Citi Reports Themselves for Credit Card Fraud: A Lesson in Horrible Systems at Large Companies
Posted August 26th, 2009 at 4:25 pm by Matt
Dear Citi Professional Card folks:
I’d like to tell you a tale. A tale involving a handsome young customer (me) and a confused, crazy consumer credit card company (you).
My tale begins earlier today, about 11:00 am. I got a phone call from an 816 area code (Mo) – but I don’t know anyone in Missouri so I let the call go to voicemail. Minutes later, I check my voicemail and to my delight I have a new message…but it’s not a person that called…it’s a computer – the Computron 3000 I suspect. Computron is telling me that Citi wants to talk to me about my account and that I should call them at (800) 388-2200. I think, geez, I better call in case there’s something going on. Interest rates scare me.
So, I call. I press 1 for English because all those years of Spanish in high school weren’t even enough to allow me to communicate with a computer. Next I must enter my account number. No problem. 16 digits later… “We did not recognize your entry, please try again.” Hmm…that’s odd, because my phone shows me what I entered on the screen and I did, in fact, enter the number on the card I’m holding in my other hand. Must have been a connection issue or perhaps Computron has an ear infection, I don’t know. I try again – this time speaking my selection. No dice. Compy tells me I’ve entered an invalid account number and then says “Goodbye.” Rude….
I call back, try again, twice. Fail. Now at this point I think to myself, “I hope you’re not a moron, Matt.” See, the number on the back of my card is not the same as the 800 number I was told to, and then did…call. Sh**, maybe I just gave away my credit card number to some very slick criminals in Sweeden or something.
Now, because I understand a bit more about processing credit cards that most (my prior week has been spent building yet another credit card processing app with my good friends at Paypal), I knew Computron didn’t know my expiration date, CVV2 code, or billing address (he could have Googled the address I suppose) – but I certainly wasn’t stupid enough to enter my SSN. So I might be fine.
But just in case Computron and his conspirators (I say “his” because the voice wasn’t the least bit sexy) were up to no good, I thought I’d call the 800 number on the back of my card. While validating all of my info on the line I also searched the 816 and suspect 800 number on Google and found the first hit (http://mat.tc/bh) mentioned all sorts of possible fraud and scheming. Ugh.
But soon I’m connected with a customer service rep (in India if I had to bet on it — there’s no way her name was actually Julie), to whom I explained the story thus far. Julie reassures me that my account is in good standing and there’s nothing wrong on their end. Super. Then she says she “has no record” of any calls or attempts to reach me. Ugh again.
I decided to cancel the card and have them send me a new one, just to be safe. Julie then nicely brings a fraud specialist on the line as well. I tell the story again and provide them with the 816/800 numbers. This new specialist tells me that’s not a Citi number and they go on to tell me how much they appreciate me reporting this. They’re especially excited that I was able to provide the numbers and all (as if that required a PhD?).
Now at this point I’m thinking…Computron…that was slick. It all sounded legit and you punked me. Have your laugh. But I wanted mine too, so I figured I’d look into reporting this to the FCC or the Internet Fraud folks at the FBI (http://mat.tc/bi).
But before reporting it, I wanted to give them all the info I could – so I figured I’d write it down, record the voicemail, and call/record the 800 number. I thought that’d be perfect. Computron your days are numbered. I’m going Jack Bauer on your a$$ now.
So my sleuthing began. I called the 816 and 800 numbers while using the “Voice Record” option on my phone. I know it’s not exactly James Bond technology, but I thought it would suffice. Both busy. After a few minutes I finally get through and record myself punching in bogus numbers and then being hung up on. I figured this was evidence of the “collection” of my financial info or something – but to throw them off, this time instead of 1 for English or 2 for Espanol, I pressed 7.
I next called the 800 number. Went through the first try – Computron answered again, asked me for my info, then hung up same as before. I figured, for the sake of audio quality, I would try recording this one on my Mac while making the call through Skype. So I called the number back through Skype (delighted at this point because at least I’m running up their phone bills) but this time a dude answers!
[Insert twist you (and I) didn't see coming]
This unnamed fellow says he’s with Citi and he needs my account number or SSN to pull up my info. I tell him he either (a) has stones and a great poker face/voice for a criminal or (b) he’s actually from Citi and I’m the moron who’s reluctant to give my info now through this number. He tells me to call the number on my card and ask to be transferred to the Collections Department. Wait, but why?! My account is in good standing, according to Julie in India!
So I call the number of the back of my card, validate all my info again, and get connected through Julie’s co-worker to the Collections Department. They tell me my account is fine right now. But my last payment was received late. By 1 day!!!! That was, by the way, back on August 17th (over a week ago). Shocked that Citi’s bloodhounds get released after only 24 hours to a customer that has always paid on time and never had a mark on his account, I ask her if there is anything else I need to do. She says not to worry about it – the call was just a “courtesy” to let me know about the late payment.
Either way, all was now good in consumer credit card-ville. But there was still a question or two on my mind. Like, why did I get a call from Missouri which told me call a different 800 number than is on my card? Julie’s BFFL tells me that the 800 number is just the “front” number for the Collections department. Hmm…just like Rhode Island is a “front” for the mafia. Oh well I guess, nothing more to discuss on this call. I thanked Julie’s friend and asked her to pass along my thanks to Jules too.
But seriously, and back to the Citi Professional card folks…I have some tips for you going forward:
- Try not to direct calls to numbers that a quick search reveals could be fraud, use the trusted number of the back of each member’s card. Then have your system auto direct me to the department that needs me. If you can automatically tell me my balance and last payment date, I think you can tell me if a department needs to talk to me
- Inform your customer service friends (our mutual friend Julie et al) of all the 800 numbers you use, so things like reporting yourself for credit card fraud don’t happen
- If automated systems must call me, greet me by name and with the last 4 digits of my account number – so I know you’re legit
- Properly record issues and history on my account – Julie was in the dark and told me things were fine and that no one had been trying to reach me
- After I enter and speak my card number, don’t tell me it’s invalid and then hang up on me
- Send me an email if an account is a day overdue (but not if the payment is already pending…) instead of employing Hals’ younger brother Computron to begin his “courtesy calls”
- If you are going to call after an account is overdue one day, don’t do it a week later
- Forgive my balance, I don’t like paying bills
Okay the final tip could be a long shot but I thought I’d throw that in there. Hope the other tips were helpful though. This whole thing was a massive waste of my time in the end and there was never a need to notify me. All that really happened was you reported yourself for credit card fraud, from India. I can at least laugh at the fact that some of your people are (or will) spend some time investigating this. That entertains me. I just hope that person reads this article.
(It should be noted that I have nothing against Sweeden, India, Rhode Island, customer service reps named Julie, or computer systems called the Computron 3000. Also apologies to the lad at Citi I accused of potential being a criminal)