There was a time when your signature on a piece of paper meant something. Don’t worry, the value of your good name isn’t going anywhere, but the function of your signature as proof of your identity is changing as technology evolves.

American Express has announced that it will stop requiring signatures on credit card purchases beginning next April. What would prompt a company to strip away this added measure of security? Mostly it stems from the fact that better security tactics have come along that make your signature unnecessary. A signature is no match for things like chip credit cards, PIN numbers, mobile wallets, and two-factor authentication. Consumer alerts also give credit card holders immediate notification if an unusual purchase or card-not-present transaction has taken place, letting them take action right away.

Now, for those of us “old school” credit card users, letting go of the signature might seem scary at first. But there are so many better security protocols—and easier ways that a scammer can steal your data—to worry about then a signature. Still not convinced? Here are some things you can do to help protect your accounts:

1. Sign up for alerts

There are a variety of notification requests you can initiate on your credit or debit card, depending on your financial institution. You can opt to receive them as an email or as a text message, and you can often customize them for unusual activity, card-not-present activity (which would mean someone had used just your stolen number which they could have accessed in a large-scale data breach), and more. You’ll be notified the second a transaction goes through and can verify it or report it.

2. Monitor your statements

You receive some kind of credit card statement each month, either emailed or through the postal service. But are you opening those statements and really taking a look? First, it will help you spot suspicious activity on that specific account, but with several financial institutions now including your FICO score on your statement each month, you can investigate further if you see a sudden increase or decrease in your score. That could be an indication that someone has opened a new line of credit in your name.

3. Two-factor authentication

Some banks are already offering two-factor authentication on credit card and debit card purchases. Yes, it’s mildly inconvenient to enable two-factor authentication, but it can save you a headache down the road if it keeps someone out of your accounts. One-factor would be the physical card itself, while a second factor would be a PIN number, fingerprint, or some other unique code. It can even be a text message sent to your phone that is generated for every single transaction, meaning a thief would have to have your card and your unlocked phone in order to make a purchase.

However you choose to protect yourself, it’s important to take this seriously. Identity theft and fraud are damaging crimes that can affect anyone, so better proactive awareness can minimize the harm in the long run.


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