20 minutes a month

20 minutes a month

This monthly feature, suggested this time by Mike Stollenwerk of Fairfax County, Va., advises you how to protect your own privacy, by taking 20 minutes a month.

Credit-card company rules require merchants to accept a card charge without demanding additional ID or other information as long as the signature on the back of the card bears a “reasonable likeness” to the signature you provide on the credit slip. Report merchants requiring additional ID (or setting a minimum charge) to MasterCard at www.mastercard.com/cgi-bin/contactus.cgi?template=contactusmv&rgn=1.

However, American Express allows some firms like WalMart and K-Mart to require you to provide your billing address Zip code in a digital keypad.

In CA, DE, DC, FL, GA, KA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, ND, PA, RI, and WI, it is illegal for merchants to record any extra information on credit slips like phone numbers, addresses, or ID numbers. (Virginia prohibits retailers from disclosing any information like this without consent.)

However, when you order over the Internet or by phone, merchants are allowed to ask you your billing address to verify the charge without seeing the card. (A billing address may be a box number or somewhere other than your residence). Merchants use the Address Verification System (AVS) to verify the customer’s credit card. But AVS works across the U.S. and Canada by matching only Zip codes. So unless you are having goods shipped to your billing address, you can conceal your billing address by giving a fictitious street and city address along with your correct billing Zip code and state. You may especially want to do this if your billing address is your home.

Don’t use American Express at the counter (except in the states listed above), to avoid in-store collection of Zip codes and other data.

Decline to disclose any information to be written on credit slips. If a line is provided for phone numbers or other data, cross it out.

Copyright Privacy Journal Oct 2003

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved