Friday, August 1st, 2014

The end of Signing (but not for everyone)

Over the next two months, retailers in Australia will be upgrading their credit card equipment so as to require card holders to use a Personal Identification Number when making purchases (except where their card has a wave facility and the purchase is under $100). No lon ger will card holders be able to sign for their purchases instead of keying in a PIN.

For most card users this represents an increase in security. I have heard of someone who always signed Mickey Mouse and was never picked up by any seller as having used the wrong signature. Requiring a PIN removes the ability of the person in the store to accept or reject that the card is being used by the card owner – instead that decision is being made by the computer system processing the payment.

I heard one suggestion that a better alternative would have been to simply introduce photos onto the cards so that the seller can physically see whether the photo is of the person presenting the card. While this would improve security if added to other validation measures it is even less secure than signatures if used by itself as there would be no physical record identifying that the card owner was in fact the person who made the purchase.

The one area where switching from signing to a PIN will result in less security rather than more is for people who are unable to remeber a PIN because of a mental disability of some sort. The change has catered for this but has not really advertised it all that well. Many people in this situation will make the mistake of writing down the PIN and keeping it with the card – eliminating all security on their account completely. Instead what they ought to have done is to order a special replacement card from their card provider. These special cards are the only ones where the card owner will be required to sign for their purchase instead of entering a PIN and so will enable those people for whom the removal of signing would have represented a lowering of the security on their account to continue to sign. This option has received so little advertising that I have not seen anything that actually outlines the criteria required to be met in order to obtain one of these new sign only cards.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.