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No more signing for credit card transactions

An era limps to an end this month, when the major credit card companies stop requiring customers to sign for their purchases.

The truth is that some merchants already have ditched the practice, while Mastercard did so a while ago for purchases of less than $50.

The decision by Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover to abandon the signature altogether is a recognition that the requirement long ago stopped ensuring credit card security, the companies say.

“I would definitely say that it is a throwback as most people don’t even pay attention to the signature, let alone check the ID of the person signing the receipt,” said Mark Medley, president of ID Theft Resolutions of Albuquerque. “The biometric form of identification is ultimately the best way, as it is a true form of identification.”

In a blog post last fall, Mastercard executive vice president Linda Kirkpatrick cited biometrics, as well as the prevalence of chip readers as part of the evolution of credit card security.

“Our secure network and state-of-the art systems combined with new digital payment methods that include chip, tokenization, biometrics and specialized digital platforms use newer and more secure methods to prove identity,” Kirkpatrick wrote in a blog post last fall.

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There’s an easy (and free) way to check on whether your email acount has been hacked in any of the increasingly common data breaches.

Check out the website “Have I Been Pwned,” (“Pwned” is an intentional misspelling of “owned,” and it means to totally defeat or dominate someone.)

The site will tell you how many times your account information has been compromised and during which data breach the incident occurred. There’s also an option to enter domain names, like Twitter, if you want to be notified in case of a future breach.

If you sign up, the website will send you an alert should your email address show up on any list of information that’s been hacked.

The easiest way to protect against a hacker gaining access to your account, of course, is to change your password. That way the next time a human or, more likely, a bot tries to get in, it will be much more difficult.

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Amidst news that high-end shoppers of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor were victims of the latest data breach comes a new poll showing that four out of five Americans have changed their behavior due to the increasing number of online hacks.

The survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants found that 56 percent upped their monitoring of credit and debit card accounts, 43 percent are either using cash and/or checks more often and 40 percent are choosing local merchants more often than national retailers.

Last year, 143 million U.S. consumers were victims of cybercrime, according to Symantec, a cybersecurity company. That’s more than half of the U.S. adult online population.

Losses totaled $19.4 billion, and each victim had to spend an average of nearly 20 hours cleaning up the aftermath, the company said.

A senior industry analyst with suggests checking online bank and credit card statements at least once a week.

Consumers can get a free credit report from the three major reporting agencies once a year.

“Additionally, some monitoring services allow you unlimited access to your credit information year-round,” says the CPA institute. “These services are there to help you spot inaccuracies, potential fraud and more on your credit report.”

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.