Update: It turns out the call was legit.
American Express—assuming that’s who Brandon called back—has apparently never heard of social engineering scams, considering how they verified Brandon’s address the other night. You’d hope a credit card company would help educate its customers to be wary of giving out information over the phone, but the alleged Amex rep on the phone with Brandon demanded personal info and threatened to deactivate the card if he didn’t comply.
I recently opened a charge account with American Express. I saw it as a way to not get into credit card debt and wanted the extended warranties, consumer protection, etc. that comes with the card. I had been very happy with my new Amex card, until last Friday. I was driving from my home in Dallas to Houston to visit family, and was somewhere in the middle of Texas, when at 8:45 PM, I got a call from Amex. All I hear from the guy on the line is “Hello this is so-and-so with American Express” and then my phone dropped the call (ATT). I was worried it was something serious since the call was coming in so late, fraud or something of that sort, so I called the number back. It reconnected me with Amex customer service. After going through the identification checks, I asked the woman on the line what the call had been in regards to.
She told me that Amex always called their customers within sixty days of a new account being activated to verify that they were who they said they were and they had given Amex a proper address. I was a little suprised that they were doing so at 9pm in the evening. When I said this to the woman, she seemed unphased and said it was company policy. She then told me that we needed to contact my bank to verify my address. At this point I was really shocked. “Most banks aren’t open at 9pm,” I said to the women. “Many bank across the country are open late on Fridays. At what bank do you have your primary account?” she responded. I told her that that I didn’t really think this was necessary at 9pm in the evening while I was on the Interstate. She then told me that if I didn’t verify my card, I would not be able to use it. “It’ll only take three to five minutes.” I relented and she called my bank, Citi.
The Amex woman put me on hold for a few minutes, and when she came back on the line, she had a woman from Citibank customer service with her. The Citibank woman had no idea what was going on. At first she also thought it was some sort of fraud situation, and seemed genuinely shocked when the Amex woman explained their address verification policy to her. After going through Citibank’s lengthy phone verification process, I was told by the Amex woman that I had to ask the Citibank representative to tell me that address they had on file. At this point, I became nervous that this was some sort of fraud attempt. I demanded that the Amex representative somehow verify who she was. She could not. I then told her I was tired of going giving out my personal information on a three-way phone call, and refused to do so anymore. She then threatened to shut off my card. I relented again and asked the Citibank representative to verify my address. She did, and it was the same one Amex had on file. The Citibank representative apologized before she got off the phone for any inconvenience (they’ve been great since the partial-nationalization), and wished me a great weekend. At this point the conversation witht he Amex representative had gone on for over fifteen minutes. The Amex representative asked me if there was anything else she could do for me; I told her to put a note in my file to never call me again after 6PM central time unless it concerned fraud, and hung up.
Later I asked a friend who has had her Amex for three years if they had ever done this to her. They hadn’t. Maybe it’s some sort of new recession-era policy. Regardless, it certainly tarnished my view of American Express’ supposedly sterling reputation.
(Photo: faith goble)