Why Does Tiger Direct Want My ID And Utility Bill?

We get a lot of readers asking us about the rights and wrongs of when you should and shouldn’t show your ID when making a purchase. But it’s a rare occasion when someone writes in to share a story of having an online retailer asking to see ID.

Consumerist reader Justin says he recently attempted to buy a Lenovo S-10 laptop from online electronics store Tiger Direct. But he ran into some trouble when he
A) tried to use PayPal for the transaction;
B) asked to have the computer sent to his college address.

Justin’s tale in his own words:

Within 2 hours I receive a call from PayPal. They wanted to know if I authorized the payment. I confirmed that I did, and they were satisfied. Since I don’t normally buy 200+ dollar items with my PayPal, I understood this as a precaution and It didn’t bother me.

Then this morning I received a phone call from Tiger Direct. They wanted to know if I lived at the shipping address. I told them I did, and verified the address that they had as correct and that I was the one placing the order. Then they said I would need to verify further that I indeed lived at that address, I would have to submit documentation (a photo ID and a utility bill) for my shipment address, or else I’d have to have the package sent to my billing address.

At this point the order crossed the line — I’m fine with verifying unusual transactions via phone. But I do not wish to submit a photo ID or utility bill (I have roommates, so most aren’t even in my name — the ones that are I receive electronically) to Tiger-Direct. This seems a greater privacy violation than a clerk asking to see photo ID for a credit card transaction, and a much greater hassle than any other online retailer has put me through.

We attempted to contact Tiger Direct by phone and e-mail to find out whether it was their policy to ask for further confirmation on all orders shipped to a non-billing address, or if this also had to do with PayPal. Here’s what they ultimately wrote back:

For the safety and security of our first time customers, our order verification department will require them to verify the billing information that they have submitted for their placed order on our website. Also, if an existing customer decides to use another card different from the one that we have on file, they will need to verify the billing information as well. This procedure is done to ensure that we can avoid fraudulent activities and unwanted purchases using the information of the original card/account holders.

Ultimately it didn’t matter to Justin, who canceled his order with Tiger Direct and bought the computer through Amazon, where he had an existing account.

Was Tiger Direct asking for too much in verifying the ID and address? Could there have been a less intrusive way for them to confirm the info?