06:13 PM
I fully agree with the credit card companies policy of forcing you to sign your card instead of See ID.

1 very easy scenario:
Thief gathers card numbers with a swipe machine (easy to get, they even come built into keyboards). They swipe your card, they take their own card, and put your card number on the magnetic strip (very easy in seconds). They walk over to a store with their own card, and show their own ID. But wait, the cashier only checks thier ID which is a perfect match (in this case even the signature will match fine). Lowe's new policy started about a year ago is perfect and does not require any additional ID. Verify the last four digits of the physical card with the account number read by the magnetic stripe. Voila, a thief is found as the magnetic strip is altered from the printed numbers.

Also, the notion that requiring a photo ID makes it difficult is nonsense. Anyone with a printer in their car can alter a premade ID in minutes that will pass an unsuspecting cashier without a second thought.

Finally, since I am covered by the credit card company, I don't care if someone tries to buy things with my card. I have had to use this service twice now, and others in my family about 5 additional times. The bank put the money back in my account while I was on the phone, issued me a new card, and confirmed the fraud and closed the issue within a week.

I am MUCH more conerned with a rougue cashier gathering information from my license and stealing my identity instead of my credit card. All I need to do to take care of credit card theft is make a phone call. To repair ID theft takes years of work, and possibile inability to get car loans, etc in the mean time. My brother had his identity stolen.

The bottom line is what is your priority? Do you want to protect your card which the bank protects you on, or your identity which almost no one will help you repair unless you pey them big bucks?
Posted by Briago  on  Mon Jun 14, 2010  at  08:21 PM
Yeah, if you really believe the cashier will remember your license number, your DOB, address, etc. plus your credit card information in the 3 seconds they're looking at it, you're delusional.

Yes, it's plausible, but unrealistic.

"Thief gathers card numbers with a swipe machine (easy to get, they even come built into keyboards). They swipe your card, they take their own card, and put your card number on the magnetic strip (very easy in seconds). They walk over to a store with their own card, and show their own ID. But wait, the cashier only checks thier ID which is a perfect match"

What does this have to do with writing "See ID"? If a thief copies your credit card, than it doesn't matter what was on the back of the card. What matters is if you challenge the charge, and the credit card requests a copy of the signature from the merchant, if that signature matches yours.

Guess how a thief can learn how to sign the way you sign?
Posted by Whiskers  on  Thu Aug 26, 2010  at  07:57 AM
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