Yesterday, I bought a new suit. Nothing remarkable there but I paid on my Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit card. A card that I will shortly be cutting into little pieces because it’s useless to me if the bank declines transactions on an apparently random basis…
You see, I also wanted an extra pair of trousers and they were out of stock. The very helpful guy at John Lewis went through the online order process, I supplied my credit card details and all was good. Then we went to the till and paid for the suit jacket and first pair of trousers.
The £250 transaction for the suit went through OK but a short while later I was called by John Lewis to say that the £80 order for the trousers placed a few minutes earlier had been declined. That seemed strange – especially as it was placed before the larger transaction (I’d expect the large one to be declined if there was some sort of anti-fraud flag triggered by a small purchase and then a large one) so we tried again. No joy. Declined by the bank. So I supplied some different card details and all was OK.
I was annoyed. I use multiple credit cards for good reasons but at least I had been able to use a different card even if that does mean that my personal and business transactions are mixed up. Fast forward to this morning and I was incensed.
Sunday morning, 10am: enjoying a rare lie-in whilst the kids are away; the phone rings – it might be my in-laws and it might be important, so I answer.
“This is an automated anti-fraud call from Lloyds TSB…” (or similar). I’m angry now, but I comply with the whole process as I think I might be charged twice for my trousers. This process involved:
- Confirming that I was (imagine robotic voice) “Mr Mark Wilson”. 1. Yes, that’s me.
- Confirming my year of birth. Not exactly a secret, especially not to anyone who might answer my home phone.
- Confirming my day and month of birth. Again, public information, and known to all in my household.
- Listening to some details of some possibly fraudulent transactions: two declined for £80 and one approved for £250; both flagged as Internet purchases at John Lewis, a “grocery or supermarket” retailer. Not much help there as John Lewis is a department store (Waitrose is their supermarket brand) and clearly store transactions are incorrectly flagged as Internet purchases – which means the information is unreliable at best and confusing if it had been a different retailer with whom I was less familiar.
- Confirming I had made those transactions. Tempting to say no but that would be fraudulent. I said 1 for yes, anyone in the house who answered my phone could have answered anything…
- Supplying my mobile phone number for future anti-fraud calls (I probably didn’t supply it in the first place because I was concerned they would use it for marketing…). Well, at least my mobile is more immediate, and more secure than the home phone (only I use it).
Pure security theatre.
I can understand the banks wanting to reduce fraud – it costs them millions. But my account has a significantly larger credit limit than transactions I attempted in John Lewis yesterday and they could go a lot higher before declining transactions and inconveniencing me as a customer. I can see some patterns that might have flagged the anti-fraud systems but not the sense in declining the first and third transactions yet accepting the second (larger) one. It’s possible that John Lewis stored my card details and applied them after a short delay but, even so, I’d think it’s pretty common for people to make in-store transactions and place orders through the retailer’s online channel at or around the same time (in scenarios like the one I described).
I’ll make the most of the interest-free period until my next bill, pay in full (as always) and then I’ll be closing my account with Lloyds TSB. “Security” that stops me using my cards when I want to, and disturbs my privacy at home (with an automated call using publicly-available information!) is “security” I can do without…