Yes. It’s true. Banks are really concerned about your welfare. They care about you. They care about you as much as any corporate institution can care. Most importantly bank institutions care about you so much they will go to great lengths to make sure you and their money is ok. And for that we should be thankful. Down on our knees thankful. Unless, of course, banks decide to freeze your credit card for dubious reasons that only seem to benefit them and not necessarily benefit their customers. Which brings me to the following worst-rant.
One of my two credit cards was frozen today. I’m traveling far away from Eurowasteland and don’t you just hate it when some bimbo working behind a retail counter yells: yer cahrd’s bean de-nyed, sir. Yeah, that’s irritating. So you go home and start the tumultuous task of figuring out why, when you are liquid, when you don’t have any debt whatsoever, the powers-that-be at mastercard freeze your life. And you know what they told me? Don’t bother putting on your worst-thinking-cap for this one, dear worst-reader. Here we go.
Customer Service Rep: Thank you for calling today, sir. (Short pause after answering obligatory account questions.) Well, sir. Our records show that you might (customer service rep italics) have made a purchase in Canada today.
Worst-Moi: I’m on the eastern shore of MD. I just tried to use my card to pay for dinner and I may have forgotten to leave a tip.
Customer Service Rep: Oh, yes, sir. I can see that here. Yes. We froze your card just prior to that purchase attempt.
Worst-Moi: But why? Do you know how embarrassing it is to have your card denied in a public place like that? Before that my card was denied at a retail store, too.
Customer Service Rep: Our records show that perhaps someone was trying to access your card in Canada last night. Were you in Canada last night?
Worst-Moi: In Canada? Last night? Gee, let me think… No.
Customer Service Rep: Have you given a copy of your card to someone that might be in Canada?
Customer Service Rep: Yes, sir. Our records show that someone at Target Canada has charged approximately five hundred euros on your card.
Worst-Moi: Well take it off. I’m not in Canada. And I don’t shop at Target.
Customer Service Rep: Yes. I can see on caller I.D. that you’re not at this moment in Canada.
Worst-Moi: Well. Take the charge off. I’m not authorizing it.
Customer Service Rep: You have thirty days to revoke the charge. Shall I transfer you to a representative to revoke the charge?
Worst-Moi: What? Yes. Of course. Wait!
Customer Service Rep: Yes, sir.
Worst-Moi: Will I then be able to use my card again?
Customer Service Rep: The card has been frozen sir. We will have to send you another card.
Worst-Moi: Can you send it to me here?
Customer Service Rep: We will send it to your registered address, sir.
Worst-Moi: That’s three thousand miles away. I won’t be there for another two weeks.
Customer Service Rep: If you require, sir. I can unfreeze your card for approximately two hours. That way you can close any hotel costs that you may have.
Worst-Moi: So you know I’m traveling?
Customer Service Rep: Yes. It would seem that way.
Worst-Moi: You also know I’m not in Canada.
Customer Service Rep: It would seem that way, sir.
Worst-Moi: Then you also know that I’m not in a hotel. For your records, I’m staying at my mothers house. You can send the new card to me here.
Customer Service Rep: You card is registered at one address, sir. That address is not in the United States.
Worst-Moi: So you know I’m not in Canada. Well, then. Don’t allow anymore charges from Canada. I won’t be going there. Then unfreeze the card for me now or send me a new one to the address that I can provide you.
Customer Service Rep: I’m sorry, sir, but we are not authorized to be told what to do by you.
Worst-Moi: So I’m stuck with a frozen card?
Customer Service Rep: Do you have another form of payment, sir?
Worst-Moi: That’s none of your business.
Customer Service Rep: That’s the second anti-authoritarian thing you’ve said to me today. You do realize that this call is being recorded, don’t you?
Worst-Moi: Oh my fucking god. You are a nazi.
Customer Service Rep. Yes, sir. It would seem I am. And I think it time for you and others like you to wake up to the reality of who owns you. The credit card problem is a chronic problem but it also the least of your worries. Do you have another form of payment?
