Citi Cards Fraud Protection: Creepishly Effective

I received a robo-call around 6 o’clock last night from the computer at Citi Cards fraud protection. It said the company had seen some unusual activity on my credit card account and asked me to call immediately. I dialed and got to a human being, who verified my identity and made sure I had my card with me.

“When was the last time you used your card?” the woman asked.

“This afternoon at lunch, around 2 o’clock” I answered. “The bill was about $35.”

“Well, we have a charge here from just over an hour ago of $82.93 on a website called Dr. Jays,” she said. “Did you make that charge?”

“I did not,” I said. “I’ve never heard of that website.”

“Oh, look at that—they’re trying to put through another purchase right now,” the lady said. “Let me cancel this card immediately. Somebody has gotten hold of your number.”

I was of course thankful that Citi Cards had caught the fraudulent charge and notified me so quickly—literally within two hours of the thief using my credit card number for the first time—but I was surprised that an $82.93 charge to a website would trigger the system. I use my credit card all the time to buy things online, including everything from e-books for my Kindle to much more expensive items like plane tickets for my travel-writing assignments.

“I’m just curious,” I said to the woman, “about why a charge of that amount would set off your system. How does that work?”

“The charge did not fit your normal spending pattern,” she said, without elaborating further.

It’s definitely approaching defcon creepy on the Big Brother scale to think that Citi Cards is keeping track not just of what I spend, but also of the types of websites where I spend it. But then again, it’s also really impressive on the consumer protection scale that they were able to catch the thief who stole my credit card number after a single purchase was attempted.

So I think kudos are in order for Citi Cards this morning, with a small side dish of paranoia that they’re reading this blog before I even get it posted online.

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