Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Credit Card Caution Hurts!

When you are told to be cautious using credit cards online, and you follow that advice, somehow you are doing the wrong thing.

Here is what happened to me so take note.

I was paying a bill online with a credit card, through the merchant's own website.  After I put in my credit card number, a window pops up with the words, "Visa Verification," or something like that.

It was asking for my social security number,  a "no no" as far as I am concerned.  I ignored it and continued to submit my payment.

In the meantime, I had used that same card to call in payments that day for various invoices I had received.

A few days later, I had received an email from American Express, www.americanexpress.com, offering a free credit score and credit report, which I took advantage of right away.  When I read my credit report, I noticed that this one particular credit card was closed and all the credit history with it, was just gone. I did start to worry and was going to call my credit card company later that day.  Very interesting to say the least.

In the meantime, I went out and when I used my card in a local store, I was told the card was declined.  They tried twice, but the same message came through and I had to use another card.

Now I am totally perplexed and called my credit card company.  The system was down for 16 hours, I am told, and need to call back tomorrow.  Can you guess how angry I am at this moment?  There was nothing, even after speaking with a supervisor, that they could do until the system was back up running.

First thing in the morning, I called the credit card company.  I finally found out that this all stemmed from my not inputing my social security number in that "pop-up" window the day I was paying my bill.  They claimed that by not doing it, they assumed the charge was fraudulent and closed down my card. This is another layer of protection for the consumer, they said. Why, I asked, did they not even notice that I make this same exact payment every single month?

To add salt to my wound, they said they called my home, but no one answered.  Well, I was on vacation and I asked why they did not send an email to my address on file.  I get emails all the time from them but yet they couldn't manage to send one to me for such an important matter.

The rep said that she was re-instating my card immediately, but it would take 5-6 business days for me to access my account online.  That was unacceptable, so I asked for a supervisor.  Of course the supervisor got in touch with the IT department and had it working in 2 minutes.

If this new procedure is to make online credit card use more secure, why did they not send out a mass email, or mailing, or notification on the monthly bill, to alert the consumers to follow this "pop-up" window instead of thinking it was fraudulent?  The supervisor said that my suggestion of a notification makes sense and that she may not have given up her social security number either had she been asked to supply it online.  This is the moment where you just need to say, "Duh!"

My advice is not to give up any information to these requests without first checking with your credit card company - assuming yours is as inept as mine was in this situation. 

By the way, they are also sending a report to the Credit Bureau to fix my report.

All in the name of caution!

For a copy of your credit report, free one time per year, go to:  www.annualcreditreport.com


Unknown said...

Thanks, Shelley, as always another really helpful piece of advice.

Letters From Summer Camp said...

that is crazy! i'd never put in my social security #!

Carol B. said...

A very helpful experience to share - thanks, Shell! I will be on the alert!