Paycheck Chronicles

Ma'am, There is Suspicious Activity on Your Credit Card Account

I just got off the phone with Navy Federal Credit Union, one of the three banks with whom I do business regularly. My father-in-law, in the US, had sent me an email that the automated fraud detection system had called and asked about my recent card activity. As I've had cards frozen before, and it is awfully inconvenient, I pretty rapidly got on the phone and sorted out the situation. It seems that an airline ticket purchase made today was routed through Switzerland, and since I don't live in Switzerland, the computer figured it was suspicious.

I have such mixed feelings about this. I am very glad that we have the ability to use computers to detect suspected fraudulent activity. What a great tool! In my experience, however, it seems like the software doesn't work that well: the one time I had a card stolen, it wasn't caught until I noticed unauthorized activity, and I've now been contacted three or four times when in fact I was making perfectly legitimate purchases. I admit that I don't thoroughly understand the processes used by the fraud detection departments, and they've never been able to give me helpful answers. I can't even imagine the amount of information that is sifted through each day, trying to detect unusual patterns and figure out which ones are possibly suspect. What I have seen makes me think that the computer is running the show, and that there aren't enough human eyes looking at the information to see if it makes sense in context.

I know that our nomadic lifestyle isn't helping much, what with purchases made online from US companies then purchases in little shops in small European towns followed by purchases made by telephone that may or may not post in the country that the purchase was made. (Some day ask me about the time I was furious at my husband for visiting Naples when in fact he was in Uganda.) However, it is our life, and the life of military families all over the world. We travel. We live overseas. We make things complicated.

I'm curious about my readers experiences with the automated credit card fraud detection system. Has it caught fraud? Has it caught you without a working credit card somewhere uncomfortable? Does it make you feel more safe, or more frustrated? Comment away, my friends.

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