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The Credit Card Prank

By John Hargrave

How crazy would I have to make my signature before

someone would actually notice?

In my lifetime, I have made nearly 15,000 credit card

transactions. I purchase almost everything on plastic. What bugs
me about credit card transactions is the signing. Who checks the
signature? Nobody checks the signature.

Credit card signatures are a useless mechanism designed to

make you feel safe, like airport security checks. So my question
was, how crazy would I have to make my signature before
someone would actually notice? Here is the actual signature on
my credit card:

You can see that I already have the signature of a monkey on

crack. Here is the way it looks when I don't have to sign in a
space one-quarter of an inch high:
I am an arteest, and my signature must reflect that. But how
arteestic could I get before someone will notice?

Part II

On the topic of credit card signatures, ZUG reader Fronzel

Neekburm recently shared this anecdote:

I don't sign my credit cards. Once I went to check into a

hotel and the girl checked the back of the card and said it
wasn't signed. I signed it there in front of her, and she
checked it with the register receipt I also signed in front of

I spent several weeks seeing how wacky I could make my

signature before someone would pay attention. Again, my regular
signature, which looks like that of a homeless clown:

First, I decided to get a little artistic.

Then I decided to get wicked artistic.

You have no idea how strange it is to have the teenage counter

clerk at Bertucci's watching you scribble fiercely on a piece of
paper, as if you wished to purge the evil that is your signature.
Then I smiled and handed him back his pen.

Next time I bought something that required a signature, I

considered just creating a rectangle of solid black. Then I thought
a grid might be weirder:

Only the most Matrix-obsessed fanboy would actually use a grid

for his signature, but the chick at the Cheesecake Factory didn't
look twice. I mean, I didn't even have on a trenchcoat.

What if I went the other way? How minimal would my signature

have to be before someone would notice?

Part III

Again for reference: my regular signature, which looks like it was

drawn by an unusually talented chicken.
Next I tried the old standby, "X." I was kind of nervous about this
one, and had a long story prepared about how I had recently
been involved in a motorcycle accident, and during my sixteen
months in traction had only been able to sign with an X, a
signature which grew on me. At the last minute, I chickened out
and added an additional squiggly. I don't know why I was
concerned; I was just buying a beer at Jillian's.

Signing X, incidentally, is not a bad idea -- it's quick and easy,

and if someone wants you to "sign on the X," it's already signed.

Next, I took a suggestion from ZUG reader Nutbutter, and tried

signing with a stick figure. Before the server came back to my
table, though, I decided it looked too lonely, so I tried drawing a
little landscape. I forgot that I have the artistic ability of a piece of
(That thing that looks like a penis is supposed to be a flower.)

Finally, I know of no law that says your signature has to be in your

own alphabet. So I found a website which converted my name to
Egyptian hieroglyphics. Although "John Hargrave" was too long to
remember, "John" was just snake, bird, caterpillar:
The counter clerk at the salon was busy with a phone call, and
didn't notice. On my way out the door, I realized it would have
been funnier if I had signed it "Ra." Which got me to thinking:
what if I didn't even sign with my own name?

Part IV

Once more, my regular signature, which looks like it was drawn

by a freebasing weasel:

So far, I had tried altering my signature in a number of ways, but

what if I didn't even sign my own name? First, I lobbed a slow
The waitress at the restaurant didn't say anything, probably
because I am mistaken for Mariah Carey all the time. Except for
the goatee and the back hair, we are like twins.

Next I decided to try:

The composer or the dog; you decide.

I cheated on this one, leaving it on the table and high-tailing it

out of there. I expected a phone call from someone, maybe
Beethoven's Hollywood agent, but once again I discovered that
no one cared. Except, possibly, Lassie, who could use the

Drunk with power, I signed this on my next grocery shopping trip:

I think that's a somewhat effiminate signature for the leader of
the gods, but I was in a hurry. The kid at the Trader Joe's looked
strangely at the receipt, then back up at me, as if to say, "Are you
really him?" I trucked out of there before he could ask, and in my
haste to escape, nearly ran over an eight year-old standing in the
doorway. I apologized, which was a dead giveaway, since the real
Zeus would have just fried the kid with lightning. I'm such a fake

Where could I go from here? The readers of ZUG had some


Part V

A final look at my normal signature, which looks like it was drawn

by an epileptic ferret:

Having tried every wacky signature I could think up, next I went
to the ZUG audience for suggestions. Many folks said they wrote
"PLEASE CHECK ID" on the back of their credit cards, but what if I
tried writing that on the credit card receipt itself?

See, it's the line at the end that fooled the supermarket clerk into
thinking it was a signature. You put the line at the end, you can
forge anything.

ZUG reader Jellytot said:

I signed a credit card receipt "Mickey Mouse" in Disneyland

once because I was fed up with not having the signature
checked. I never paid for the item. I still don't know what
happened, it just never showed up on my statement.

I signed this bookstore purchase "Porky Pig," but I did have to pay
for it. So maybe that trick only works in Disneyland.
Finally, ZUG reader Chouggy suggested:

Try signing the slip as: I stole this card.

I'm thinking of changing my name to "I Stole This Card." It's got a
nice ring to it, and boy, wouldn't my mom be confused when I
sent her a Mother's Day card?

So there you have it. Nobody cares how you sign your credit card
receipts, so go nuts, everybody. Just don't sign my name. When
MasterCard finally reads this, I'm going to be in enough trouble as
it is.

If you enjoyed The Credit Card Prank, you should definitely read
The Credit Card Prank II, in which John Hargrave commits even
more exciting fraud.

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