Worst-Moi: (Pause. Speechless and beaten-down.) Yes. I… have… another…
Customer Service Rep: When you get back to Germany, sir. Give us a call and we will see to it that the Canadian charge is removed and we will send you a new card.
Worst-Moi: So you can just remove the Canadian charge at any time? Does that Canadian charge actually even exist? Or does your institution just not like my purchasing behavior–and you’re trying to put a stop to it? You know that there has never been a problem with my liquidity. You can see that on your terminal right now. Nor has there ever been any issue regarding my credit worthiness. I think you have an ulterior motive for….
Customer Service Rep: Sir. I will take your response as an affirmation of our discussion, sir. And. I think we’ve all had about enough of your sassy lip. Have a good day, sir.
Customer Service Rep: Yes. Sir. Can I be of further assistance?
Worst-Moi: Can you tell me who or what tried to charge on my card in Canada?
Customer Service Rep: No, sir. That’s none of your business. Transactions on this card are our business. Our business alone. It is our money you are spending. Understood?
Worst-Moi: (Speechless again.) Um…
Customer Service Rep: Have a nice day, sir. And allow me to remind you. If you require the use of the card for closing a hotel bill then let me know the exact time and I will unfreeze your card for approximately two hours. Do you understand? We are here to help not hinder. But you must play our way. Good day, sir.
Worst-Moi: Yes. Achtung. Thank you for allowing me to live in your world.
Customer Service Rep: Now that’s the spirit. Have a nice day.
For those interested in understanding how a credit card can be frozen just google the issue. Here a summary of what I’ve found so far. These things are what banks use to real-time evaluate whether or not they will allow your credit card to function. With that in mind. Watch out for…
- out of ordinary spending behavior
- change in purchasing behavior
- your location
- buying cash
- stuff you might sell
- buying in a bad part of town
- test purchase
The test purchase is kinda unique because it’s the first indicator that your card has been stolen. The rest are just things that a bank can watch. I’m sure they use some kind of computer algorithm to sift through transactions.
In my case, my card wasn’t stolen. But I had been swiping it, giving it to various retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders, etc., daily for more than two weeks. This is probably the first time in a long time that I’ve used it in the States for more than two weeks–usually my visits here are max fourteen days. According to the service rep, though, the bank thought that my card was copied. I have no idear what that means. But I’m assuming it has to do with swiping. But none of that matters. Here’s what I worst-think as to why the bank froze my card.
The bank noticed my unusual behavior and decided to freeze my card–just in case. What unusual behavior, you ask. Well. My travels consist of visiting PA, DE, MD, VA and DC. I usually pay for everything with a mastercard, unless I feel like paying with cash. I rarely feel like paying with cash. But I suppose all of that isn’t unusual. What could be unusual though is that in a span of three days I visited several gun shops and gun ranges–but only in MD. I also bought stuffed animals and I think the bank algorithms that analyze purchase behavior showed that people visiting gun ranges and buying stuffed animals for target practice is questionable. But why would a German bank (where my mastercard is issued) be interested in that? Oh wait. Maybe the Germans were more interested in the fact that I was spending so many Euros from Eurowasteland. Wha…? Nomatter.
All in all, this is really stupid. I get the issue that last year the retailer Target had its data systems compromised and credit card information was stolen. But you would think that would not prohibit mastercard from putting two and two together. You know, the fact that I’m not in Canada and why would anyone “copy” his or her credit card and give it to someone else. (Not that others haven’t done that.) The other issue is, I pay off my credit card every month. I have never had financial troubles–in my whole life–because I have ALWAYS lived within my means. With the advances made with securing cards these days–with chips on them, multiple pins, magnetic strips, etc.–you’d think that they finally had their shit together with at least being able to judge a questionable situation. I mean, for probably two, three, four decades, banks have profited billions by just issuing cards to suckers. Thank goodness I’ve never been one of them. Or am I? Nuff.
PS Although this post is a bit exaggerated, it really did happen. And even though I’ve vented some of my anger worst-writing about it–I’m still royally pissed. Oh well.