Why Credit Card Fraud Protection Sucks
Well I can’t really say that credit card fraud protection sucks, but it sure can be a pain in the ass. Before I left for Egypt I called my credit card companies and my bank AND my cell phone company to tell them about my travel plans for the next 3 months or so. I sat through the boring phone calls, transfers, and verifications like the responsible traveler I (sometimes) am. At least I didn’t wait until the day of my flight to Paris to get my Eurail pass, but that’s another story.
No one wants their credit card to be stolen. Well, maybe some weirdo out there does, but I know I don't.
So I thought all was well and good with the credit cards until I found out that I received a letter warning me about fraudulent charges. Not an email, a letter. Citi sends me about 10 emails a week about discounts on heart worm medication, AARP specials, children’s Halloween costumes and all kinds of other inbox clutter that’s completely useless to me, but the ONE email that I would like to receive they send via snail mail. And a letter that has to do with fraudulent activity at that. Call me crazy, but I feel like most people who are using their credit card overseas aren’t flipping through their mail at home everyday. So far: minus two points for bad mail choice, but plus one for giving USPS some business – overall, negative one point on the Max credit-card-company-scale.
Introducing: The Customer-Service-Bot
I call the toll free number to figure out what the deal is with these fraudulent charges. I was sure it was one of my purchases in Egypt (even though I gave Citi the low-down) but it’s still a bit worrying to hear about fraudulent charges. After a few rounds of simple verification and number reading I find out that the red flag went up when I tried to buy tickets online for EgyptAir.
“I called before I left to let you guys know that I was going to be in Egypt,” I told the monotone Russian/Jamaican/robot woman.
“Until December 15th?” She asked.
You knew the whole time?? “Yes, December 15th.” Minus 5 points.
“Okay, thank you Mr. Greenhood, we’re going to need to further verify your identity.” I guess the credit card number, secret question, and the fact that I was calling to find out why I got the letter to my house wasn’t enough. “I’m going to read you some credit card purchases for you to identify. Don’t worry, they’ll be significant amounts that you should be able to recall. All you have to do is tell me the name of the business where the purchase was made”
Never had to do this before, but I’d made some purchases over $100 that I was pretty sure I’d remember. “Okay, go ahead.”
Things No One on Earth Would, or Should, Ever Remember
“Great, how about this purchase made on September 4th. Location: Newport News, Virginia. Amount: four dollars and seventeen cents. Category: fast food restaurant.”
I couldn’t hold back a laugh. That emotionless robot voice wasn’t helping. “Umm, I have absolutely no idea.” Minus 5 points for thinking I would remember that, plus two for being unwittingly funny. Negative nine so far. “Are there any bigger amounts? I know I made a $250 purchase in August…“
“Okay, let’s try another one.” I assumed she had something more memorable than the $250 charge I was trying to tell her about. “September 6th. Location: Mechanicsville, Virginia. Amount: three dollars and sixty-three cents. Category: service station.” She clarified to help jog my memory, “Probably a gas station.” Minus two points for the same mistake, minus another two for thinking “probably a gas station” would help me in any way. I was more likely to remember the fast food than this.
I didn’t know if she’s a minor-purchase memory freak, or if three or four dollars are significant purchases wherever call center robots are from, but it was starting to look like I was going to be on the phone for awhile. “Not sure about that one either, there are a lot of different gas stations. About that $250 charge, I’m pretty sure it was in August.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Greenhood, but that one won’t work.” I didn’t bother asking. I then realized that I was actually excited to hear what meaningless charge she would pick next. “How about this one.” Here it comes… “September 7th. Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia. Amount: seventeen dollars and twelve cents. Category: entertainment.”
Ahh, come on! At least it was more than $5. I thought I might have a chance at this one. Entertainment… I saw a movie… Was it the movie? I think it was a Regal Theater… “Regal Cinemas?” I had been on the phone for nearly half an hour at this point. I think she was at somewhere around negative thirteen points.
Victory at Last
“Yes, that’s correct.” Ding! Ding! Ding! I did a little dance in my head. Plus three for making your questions a dumb little memory game for me. Minus five for making me play a dumb little memory game when I just wanted to get my credit card to work.
Overall my Russian Jamaican robot friend with no common sense won herself negative fifteen points on the Max scale of routine administrative phone calls! All in all, I can’t say that credit card fraud protection sucks. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s pretty awesome. It gets triggered for large international purchases made online (where most fraudulent activity occurs), and I got a free surprise “see if you can remember… this!” game when I called in. After all, entertainment is pretty expensive these days. And as a recent college grad with negative income I’ll take all the free stuff I can get.