Friday, July 14, 2006

Signature Accepted

110 Signature Accepted

The carton for the new shredder says identity theft is the biggest or fastest growing crime in America. It’s the kind of thing that sells shredders.

It also sells expensive and complicated security systems, computer programs and double-hulled garbage bags.

And the charge cards are leading the charge. You won’t find one without some notice of available protection. But these guys are the ones unlocking the doors, as you’ll find out in a moment.

Then come the insurance companies who are putting identity theft protection clauses in their homeowners’ and renters’ policies, often heavily advertised, and usually without charge.

When an insurance company gives coverage away, and toots its horns about it, you have to figure (a) you’ll never collect and (b) whatever you’re being insured against can’t happen or doesn’t exist.

Stores have trained their register clerks to check the cards. The average Joe or Jane behind the register looks at the card, looks at the signature and that’s the end of it. It’s like you’re supposed to think that they’ve gone for extensive training on handwriting analysis.

When they take the card, they’re not really looking at the signature. They’re looking at their watch to see how long it is until their next break or the end of the workday.

Remember the shredder? It was purchased on plastic. Elmer Fudd signed for it. Not the REAL Elmer Fudd, of course. He’s out there someone chasing wabbits. Nevertheless, Elmer’s signature got on the charge slip for the identity-theft-reducing “diamond crosscut high efficiency shredder.”

Signature accepted.

Emboldened by this move and in an egalitarian spirit, Elmer morphed into rival cartoon figure Scrooge McDuck for the next purchase.

“Signature Accepted.”

Let’s move on to our next purchase. McDuck got traded in for the most cartoon like, living person (who may even be a hybrid of celluloid and flesh).

Bill Gates

“Signature Accepted.”

George W. Bush.

“Signature Accepted.”

Miss Liberty

“Signature Accepted.”

Osama Bin Laden was going to eat at Denny’s, but wasn’t available, so Louis XIV substituted.

John D. Rockefeller recently bought gasoline for his Taurus at an Exxon station.

Robert Hall recently bought a suit at Brooks Bros.

David Sarnoff bought a “Today Show” mug and some pencils at the NBC Store.

And Dorothy Parker recently bought a 750 ml bottle of Black & White at a liquor store.

Signatures accepted.

We are trained to believe that when you sign the little screen, a picture of your signature goes into a computer somewhere and is compared, line for line, with the signature you have on file with the credit card company.

Some people even believe there’s a staff of highly trained security people watching for identity thieves – they sit peering at the screen and as your signature comes up they compare it using actual human eyes.

That’s not what happens. This is: when you sign the thing you send electrons to a computer that say, in effect, “someone has signed this thing. Most people wouldn’t think to write anything but their own names, so ‘Signature Accepted.’”

Identity theft: Be thankful the computers are on duty.

I'm Jules Verne, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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