The Action News 5 Investigators: Swiped! - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Action News 5 Investigators: Swiped!

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There's no mercy for an anchorman's credit card.

To prove how slack the card-checking policies of both retailers AND credit card companies have become, we sent two of our undercover Action News 5 Investigators -- one black, one white, both female -- into five Mid-South stores.

Their currency:  Joe Birch's credit card.

They bought a floor jack at O'Reilly in West Memphis, a digital picture frame at Best Buy near Wolfchase, aDVD player/recorder at Southaven's Wal-Mart, women's apparel at Talbot's Petites in Germantown and books at Hickory Hill's Barnes & Noble.

Nobody - not a single employee at any of the stores - bothered to ask for Joe's identification. 

Our undercover investigators racked up almost $500 in merchandise on Joe's card.

"Nobody looked at my name on my credit card that you used and said, 'Is this an authorized purchase for Joseph Birch?'" questions Joe.  "That's remarkable!"

What was really remarkable is what happened at that O'Reilly store in West Memphis, Arkansas.  That's the store where our undercover investigator bought a $137 floor jack.

"(The cashier) looked at the card and read off the name, 'Joseph Birch,'" says our undercover investigator, "and I legibly signed my own name instead of his name.  She never questioned us.  She told us to have a good day, and that was the end of the transaction."

In response, O'Reilly's management gave us a written copy of the store's card-checking policy.  It reads, "Credit Card regulations state you cannot ask for ID unless you are suspicious of the transaction."

Believe it or not, those really are the credit card companies' regulations.

"Our rules state that merchants should not ask for additional identification from a MasterCard cardholder with a valid and signed card," says Chris Monteiro of MasterCard's Worldwide Communications.

The credit card companies also set a purchase amount threshold for checking ID, too.  That explains why Best Buy's cashier didn't ask for ID when our undercover investigators bought that $87 picture frame.

"Under a $250 purchase, it's not required for us to check," says Jason Sampson, manager of Best Buy's Wolfchase-area store.  "The cashier actually followed policy on that purchase."

This all means that it's up to consumers to get retailers into the habit of checking identification.  One way to do that, according to Shelby County Sheriff ALERT Squad (Area Law Enforcement & Retailers Team) Det. Dee Bowling, is to take a permanent black marker and write ASK FOR ID in the signature box on the back of your card.

"I put it back on to the company or the retailer itself," says Bowling.  "You've got to train these people because this time of year, they're not only going to be stealing, but they're going to be doing fraud by forgery, by identity theft."

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