Credit Cards, Personal Finance, Shopping

Incredible Credit Card Identity Protection Prank

credit card fraud protection prankI’m not sure whether I should be amused or horrified by this post. Either way, it goes to show that you should not place your trust in a paid for credit card identity theft monitoring system. The article is written by John Hargrave who also wrote the credit card prank where he signed his name when making purchases on his credit card in as many crazy ways as he could in an attempt to see how long it would take before somebody actually notice. This time around he did basically the same thing to see what it would take for The Citibank IdentityMonitor credit card monitoring system to notify him of fraudulent purchases.

From the very beginning, he didn’t believe that the Citibank IdentityMonitor service would work. There was a very a simple reason for this:

So when I got an offer in the mail for a new “IdentityMonitor” service from Citi, which supposedly protects you from identity theft, I laughed. First, because I was sure it wouldn’t work. Second, because they were offering it to one of my own stolen identities:

“John Myers” is one of the many pseudonyms that I’ve used for pulling off various credit card pranks: a real credit card with a fake name. I was amused that Citi was offering me the chance to “guard my good name,” even though the name wasn’t good.

So I immediately signed up for the identity theft service, using my thieved name.

Once he received the credit card monitoring service, he didn’t buy anything on his credit card for awhile. Then he went out and began purchasing expensive items and signing the receipts “stolen” – and then waited to be notified of the stolen credit card issue — nothing happened.

When this didn’t get an alert, he went to Home Depot and bought the material needed for a homemade fertilizer bomb:

Maybe Citi didn’t care about petty theft. Maybe I needed to do something truly dangerous. So next I did a little Internet research on how to build a homemade fertilizer bomb. Surely a little Timothy McVeigh action would alert Citi, not to mention the FBI, CIA, and GSQ.

Do you know how easy it is to build a fertilizer bomb? You probably have the ingredients in your garage. I went to Home Depot and bought them in massive quantities, trying desperately to trip Citi’s credit card fraud prevention alarm. I literally could not think of anything worse to buy on my credit card…

After waiting several more days to get a call from the Citibank IdentityMonitor credit card monitoring service, still nothing came. He then sent a telegram to the Chief Marketing and Advertising Community Relations Officer of Citigroup:

Dear Lisa,

Your Identity Monitor service sucks.

This telegram was purchased with a stolen credit card.

Please terminate account #***************. Millions are monitoring your next move.

John Hargrave

Not even this resulted in the credit card monitoring system to flag the account. The next step was obvious. He would call Citibank directly. Not only did he do this, but he recorded the entire conversation so you can listen to it as you read it (this is a good because it would be hard to believe that such a conversation ever took place without the actual audio)

SJH: And then there’s one other thing. My name actually isn’t John Myers.

CCS: [Long, fearful pause] Who am I speaking with?

SJH: My name is Mr. Hargrave.

CCS: [Longer pause] How did you get this credit card?

SJH: It was sent to me.

CCS: Okay sir, well, I do need to give you this information. If I’m not speaking to John Myers, and you verified your password to me, how could that be?

SJH: I don’t know. Who’s John Myers?

CCS: What I’m going to do, sir, I’m going to transfer this call to another department. They’re going to close out your account.

SJH: John Myers’s account.

CCS: Hold on.

[Extremely long hold time, while she contacts the Fraud Department]

CCS: Okay, I have somebody who is going to assist you with this, and I thought I was speaking with Jonathan Mayers. That’s who you verified the information with.

SJH: I don’t think so. I think you just asked for a password, which I randomly guessed.

[Long, confused pause. Finally a Fraud Officer speaks up.]

So after all of this, and paying $9.95 a month for a credit card monitoring service, none of the transactions actually caused the monitoring service to kick in to play. Pretty scary stuff.

So let’s summarize what you get for your $9.95 Citi IdentityMonitor monthly fee: a “free” credit report, a list of “free” credit tips, and a condescending customer care clerk with a voice like a cartoon mouse.

In summary, I was wrong. It’s not that the credit card companies don’t care about identity theft, it’s that they’re completely incapable of dealing with it.

While fairly long (it covers 5 pages), Do Credit Card Companies Really Care About Identity Theft Fraud? is a hilarious (and therefore scary) must read and you will likely be shaking your head as hard as I have been after reading it.

16 thoughts on “Incredible Credit Card Identity Protection Prank

  1. I heard (so it must be true) that one trigger for alerts by the banks is if you suddenly buy a lot of gas. If someone steals a credit card, often they fill up their tank, and the tanks of all their friends’ cars.

