I was sitting minding my own business, enjoying my morning coffee and catching up on the news when the phone rings. So, I pick it up and say, “Hello.”

A rather loud, authoritative voice says, “This is your credit card verification department. We have noticed two unusual charges on your card this morning. One was the transfer of one thousand dollars to a person in Eurasia and the other was for an online purchase of eight hundred dollars from Shirlee’s Banana Bread Emporium. If you didn’t authorize these transactions, please press ONE to talk to one of our agents.”

Holly Moly, I thought, eight hundred dollars sounds like a whole lot of Banana Bread. What am I going to do with it all when it arrives? Wait a minute I thought, someone is using my credit card so they would have it delivered to their house not mine. Which would mean no banana bread for me. Maybe I should talk to this agent. So, without thinking I pressed one.

Some woman came on the line and said we have some questions to ask you so we can verify that this is really your account and credit card. My mind screamed “this is a scam, don’t answer personal questions over the phone.” So, I hung up.

I must admit I was a little rattled and maybe hyperventilating just a bit. Was the phone call a scam or was someone really running up debt on my credit card. I thought I should phone the credit card company and find out. So, I dialed the number on the back of my card for customer service. And what did I get, but one of those cursed automated answering systems.

Press one if you are over fifty and want a swell deal. Press two to get your balance. Press three if you want to increase you spending limit. Press four if you want life, home, or auto insurance. Press five for lost or stolen credit cards.

I went through the menu, but nothing seemed to fit and at number 37 I gave up, hung up and tried again.

All I wanted to do was talk to someone and get my card frozen, if someone was using it. This time I went for lost or stolen cards, it seemed the best option. I was told they valued me as a customer and would transfer me the first available representative. Then they played some awful music. After a few minutes they transferred me to a recording saying all their agents were busy, they were experience above average calls and the wait time would be a half hour. After more music and time ticking by, a recording informed me, they were really busy and advised me to call back latter. Then they just hung up, without even saying goodbye or so long sucker.

I was a little upset at the scammer and now at the bank that seemed not to want to talk to its valued customers. I remembered I could check my bank accounts and credit cards online, so I did, and nothing seemed amiss. I tried a couple of other numbers that I came across with no luck. I had wasted over an hour of my time at this point when I found a number that said it was to lodge complaints with the bank, who had issued the card.

So, I called that number talked to a human being and lodged a complaint against the banks (rather useless) automatic answering system. I pointed out that it was driving people nuts and causing a lot of stress. He agreed with me and said he would bring the issue up at their next quarterly meeting. Just like the government the banks work rather slowly, and I don’t hold out much hope that they will actually change anything anytime soon. It was much the 811 covid hotline we had. It caused a lot of frustration among those who tried to use it and complaining had no discernible effect.

Moral of this story is to be very careful answering any questions over the phone because there are a lot of scammers out there. When in doubt don’t. Also don’t expect much timely help from automated phone answering systems, they are a modern-day curse.

Now, I am in the mood for some banana bread. Just have to find a reputable dealer.

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  1. Happens to me all the time. As soon as I hear that robotic voice, or – excuse me God – that foreign voice, I hang up. I learned this lesson the way you did, Walt. It still gives me a little jolt when I get one. My bank person told me if you don’t reveal your card number you are fine. Knowing that helps a little, but still. And they target seniors. Useful column.