Two recent incidents raise serious doubts about the accountability of merchant establishments with respect to credit cards.
Last week, police in Delhi nabbed a person who bought goods worth Rs 1 lakh on a stolen credit card in 2007. What took the police so long to trace the culprit was the fact that he wore a helmet while shopping to avoid detection through CCTV!
This is a clear pointer to the irresponsibility of retailers, who often do not bother to cross-check the signature of the person who signs on the transaction slip with the one on the credit card. And how can they accept a card from a man whose face they cannot see? Even a photo card is worthless in such circumstances.
In another case, last month, after brutally murdering IT executive Jigeesha Ghosh in Delhi, the criminals went on a shopping binge using her credit cards. How could they shop with a woman’s card?
Credit card franchiser VISA says in one of its websites that criminals do not take time to practise signatures and use the card quickly. “They are actually counting on you not to look at the back of the card and compare signatures…” it says. If only retailers routinely verified signatures and asked for an ID card from the shoppers, credit card thefts can be minimized.
Banks that issue cards also have to share the blame. They ask card-holders to sign on the signature panel of the cards to prevent misuse, and yet accept charge slips without verifying signatures.
Banks must press retailers to verify signature and they must own the responsibility in case there is a fraud.
(Pushpa Girimaji, Senior journalist, consumer affairs specialist)