Why bother trying to sign electronic signature pads?
July 22, 2008 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Electronic signature capture devices are not designed to allow someone to accurately sign them. So why not switch from using my signature to an easy to draw secret symbol?

Many stores now have electronic signature capture devices on their Point of Sale devices. I find it silly to try and use my actual signature on these devices because normally they're at a funny angle, there is no where to rest your hand, the stylus pen does not accurately track, etc. Over the last few years as I see more and more of these my signature has transformed from something slightly resembling my actual chicken-scratch of a signature to some random squiggly lines.

In the spirit of the ZUG credit card prank, why shouldn't I start drawing a little symbol instead of signing my name? I'd always draw the same thing. It'd be something I could accurately and easily replicate on the silly little pads. If someone actually did steal my credit/debit card and tried to forge my signature it'd be easy to show that I always draw a hash mark with a circle around it (or whatever) while the thief actually tried to sign my name.

To do such a thing would I need file a copy of "my official 'signature'" with my bank? This is all in theory of course. Though what possible issues might arise from using my squiggly line signature on electronic pads instead of making an attempt to actually sign my name as it looks (or at least at one time looked) on my card. Not that anyone could tell because the sig on my card is smeared and unreadable.
posted by J-Garr to Technology (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
>why shouldn't I start drawing a little symbol instead of signing my name?

That's fine. You can do that if it matches what's drawn on the back of the credit card.

If you want to do this with checks you should contact your bank to change your official signature.

Im sure its 100% doable, but you'll have problems with skeptical cashiers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:22 AM on July 22, 2008


I like to draw little pictures instead. Nobody seems to care.
posted by mikepop at 11:24 AM on July 22, 2008


I've never written any actual letters in those things. Usually I'll draw a stick man or some kind of cool maze pattern, depending on if there are people behind me in line. I don't think a human ever checks those things.
posted by Plug Dub In at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2008


As far as I know, you can sign it any way you want if you don't contest it-- (treeline? nautical scene?) although the clerk might check against the signature on the back of your card.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2008


The signature on the back of my cards are all smeared beyond recognition. Also, I still sign my name whenever presented with paper and a flat surface, though it is very rare for a clerk to actually look at what I've signed and even more rare for them to compare it to my card. One grocery store I go to still has me sign a paper receipt and they always ask for my ID so they can compare the name on the credit card with the name on my license. Even they don't look at the signature. If you haven't already, I highly recommend looking at the ZUG link in my original post.

I'm glad to hear that other people are drawing little pictures instead of signing. I think that having a "secret symbol" to draw would be far more secure than a signature anyway.
posted by J-Garr at 11:31 AM on July 22, 2008


If you want to do this with checks you should contact your bank to change your official signature.

That is completely ridiculous to me. I have never heard of a bank having an "official signature" on file for accounts.

Heck, my bank cashed post-dated cheques without even blinking. I highly doubt they check that the signature matches the account name, let alone an official signature that they keep somewhere.
posted by splice at 11:36 AM on July 22, 2008


That is completely ridiculous to me. I have never heard of a bank having an "official signature" on file for accounts.

They sometimes do, though...I once tried to write a check against an inherited bank account and was declined for a signature mismatch. It turned out that the executor had signed my name for me when completing some of the paperwork to set up the account (nothing malicious, it was just more convenient than actually getting me to sign it) and the bank used that as a master signature.
posted by phoenixy at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2008


I usually draw a smiley face. They always give me my soup, groceries, etc.
posted by Wet Spot at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2008


I'm also in the 'draw little pictures' camp. (Unless given a real piece of paper to sign.)
posted by sperose at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2008


I have never heard of a bank having an "official signature" on file for accounts.

I sign a signature card every year as Treasurer for our H.O.A., and I also signed one recently when I opened my business checking account. I can't remember specifically if I signed one for my personal account (it was ages ago), but I'm pretty sure that I did.
posted by malocchio at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2008


I make a little zigzag symbol all the time at those things. It doesn't match my credit card, which I try to leave unsigned as long as possible, although once in a while a clerk will pester me to sign it. I like it because it makes my wife roll her eyes at me, which I regard as some sort of symbolic win. Last week, a sceptical Best Buy clerk said "Is that your signature?" and I breezily replied in the affirmative. He looked conflicted as he contemplated the value of bothering me further and eventually decided to let it pass.
posted by Lame_username at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2008


I sign my name to paper receipts, but if it's electronic I just sign as CAPTAIN AWESOME!

