Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Bank Hates Me

Now, not only are my Mother, 4th grade teacher, English students, and my husband complaining about my penmanship, it's also my bank.

Apparently, our bank has informed my husband that they will no longer be accepting checks written by me because my signature is too inconsistent.  I'm all about bank safety but this is just ridiculous.  I guess my signature has been straying and straying from the one they have on file to the point that it's not recognizable.

And that is what gets me here. Signatures are SUPER DUPER important in Brazil and they have to be perfect every time.  I practically get stage fright every time I hold a pen.  I have to pump myself up, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!  And sign!

Alright, there is a reason.  There's a lot of theft here and they do, as far as I know, have far less incidences of identity theft in Brazil.  Could you imagine stealing someone's identity here?! It would be hard core. You'd need finger prints, knowledge of their official signature, friends to vouch for any official signature with their registered official signature.  You'd need their CPF (Brazilian version of SS #) and ID, and your first born child as an offering to the Cartorio Gods.

It's not just signatures either. Heaven forbid you misspell a word on a check. Throw it in the trash! No little scribble and re-write.  Trust me, I know. My kids' school has to call me about 50% of the time to come in and re-write tuition checks for some little reason or another. Rachel, there is no U in dois.  Rachel, Rio de Janeiro goes before the date.  Rachel, you tried to only pay us R$2,00. I swear that last one was a mistake.

It's all a bit overwhelming for this girl.  Hell, I used to sign my credit card recipes with different celebrity names just to prove that my US credit card didn't check signatures.  And, you know what, they didn't!  Bob Hope, Jackie O, and Bill Clinton have used my card, just to name a few.

So I guess I'm off to the bank to double check what the official signature is. I'm ADD when it comes to signature.  They change on an hourly basis and basically consist of different levels of scribbles.  Maybe they'll let me do an X, it'll just make all our lives easier.


  1. I haven't even tried to write a check here yet. There are too many rules! Put your phone number on the back?! Make an x in the corner?! The kids school keeps reminding me that we have pay our "deposit" for their registration for next year, and I keep forgetting to tell my husband to take care of it, because I can't figure out how to write a check!!

  2. Or when someone puts a line through their check. Yeah that is also a security thing. It helps with what who knows? But when they do that you can only deposit the check..... depositing checks are annoying in Brazil. It's too long and deposit it Friday. Forget about that baby for a week. I get paid by check once a month..... so this is annoying. My husband complained about my signatures being too different. For me I sign the way every time. Like you said it needs to be perfect. It is stressful.

  3. I actually had to go and redo my official card at the cartorio because some signature on some document (I forget what it was now...) was off. Crazy!

    I try and avoid any situation that requires a signature. It's much easier that way.

    And - the first time we ever paid by check, we had the clerk fill it out for us. No idea what was meant to go where. I also keep a print out of how to spell number words, just in case.

    But, yes, much safer and gives us all things to blog about!

  4. Nina, I have my students do a direct deposit. So much easier! And if they have the same bank, there's no reason to argue because it's free. That or I ask to be paid in cash. But you work for a school, right? They still could direct deposit.

    I was copying the example at the front of my checkbook but I don't like leaving the house with a bunch of checks. And the amount is never the same. Now the secretary at the school offers to write in the amount before I even ask.

  5. Just stumbled across this blog post. I am a Norwegian living in the mountains in the south of MG, close to Itajubá. So far I have not had any problems signing things. But I guess it will come eventually!

    But regarding identity theft - I don't think there is any country in the world where it will be easier. I went to a store to get some tires changed, and they got ready to put my whole life story into their computer. Why on earth do they need to know anything about me to be able to sell me a couple of tires? Marital status, CPF - basically all info needed to perform a solid identity theft. And if I had paid with a check, they would have my signature as well.

    Brazilians never ask why a shop need this kind of information. As soon as the guy started the "interrogation" I said stop and left.

    On top of this, they only accepted debit cards - my Norwegian VISA card was not accepted! I gave my money to a different shop :-)

  6. Svein, I think it's now illegal to ask for you CPF. I never give it. If a sales person insists I suggest they use their own if it's really necessary. If they continue to insist, I leave. I've never actually made it out the door before they came up with a solution.

    If you live outside a big city, using different cards and such can be hard. Once traveling through little beach cities in the N.E of Brazil, my husband and I neglected to take out more cash. We figured we could get it in the next town. The one machine was broken and we were left with 1 check and 10 reais. We had to figure out how to eat and pay for the pousada and how to pay to get to the next town. We ended up using the 10 reais for the pousada (cheap and beautiful place) and the check for dinner. We hired some guy to drive us to a town where a close friend of my husband lived and had him pay until we got cash. I learned to be more prepared!

  7. Nina,

    The two lines drawn against a check is not a security matter, it only makes sure the check can be deposited "only" and NOT "cashed" which will give the person writting the check a few more days before those funds are actually drawn from the checking account.
    People usually do it if they are making a "Check" payment today and their paycheck is being deposited tomorrow. That gives them the extra 24 hours assurance that no one will be able to run to a teller window and withdraw that money from your checking account right away.


    I am a Brazilian living in the US for 13 years now, and when I go back home I get extremelly irritated when people ask me for my CPF and I am just buying underwear!! Please give me a break! They do drive me bananas...
    However, I need to remind myself that due to Brazilian law and the Banking system, the consumer really have no worries or fear of identity theft.
    It is the responsibility of the Banking industry and retailers to properly identify it's costumers, that is why they are picky about signatures accuracy and such.
    So, if someone get's hold of your CPF, they can't do much harm with it and if they do, too bad for the bank or institution who felt for it.
    I have been paranoid about my American SS#, identity theft is a reality in the US and it is up to the individual to protect it's identity, but I need to remind myself to relax when I am in Brazil.
    Sao Paulo state has a program that actually rewards taxpayers who give their CPF number when making a purchase, it helps the state crack down on companies to make sure they pay the proper amount of taxes owed to the state and make no creative accounting what-so-ever.
    My Brother actually receives almost R$2000,00 (Two Thousand Reais) per year on the state rewards program, trust me, he gives his CPF number everywhere he goes, Grocery Store, Gas Stations, the Corner Bakery EVERYWHERE, it pays off.
    It still get's on my nerves, I understand your frustation.

    Take care


  8. Ray,

    It does not really help to blame banks etc. AFTER your identity has been stolen and misused. In the mean time problems will be twoering and you will spend the next couple of years trying to clear it up.

    So better make sure there is less info available for anyone to use.


  9. It is true what you say about US banks and their total lack of check security. I have signed "mickey mouse", "Santa Claus" and simply placed an "X" on the signature line of US checks to prove my point. I used to use a nice phrase on each cable TV check, abbreviated "FU".

    It isn't that the cost of the banks examining each check exceeds the loss from forged checks. Rather, they had the laws written so that it is up to you as the customer to examine each and every check you write since the funds come out of your account, and report any issue promptly. How you do so when the banks keep your cancelled checks is problematic, and most banks now charge you to send you your cancelled checks. Such is banking in the US unless you have an online account with checking.