At the time of a transaction, it is important to be familiar with and verify the security features present on each type of card. Detecting fraudulent cards at the time of the transaction can save a lot of time and money for your organization. Here are a few tips:

  • American Express: All cards should start with “34” or “37”
  • Visa: The first digit on the card should always be a “4”
  • MasterCard: The first digit on the card should ways be a “5”
  • Discover: The first digit on the card should always be a “6” 

Front Of The Card

Examine the engraved numbers on the card. If they appear “fuzzy” or there are remnants of other numbers there, the card may have been “flattened” and new numbers embossed.

  • Visa and MasterCard print the first four digits of the number below the imprinted numbers for verification
  • American Express includes a four-digit Card Identification Number above the embossed account number
  • American Express and Discover include a “Member Since” section, as well
  • Visa, MasterCard, and Discover also emboss the last four digits through a hologram (sometimes the MasterCard hologram may appear on the back), which helps detect tampering as it is easy to spot

Here are a few ways to verify holograms:

  • Visa includes a dove that appears to fly when tilted
  • MasterCard shows two interlocked globes with the word “MasterCard” in the background
  • Discover shows a sphere made of interlocking rings with an arrow pointer and the word “Discover” in very small letters

Each card includes the brand’s logo, an expiration date, and the account holder’s name.

  • Visa also includes a “V” near the “Good Thru” date. Ensure that the expiration date is not prior to the current date.
  • Always request an authorization on an expired card- if the Issuer approves the transaction, the sale may proceed.

Back Of The Card

The signature panel is common to all cards, and includes the text “Authorized Signature”, “Not Valid Unless Signed”, or “Cardmember Signature” near the signature panel.

  • Visa, MasterCard, and Discover include the brand name repeating diagonally within the signature panel
  • American Express includes the account number printed inside and should be validated against the embossed account number on the front of the card

Tampering with the signature panel may be indicated if:

  • The word “VOID” is visible instead of the brand name
  • The signature panel is masked by white tape or correction fluid
  • There are other letters faintly visible - indicating the signature has been overwritten or altered


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