So far it hasn't caused any problems and more than a few laughs.
posted by baphomet at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2008


I have never heard of a bank having an "official signature" on file for accounts.

In the however many bank accounts I've had in my life, I've had a signature on file with all of them. They were all accounts that I opened at a bank branch, not online.

Nthing yes, you can draw what you want, as long as it matches the sig on the back of your card. I've seen people do this a few times, and thought about doing it myself, but my normal signature is already a sort of symbol/picture, so I figured, why bother?
posted by rtha at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2008


Regarding "official signature on file with bank" I don't think that applies in the modern credit card world. Most of my credit cards were obtained via on-line applications and I never signed anything for the bank to file.
posted by Lame_username at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2008


I sign a signature card every year as Treasurer for our H.O.A., and I also signed one recently when I opened my business checking account. I can't remember specifically if I signed one for my personal account (it was ages ago), but I'm pretty sure that I did.

I've had a very similar experience. I'm sure this doesn't quite apply to your everyday run-of-the-mill credit card, but I know that for one account to which I'm a signatory my scribble is on file. Still, when it comes to the signature pads, just trying to make a good hash at one's proper signature results in illiterate scratches, so I can't believe that not doing this will result in any serious consequences.
posted by ob at 12:28 PM on July 22, 2008


The signature is primarily to show consent to be bound by the cardholder agreement. For that purpose even an X would do.

Identity verification is a distant second. Do you really expect or trust every store clerk to be a handwriting expert?
posted by jedicus at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2008


on the back of my debit/credit card, i wrote in bold letters "ask for ID". Most stores don't.
posted by lester at 1:28 PM on July 22, 2008


On the subject of official signatures: When I was younger my mother opened a savings account for me at a bank. I was listed on the account as a minor and my mother was listed as the 'guardian'. Fast forward 16 years later, I was 23 and decided to make a withdrawal. My name was clearly on the account and I had multiple forms of ID but my signature didn't match the signature they had (which was my mother's) and I couldn't access the money.

Working in retail we were told that the signature on the back of the card should match the signed signature. If there was no signature on the back we had to ask for a valid ID. ... they never told us what to do if the signatures didn't match (and sometimes they didn't) but it was protocol to check.

In the world of credit cards I think the only time your signature would matter is if you or your bank found an unexpected charge and it needed to be approved or contested.
posted by simplethings at 1:35 PM on July 22, 2008


I started signing for cards (paper and electronic) with an alias. It was a joke when it started, and it has grown on me. The name is more fun to write than my own...
posted by gracious floor at 2:09 PM on July 22, 2008


Surely a signature IS an easy to draw (for you) secret symbol. Signatures don't need to be your name written out in longhand. The less straightforward they are, the harder they are to copy. You coudl have a hash symbol inside a circle as your real signature if you wanted!

I have got pretty good at signing those electronic thingies now, the trick is that you can't treat the stylus thing like its a pen, you have to sort of tilt it slightly to one side and use the edge. However, no amount of tilting will do when the electronic thingy is old and scratchy and needs to be replaced. No-one ever seems to check the signature match here in the US, but when I worked as a supermarket checker in the UK I was expected to check. A couple of times a customer really annoyed me, and then their signature didn't match, so I called them on it and made them re-sign. That's why I shouldn't ever have jobs where I deal with the public.
posted by Joh at 4:32 PM on July 22, 2008


In Switzerland, I have had a credit card issuer refuse me a card because they were not satisfied that my signature matched that of my passport enough. I find this disgusting, as I would not normally sign governmental documents with the same form of my signature as I would financial documents. But there's the Swiss for you. The clerks always check over here. BUT, over here, banking is more wild-west. Consumers do not enjoy the same protections on cards as is normal elsewhere.
posted by Goofyy at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2008


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