An Identity Theft Lesson for Christmas Retailers (and shoppers)!

I just returned from a Kohl’s store where I was picking up a gift card for our annual Christmas Eve gift card swap with my wife’s family. Instead of giving everyone presents and going to all that work, we simply each buy a gift card for $10 that we think others would like to receive, and then we do a white-elephant lottery where the second person to draw out of the bag gets to take away the gift card from the first person (or blindly draw out a new card out of the hat) and so on down the line. At the very end, the first person gets to choose to take any one of the gift cards. It is low cost, low conflict and an absolute blast. You can probably already tell that my wife came up with the idea, not me.

So I was standing at the cash register at Kohl’s and the clerk asked the woman in front of me (who was paying) to see her ID in addition to her credit card. The woman complained and the clerk explained that it was for her safety, not his. “That’s Inconvenient!”, she roared, and stormed out of the store.

Grumpy Holiday Lady, listen to me:

  1. The Kohl’s clerk didn’t do it to be a pain in the proverbial arse, he did it because there is an amazingly high incidence of identity theft during the holiday season, especially at discount retailers such as Kohl’s.
  2. If someone were illegally using the credit card you distractedly left at the gas station just hours before, he would have stopped the crime.
  3. I can almost guarantee you that the clerks at most major retailers are not trained to ask for your identification before they let you use a credit card. As nice as it would be, the industry isn’t that far along yet. If Kohl’s is, then I salute them. But as I was saying, Scott (the checker I had), actually took it upon himself to protect YOUR interests, and you thank him by yelling at him and embarrassing him? He wasn’t required to do it, paid to do it or even aware that he should do it. But he did it. He deserved a big thank you (I should know, I’ve lost $300,000 to this crime and have now had my identity stolen for a fourth time – thanks Countrywide Mortgage).
  4. A report just cam out in the past few days showing that retail identity theft and crime is increasing thanks in part to the declining economy. So the problem is only getting worse, and clerks like Scott are only making it better.

Wake up out of whatever stupor allows you to treat poorly the people who are trying to help you, and buy that 17 year old kid a gift card.

John Sileo
Retail Identity Theft Expert

3 replies
  1. James S. Huggins
    James S. Huggins says:

    I’m unclear on this post. I have lost my credit card once. The thieves ran it to max. But, in terms of DIRECT cost, my DIRECT cost was zero. I told the credit card company I’d lost my card, together on the phone we reviewed the charges of the past 72 hours. I identified those which were mine and those which were not. I promptly received a replacement card and the charges which were not mine were removed from my account replacing my line of credit. I was not even charged the $50 the law permits. I’m certainly not saying there was no cost. I’m saying that asking for your ID maybe protects you a little. It protects the merchant oodles more. The merchant isn’t doing this for YOUu. They are doing this for THEM. Both national law and credit card company practices protect the consumer in this particular situation of credit card misuse. The immediate victim of this particular crime is less the consumer and more the merchant.

  2. John
    John says:

    James, Point taken. This does protect the merchant as well and they have both a responsibility and a vested interest in training their employees to ask for ID. And it really protects the credit card issuing bank, who is the actual financial victim of the crime. They are the ones that end up writing off the bad debt. Unfortunately, many American consumers don’t check their credit card statement regularly enough to catch the fraud in the time frame set forth by the credit card companies that releases the card user from liability. In other words, if you don’t report the fraud within 60-90 days (for most cards), which is the norm for many cases of ID theft, then the card company does not return the money stolen. You are responsible for it. That is the particularly infuriating thing about identity theft — there are a string of victims along the line, and the costs go way beyond money to wasted time and emotional hardship. Thanks for your comment.


  3. Eric
    Eric says:

    I have no idea hold old this post is but I wanted to make a point. I’m on the other side of the argument. I will refuse to show my ID when making a credit card purchase unless the card is not signed. All the major issuing banks actually have rules in their merchant agreements that say the merchant can ask for ID but they CANNOT make showing an ID a condition of the sale. Think about it. Of the 2 times I’ve had my credit card numbers stolen, I suspect it was from certain shady clerks. You’re giving them your credit card and they steal your number. Now they ask for ID. They now have your address, zip code (which is sometimes used to verify identity when making cc purchases) and your drivers license number. A clerk asking for ID is NOT for my protection. I believe it actually makes us less safe. What if the clerk is a sexual preditor and sees a potential victim? “Oh, pardon me ma’am, May I please see your driver’s license?”

    As James mentioned, you are not responsible for charges made to your card fraudulently. I believe the only correct way to prevent fraud is to key in your zip code at the time of purchase as if it were a pin number or just issue pin numbers with credit cards for retail purchases. Why hasn’t something so simple been implemented yet?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *