Why You Need A Consultant

Just for when you’re thinking I can do it all on my own….

The biggest problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Hermetas is run by experts of student government. They’ve all been there. As an example, we give you the story of Ben Cox who learned from Hermetas that you don’t need ID to use your own credit card.

What Happened to me (In Ben’s Own Words):

At approximately 8:08PM, November 5, 2014, I placed an order in the KFC drive-through for $24.88. When I pulled up to the window and handed my visa debit card to the cashier, he asked for an ID. I denied his request (my exact words were “I don’t have it on me.” He then told me that I had to have the ID or he could not complete the transaction. I then asked for the manager, and when he came to the window, I explained to him that the visa merchant card agreement says that I am not required to show an ID as a condition of the sale. He then told me that KFC company policy said that customers with a debit card must show an ID to complete the transaction, and that my transaction could not be completed because I did not have an ID. The manager then walked away from the window, and I proceeded to hand my ID to the cashier. I was then handed back my ID and debit card, and given a receipt to sign, which I signed in print writing “Mickey Mouse” (my card is signed “Benjamin Cox” in cursive) I handed him the receipt, he handed me my order, and I drove away.

What is the Visa Merchant Card Agreement?

The Visa Merchant Card Agreement is a document all Merchants must adhere to as a condition of accepting Visa Cards. You know those “terms and conditions” we all quickly scroll through and accept? This is what that is, but in this case, the document legally binds the agreeing Merchant to follow certain policies and procedure regarding use of any payment card with the Visa Logo.

What went wrong:

KFC violated the Visa Merchant Card Agreement by requiring my ID as a condition of the sale. The Visa Merchant Card Agreement clearly states that the merchant cannot require the card-holder to present an ID when using the card normally.

Now wait a minute! These days, credit card fraud is rampant, and I want to make sure my Visa cards are secure! I’m ok with merchants requiring my ID because it protects me!

Actually, handing your ID to the merchant poses more of a security risk, without necessarily protecting your information or money. Today’s criminal has technology on his side, and will not let a ludditic security feature like a photo ID stop him. Criminals have several ways to work around this. To list a few off the top of my head:

  • A criminal can use a fake ID. These are not just for teens buying beer!
  • A criminal can take the information encoded on the magnetic strip on your Visa card and copy that information to another card. When the merchant asks for ID, the criminal produces an ID that matches the name of the false card. You can see this in the movie Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.
  • A Criminal can use the credit card online, which bypasses many security features, though online purchases have various other security features to stop unauthorized charges.
  • The Merchant can steal your information right off the ID you produce. We don’t like to think about this one, but imagine if a low-paid, disgruntled employee obtains your personal and/or visa card information? Not only could he use such information, but he could sell it off to the highest bidder.

So you’re saying my Visa cards and my Identity are in jeopardy of being stolen?!

Yes, but there are steps you (and the merchant) can take to protect yourself. Remember: a motivated criminal is not always stopped by alarms and security features, and is more often stopped by vigilant consumers and merchants. So what can you do to make sure your Visa cards and personal information are safe?

  • Never give out more information than is absolutely necessary.

This one should be a no-brainer, but some mistakenly believe they must give more personal information in order to make the information safer. Simply put, the more information that you share, the more that can be compromised. Instead, use unique identifiers that do not include personal information. This is one reason PIN numbers and passwords are used.

  • Create unique identification methods that are hard to forge.

For example, some cardholders only sign their card with their initials, or add some sort of flourish to their signature (like a heart dotting an I). Any mark you make is technically your signature. With this in mind, beware of using an X, writing “See ID,” or a hard-to-reproduce signature on the back of your card. While you may technically make any mark to be your valid signature, if your signature on the back of the card doesn’t match what you wrote down, any merchant following Visa’s suggested policy and procedure will most likely think the card is stolen, or otherwise do what he can to stop the transaction.

  • Check the status of your Visa Card accounts often, and immediately contact Visa or the issuing institution if you suspect you have been compromised.

I cannot stress this enough: YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST DEFENCE!!! Use your computer, smart phone (most big institutions have apps that let you access your accounts), or land-line. Or read the statements you get every month in the mail. Or walk down to your financial institution. The bottom line is, if you want your information secured, you must not trust others to secure and monitor your information for you.

Visa’s Merchant Card Agreement outlines safe practices to be used by the merchant if a transaction seems suspicious. Below:

  • The merchant first examines the card, and looks for a signature on the back of the card.
  • If a signature is present, the Merchant may have the card-holder sign a sales receipt and compare the signatures to verify the card-holder’s authenticity.
  • If NO signature is present, the merchant must witness the card-holder sign the card, and compare the new signature to the signature on a government-issued ID.

What I want to happen (Ben Again):

I want KFC to follow the visa merchant card agreement (assuming it does, in fact, apply to them). If so, I want the charge to my card reversed. (update) My bank has reversed the charges. This means I get a free lunch and KFC has to pay $24.88 to learn what is in their agreement.

So both KFC and Ben Cox could use a consultant in this area. Only Ben had one and so Ben gets a free lunch.

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