If I have a faxed approval form why do I lose chargebacks?

Do you take orders over the phone? How can you defend against chargebacks? You’re not going to like the answer I outline below because the burden on merchants is nearly insurmountable.

RULE NUMBER ONE.  You must have a MOTO* merchant account. If you run a card absent transaction on an RETAIL account, you will automatically lose because you won’t be presenting the transaction according to the rules of the merchant account with an in-person signature or pin entry AND card swipe or manual imprint. * MOTO is an abbreviation for mail order / telephone order; Faxed orders fall under this rule as well.

RULE NUMBER TWO: If the payment was made via a web page or ecommerce shopping site, the merchant must have an ECOMMERCE merchant account.

What if you accept credit cards via the internet and MOTO? Ecommerce presentment rules generally include MOTO requirements, but MOTO presentment rules do not include all Ecommerce presentment requirements.  You should read the rules carefully as it applies to your particular situation and NOT rely on this article.

Below are excerpts of the relevant rule from Visa and the condition I most often see cited on merchant chargeback forms. (Other cards have similar language. Please note the Visa International Operations Guidelines book is over 1100 pages so to keep this brief, this is a very narrow look, with text beginning from page 836.  Excerpts may be taken out of context to provide insights and should not be replied upon.

Reason Code 83 Fraud—Card-Absent Environment
Overview: Time Limit: 120 calendar days
Cardholder did not authorize or participate in a Card-Absent Transaction or Transaction was
processed with a Fictitious Account Number or no valid Card was outstanding bearing the Account
Number on the Transaction Receipt.

Chargeback Conditions – Reason Code 83
1. Cardholder did not authorize or participate in a Card-Absent Environment Transaction.

Representment Processing Requirements – Reason Code 83
b. Evidence of Imprint and signature or PIN  (Yes, it really says this under card not present!)
d. For Chargeback Condition 1, compelling evidence that the Cardholder participated in the
Transaction, excluding U.S. Domestic Transactions.


8. Mail/Phone Order or Electronic Commerce Transactions, if both: This provision applies to U.S.
Domestic Transactions (This only applies in the U.S. Region.)
a. Merchandise was shipped or delivered, or services were purchased (This only applies in the
U.S. Region.)
b. Issuer was not a participant in the Address Verification Service on the Transaction Date and
Acquirer received an Address Verification Service response code “U” (This only applies in the
U.S. Region.)

Additional Information – Reason Code 83
1. “Signature on file” notation is not an acceptable signature.
2. Pencil rubbing of the Card or a photocopy of the Card is not considered proof of a valid Imprint.


  • When a merchant account is opened merchants are issued a metal plate with their required merchant account identifying information to use with imprinting forms.  Don’t toss is into a drawer. Buy an imprinter (about $25 from most office supply stores) and some voucher forms, put your plate in and keep it secured but handy in case you need it.  If you don’t know where your plate is, call your processor and ask for a new one. To mitigate risk, run the form through your imprinter, fill in all the information and then send the form to your customer. They must a) rub a pen across it to simulate as if the imprint mechanism ran across it. b) sign the form. This creates additional burdens to the merchant for PCI Compliance, since the imprint would have to be stored for 180 days, the current allowable chargeback time. But think of the burden of proof trail you’ll be able to produce- the form is sent to the customer address, the card must  pass AVS verify (address on card matches address mailed to), and you have a signature.
  • To save time, merchants frequently only partially fill in the form, but this is not sufficient. All fields must be completed and the customer must sign.
  • Ship merchandise with signature required, only to addressee.
  • Shipping address and billing address must match. (You will lose automatically if they don’t unless you have special supporting document signed by the customer stating their desire to have shipped to a 3rd party address.)

Editors note: This article primarily addresses card absent,  not ecommerce.  A merchant solution to help mitigate risk is Cenpos. Here’s a few ways you can use CenPOS tools:

  • Restrict user permissions for transactions.
  • Set additional requirements to pass a transaction over merchant defined thresholds.
  • Set up email alerts for notification of transactions over thresholds.
  • Restrict types of cards accepted and rules for acceptance.

Is a pencil rubbing of the credit card or a photocopy of the credit card OK to defend against chargebacks? Yes, but only if the merchant has an imprint of the card on a credit card voucher form that is fully completed and signed by the customer.

Is a faxed approval form for the charge amount OK to defend against chargebacks? No. The merchant must have an imprint of the card on a credit card voucher form that is fully completed and signed by the customer.


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