Joshua is a functioning adult with plenty of money to spend at TigerDirect, but they don’t want to sell computer parts to him. That’s because he leads sort of a nomadic existence. The billing address for his cards doesn’t match his address history in the various “public records” databases. He could fix all this by sending in his photo ID, a utility bill, anything that proves that he is where he says he lives. But he’s crashing with friends, and that doesn’t get your name on the power bill.
A few months before her wedding, Megan bought her bridesmaids’ dresses at J. Crew, and opened a store credit card account to get 20% off. She scheduled a payment through her bank, Wells Fargo, to pay off the balance, then panicked weeks later when she saw a large chunk of money leaving her bank account that she didn’t remember authorizing. She called to cancel, remembered what the payment was for, then canceled the cancellation. This led Wells Fargo’s fraud-flagging systems to believe that the next time Megan opened a store credit card and paid the bill, they should just go ahead and cancel the payment.
When Cindy purchased her adult daughter’s plane tickets to visit for the holidays, she didn’t realize that United would rather have her just send her daughter the cash. At least, that’s the only logical explanation for the rule she learned about only after the purchase was complete: the credit card used to buy the tickets must be available at check-in. How is Cindy’s daughter supposed to present her credit card?
Jamali is a longtime eBay seller, but his wife isn’t. So he was shocked when his wife went to sell something on her account, and was asked to pay for the shipping ($21) out of pocket while PayPal held on to the money until the transaction was over. Normal auction practice has the buyer send money to the seller, and then the seller ships the item. The buyer can file a chargeback if the item is not as described, never arrives, or if the buyer is a jerk.
Considering the growing amount of credit card fraud, it’s not surprising that banks are becoming more and more vigilant about identifying suspicious transactions. It’s too bad they haven’t been as successful at filtering out false positives or promptly notifying customers, as James Fallows at The Atlantic recently discovered when he got his account frozen for sending files to his Kindle.
Chase’s fraud department apparently thinks that Jake is lying. A few weeks ago, they called him about some suspicious activity on his credit card. Jake and his wife verified that the transactions were neither his nor his wife’s, the Chase representative instructed them to destroy their cards, and that was that. Until a week and a half later, when a fraud specialist called them back to deny their fraud claim, claiming repeatedly that his story “doesn’t jive.”
Online dating has resulted in many happy relationships out here in the real world, but also provides a unique opportunity for different kinds of scammers to quickly gain your confidence and manipulate your emotions in order to get past your normal scam-detecting defenses. So how do you protect yourself?
Listen, HSBC Fraud Department, we need to talk. We know it sounds like a joke, but Phil is actually in Norway. We’re sure people call all the time and navigate your byzantine series of computer menus just to tell you hilariously absurd lies like “I’m leaving the country, here’s my forwarding contact information.” We’re sure labeling every foreign transaction as potential fraud isn’t nearly as fun as caring about the part of Phil’s account notes where it says “Travel advisory: In Norway.” The one joy of this endless runaround, the one nugget worth sharing, is that every time you flag a transaction, Phil gets to call you collect, and calling international collect makes a huge difference…
Here’s a free idea for the taking: why doesn’t a bank (cough HSBC cough) offer the option to have text message alerts sent to a registered phone number any time a withdrawal is made from a specific account via ATM? “$120 was withdrawn at 2:51pm EST in Palo Verde, CA. Reference #293005” See how easy that was? Such exception-based reporting would drastically cut down on fraud (we’re guessing) by enlisting the help of customers to report unauthorized transactions immediately.
Almost every time we write about fraud or identity theft, savvy readers will point out in the comments that many card companies offer temporary credit cards—virtual accounts tied to your real one that expire after one use, or a few days, or after a certain spending limit is reached. We thought it might be a good time to remind readers about these services, as well as password-protected and so-called “anonymous” credit cards.