Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Credit Card Activation

I activated three credit cards yesterday. I noted some interesting differences in the processes used for each card.

CitiBank business - This was the only activation process that did not offer to give me instructions in Spanish. It seems that they are assuming that someone holding a business credit card speaks English. I had to punch in my entire card number and my entire social security number. Activation was fully automated, and the call ended after I was activated.

CitiBank personal - I punched in my card number and the number of cards I was activating. Next I was transfered to a person who asked how many cards I was activating (again!). Then she tried to sell me credit insurance, which just annoyed the heck out of me. After all, I had already received a pitch in the envelope with my card -- I didn't want or need to hear it from her. She even countered my first refusal with a second pitch. This was the only activation that required human interaction, and apparently it was only to try to sell me something.

LL Bean (MBNA) - I was asked to punch only the last four digits* of my card number. I was not asked how many cards I was activating, although I had received three. Here's the disturbing part: two came in one envelope and one came in another. So if I had received only one of the envelopes and activated the card, someone else would have had my other activated credit card(s). This was the only activation process that sent me into the regular call system with current balance, available credit, etc. after it was finished.

I was surprised that none asked for the three-digit security code on the signature strip. Plus, only one asked for any part of my social security number. If all they use is card number and home phone number, that isn't very secure. They tell you to call from home, and I assume they determine phone number via caller I.D., which is relatively easy to fake nowadays (I can't imagine them doing an FBI-style trace to verify that the call is coming from your home address). Someone intercepts your credit card in the mail, uses your name to look up your phone number, and tells the caller I.D. it's calling from your number. A thief could rack up thousands in charges while you're scratching your head and wondering why your cards haven't come yet.

* I worked with a woman who claimed that the last four digits of your credit card uniquely identify you. Apparently she came to this conclusion because her credit card company asked for only those digits. It was so ridiculous that I didn't even bother to argue. This woman was being billed out to a client at $125/hour to design software, and yet she lacked the logic skills to figure out that a company could issue just 9,999 cards if those four digits were the only ones that mattered! This was the same woman who wantonly abused the word "literally." Once I overheard her tell a friend, "I literally died." Hallelujah, she must have been resurrected!


Tom said...

If you use a 800 number it doesn't get the caller information from caller ID. Since they are paying for the call they get the information from ANI. This predates caller ID. ANI cannot be spoofed as easily as caller ID. Doing so would probably require hacking the phone switch.

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