NewsNet experiment shows ID cards open to fraud

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Losing a BYU ID card may cause more than an identity crisis. A NewsNet experiment indicated it may also bring on financial loss.

In multiple trips to the BYU Bookstore, the Cougareat, the Harold B. Lee Library, the Cannon Center, Campus Craft and Floral and computer labs, NewsNet staff writers used

(under owner supervision) other students’ cards.

The staff writers were able to purchase almost $50 worth of various goods, check books out of the library and make computer printouts and photocopies. Not once were they prevented from performing these activities.

At the BYU Bookstore, a male staff writer used a female staff writer’s card to purchase a $12.95 book. Two male staff writers also bought meals at Taco Bell in the Cougareat using female writers’ cards. A female staff writer purchased a meal at Subway in the Cougareat, about $6 worth of merchandise at Campus Craft and Floral and about $6 worth of merchandise at the BYU Bookstore.

A male staff writer tried to use a female’s card at the BYU Bookstore and was stopped because the card reader was not working. And in two different trips to the Lee Library, male and female staff writers were able to use a female writer’s card to check out books and make computer printouts and photocopies.

Only once, in the library, did any employee say the name on the card. But the Lee Library employee just looked at the name on the card and did not prevent the staff writer from checking out the book, despite the ID picture being different.

Amanda Pousard, 18, a freshman from Los Angeles, majoring in elementary education, allowed staff writers to make purchases in the Cannon Center using the Dining Plus option on her card. She was not surprised the staff writers were able to use her card.

“Most of the time they just run it through,” she said.

Pousard said the only time an employee checked her card was when her roommate tried to purchase shakes for both of them.

Pousard said she thought the employee checked only because her roommate was holding two different cards.

Representatives from the Cougareat, the BYU Bookstore and the Lee Library said those organizations train their employees to check IDs.

“From our standpoint, (employees) are supposed to at least look at the card and get a signature if (the purchase) is over $20,” said Dennis Lindberg, assistant director over operations and training at the BYU Bookstore. “The ID card is not transferrable; that’s basically what checkers are taught.”

An employee at the Cougareat’s Scoreboard Grill said she does not check cards when she is busy.

“Whenever someone uses Signature Card or Dining Plus, they are supposed to check the picture to make sure it matches,” she said. “If it’s really busy, it’s more difficult to check ID pictures.”

Also, many of the pictures are fading or people look different than their pictures, she said.

Lindberg agreed the pictures on the ID cards do not always match up to the card’s owners. But he said employees still need to check.

“If that’s not working, we just need to reemphasize that,” he said.

Mary O’Neill, Cougareat assistant manager, said the Cougareat plans to “tighten (their) own house” to better secure students’ cards.

O’Neill said at least once every semester a lost or stolen card is used in the Cougareat.

Jim Barrett, head of training for the Signature Card Office, said he estimated about eight cards total are illicitly used in a year.

“It’s very, very small compared to other universities. People here are very honest,” he said.

O’Neill said the Cougareat is following a case where a student reported that debits had been made when the student was not using the card. The student asked the Cougareat to make sure no one tried to use his Social Security number to buy food without presenting a picture ID.

“We try to be cautious, but at the same time, we don’t want to be overly concerned with it. You can’t always take the low road,” said Susie Quartey, Lee Library assistant department chair of access services.

Every source agreed the best way to prevent theft is for students to immediately report lost or stolen cards.

If a student loses a card, the first step to protect it is to call the BYU ID Center. Lost cards from all over campus come there, usually within a week. If the card is not in the ID Center, the student must contact the Signature Card Office to get a lock put on the card. (Anyplace with a clerk can also establish the lock.) The ID Center can help the student call the Signature Card Office.

If a student finds his or her card, the student can call and get the lock taken off. If the student replaces the card, the old one becomes invalid.

“If you lose a card and call within a day or so, we’re going to protect your funds,” Barrett said.

The longer a student waits to call the Signature Card Office, the less the office will reimburse. But each case is individual, Barrett said, and if a student did not know the card was lost, the Signature Card Office will help.

“We’re basically here to help students,” he said.

O’Neill said students should also check their card balances frequently.

Barrett said the Signature Card Office has a high recovery rate on fraudulent card use.

“Every time the card is swiped, it leaves an audit trail across campus,” he said.

This trail allows the Signature Card office to trace who might have the card, based on where it is used.

“One thing we’ve really encouraged people to do is that if they think they’ve lost their card, call us, and we’ll turn it off. If they find it, we’ll turn it on, and there’s no fee. It’s a simple, simple phone call,” Barrett said.

But Pousard said she does not know what to do if she loses her ID card.

“I’m not really sure. I haven’t lost it,” she said. “I guess you just sign your name or something.”

The phone number for the ID Center is 378-5092. The Signature Card Office phone number is 378-3866.

Students can have up to $1,000 on their Signature Cards, but most have far less, Barrett said.

ID cards are used for copiers, printing, computer labs, the BYU Bookstore, Dining Services locations, vending machines, on-campus laundry facilities, access into buildings, all retail outlets, the library, concessions, the Testing Center and the Varsity Theatre, to name a few.

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