Security And Convenience

It’s one of the most embarrassing moments of modern life. Fortunately I was at the automatic checkout, so no-one noticed. My credit card was declined.

Not a big deal, it was a small purchase, only $4.55. I had a debit card and another credit card available. But it shouldn’t have happened. My credit card bill is paid in full each month. We were just back from vacation and I pay cash when traveling. There certainly couldn’t be much outstanding, the card should have worked.

You know the routine I followed next. The phone call, the waiting on hold, the security questions to prove my identity. Then doing the whole thing over again as I was transferred to Security. Seems there was a problem with my card.

My account was frozen because unauthorized activity had been detected. No money had changed hands; the very first attempt had been deemed suspicious, and all subsequent ones were rejected. For that I suppose I should be thankful: I don’t have to spend time straightening things out and explaining I couldn’t possibly have made the fraudulent purchases.

I do though question why I was not informed my account was frozen. It’s not as if the bank doesn’t know where to find me. Why should I have to discover the hard way that my credit card is useless? Why does a financial institution decide that allowing potential embarrassment takes precedence over good customer service?

Each week I get emails, supposedly from financial institutions, telling me my accounts have been compromised. Usually it is for a bank I have no relationship with, which makes it easy to identify it as bogus. The fraudsters want me to click on the link, which takes me to a site that imitates the bank’s website. Fill out the form there and my problems are over. That is the theory anyway. Of course if I did that I would soon discover that the information I provided was enough to allow them to clean out my bank account and steal my identity. I’m not stupid enough to fall for that. Given the proliferation of such emails I can only conclude that many people are.

If I received an email from my bank telling me my account was frozen, I would call them in response to verify its authenticity. There are too many scammers out there for me to be trusting.

After some thought I figured out how my number came to be in the possession of thieves. I’m very careful with such information, and didn’t see how anything I had done could have caused a security breach. However, I am not the only one with my credit card information. Anyone I do business with has the number. Last month a merchant who has my card number n file suffered a security breach. Thousands of credit card records were stolen. That, I would say, is how it happened.

To completely protect yourself online takes more effort than most of us are willing to put in. We trust that the “system” will protect us, as long as we don’t do anything stupid. Most of the time that works. The risk of a security breach and the attendant hassle are part of the convenience of using a credit card – and most of us opt for the convenience.

So I will receive a new credit card in the mail. It will take a few days. I do have my backup card (different financial institution). Or I may just try this newfangled payment system I’ve heard of. It’s called cash. It doesn’t seem to work online though.

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One comment

  1. […] credit card woes pale in comparison with those suffered by millions of people this past couple of weeks. There are […]

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