Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Fraud Prevention = Use Prevention

I’m a Citibank customer, and have been very pleased with their service. (We signed up a year ago, and I was sold when they came to our house — on a Saturday — for a closing on a home equity loan.)

But there’s one area that will likely make me change banks when I’m back home at the end of the month: it’s just too damned hard to use my bank card.

I travel a lot (130,000 miles in the air last year), and a fair amount of that travel is out of the country. My wife travels as well — at least four or five trips a year to visit family. And Citibank is quite aggressive in their fraud prevention department: so much so, that any trip outside your state will likely trigger a “fraud block” until you call them to unblock it. (They explained to me: “Any trip outside your home state may well be fraud.” Me: “But trips outside my home state are normal for me and my wife.” Citibank: “But not for our other customers.”)

Honest to God, this is like having to have a note from Mom before you leave the house. What’s worse, even when you call them (my wife is now in the habit of calling Citibank ahead of long trips to give them a heads up that she’ll be out of the state — don’t even get me started on how wrong that is) it may not be enough to convince them that you’re really not under duress… so they may still block your card.

Now I have nothing against preventing fraud… in fact I’m quite happy that they make it hard for other people to spend my money. But they’ve gone so far overboard that it is quite literally hard for me to spend my money.

And it seems that shouldn’t really be the bank’s role.


  1. It's not just in the US.

    I have a similar problem with the Dresdner Bank in Germany. Every time I use my credit card (issued by Dresdner) to buy a new PC or anything else in that price range, the transaction gets blocked because it is over an internal limit set by the bank for my protection - nothing to do with a credit limit and impossible to get them to raise it.

    The bank expects me to call them to say I've made a major purchase and then they raise the limit for ONE DAY (!) - during which time, the vendor can book the transaction. It drives me mad, but as an employee of a subsidiary of the bank, I have to have an account at the bank for them to pay my salary :-(

  2. Strangely, I have a card from CitiBank and don't travel nearly as much as do you. I have not had any trouble using my card when I travel, even to "new" areas, such as my visit to NYC this summer. This leads me to believe that their first-line customer support don't know that there is a setting on your account somewhere that tells the system to flag you when you go out of state.

  3. It's not your money they're protecting Rick, it's theirs ...

  4. Rick,

    Crying Wolf is not good. An aggressive fraud prevention system like Citibank's is simply, inconvenient to its customers.
    Here is my story:
    I applied for some business cards for myself and an associate. After realizing that all the correspondence and the new cards were being mailed to my residence, I called them and asked it to be changed. Apparently, it was not done. So, I called again, from my office number, which, by the way, was on their records. For some reason, the call was routed to fraud prevention. I was willing to answer any account related questions. However, after 15 minutes of hold and Q&A session, when they asked me to call back from my home#. By then, I had lost my patience, and asked to cancel my account. I have VOIP services at home and office from Vonage. Many a times, it does not transfer the caller id information properly. Okay, if I would have called from home, what if my home# was not recognized? There is no end of this "BS". If their fraud prevention is tripping falsely more than 1% of the time, it needs fixing.

    It is ironic that the company, which was fined 10 Million Dollars in illicit trading, seems so vigilant in fraud prevention.