    I write “CHECK ID” on the signature line on the back of my credit cards. But only a small number of merchants bother to check it, so it isn’t providing me with sure-fire protection if my card is stolen.

  2. Reminds me of the guy who usually wrote “save a tree” across credit card offers and returned them to the sender. Mind you, did not write on the application part – just across the whole page. & well one issuer sent him a card in the name “Save A Tree.”

    So no, not surprised. But WOW!

  3. That is absolutely frightening! I cannot believe CitiBank!

    I would have hoped that their monitoring service would trigger some kind of alert given the effort that John put in trying to trigger some kind of action from Citi Bank’s monitoring service.

    Hmmm, maybe it’s time to use my credit card a lot less and revert to a cash only policy given all the problems with identity theft and the severe lack of a decent monitoring system.

  4. I think it’s up to individuals to make sure that they aren’t doing stupid things. For example, if you lose your credit card, don’t wait a few days before reporting it, hoping you’ll find it in the car, just report it lost and in 5 – 7 days you’ll have a new one. Don’t answer suspicious emails, or click on the links in them. There are quite a few tips in an article I read recently, They seemed like better ideas than keeping your wallet in your front pocket instead of the back!

  5. Wow, that’s pretty amazing but not that surprising.

    Most credit monitoring services simply monitor your credit files and report when a change has occurred.

    That means you don’t find out that a thief is applying for credit in your name until after they have already done so. That could already be too late.

    There are some pretty simple steps you can take to protect your credit and identity from ever being accessed by thieves, such as fraud alerts, blocking pre-approved credit card offers, and monitoring your own reports for changes. It’s all free and simple to do.

    Here’s an article on blocking your identity from thieves, which gives you some of the information you would need.

    Great story though, I do love to hear how the system is so corrupted.

  6. I am sick reading this. After 4 911 calls for me or my husband and 3 major surgeries between us, I don’t need this grief. Woman Within offered this CC IDENTITY PROTECTOR for $9.99/month. I DO NOT remember ever signing up for this. Well, WomanWithin credited everything to a zero balance including and I told them to CLOSE the account – but was then told I had to go to a website (that doesn’t exist) to be sure the CC Identity Protector gets cancelled. The telephone on the bill puts me through 4 layers, then on hold and of course a disconnect. During the week I work. At this point in our lives we don’t have the mental energy to be John Hargrave. Totally amazing; John – did you buy any great jewelry? I mean – can I take all these stupid cards and buy endlessly and deny I did the buying? Do you keep all the things you buy? In the end, what have you proven that we didn’t already know – our whole country is going to H*** in a Handbasket!

  7. Hi I realize that these posts are from a while ago, but I’m having some credit card problems and this is the only site I found that referenced “CC IDENTITY PROTECTOR” (Diane Brown’s comment). I have a CLUB EXPRESS Credit Card with $12.99 monthly charges for “CC Identity Protector” and “Mobi-Life CC2NA.” When I activated my card, I regrettably agreed to a trial of these services, mostly because I was in a rush and just wanted to get the phone call over with. Anyway, now I have these recurring charges and can’t find any information on these services so I don’t know how to cancel them. I’d really appreciate any input on how to make these charges go away. I thought about just canceling my card, but worry that my problems wouldn’t end there or that I’d screw up my credit. Thank you in advance for any incite.

  8. If you can’t find a way to cancel it, contact your credit card company and see if they can help. You should be able to get it cancelled through them.

  9. i was able to cancel the cc identity protector by calling this number 866-802-7621, i was on hold for a while but i did receive a confirmation number re the cancelled membership. i too was frustrated after seeing the charge to my account even after i had called and cancelled it before. however, they did credit my account.

  10. Thanks so much guys. I had the same problem with both the CC IDENTITY PROTECTOR and the DIRECT ALERT CSS on my express account. I called the number and it’s all taken care of now 🙂

  11. It’s amazing how they won’t ever pick up on real theft but they sure as heck pick up on something you do that they don’t like. I have a credit card and I pay the whole amount that is on my card every two weeks and they put a hold on my payment because they thought that it might have been theft???? I asked the lady why this payment? It’s from the same place i have paid all the other ones from and she said well it could have been theft.
    My sister’s has a credit card and they put a hold on her card from expected theft because she went to the gas station and first charged her card for 38 cents and then the pump went out of gas and the next one was for 42 cents and then she went to the next one and put in like 30 dollars and they put a hold on her account for that but when the same 2 charges (from the same place same amount same day same time) kept getting applied to her card until her card was maxed out they never did anything about that she had to call them and tell them it was fraud.

  12. Thank you so much, dg (post 11). I do not remember singing up through DressBarn, and I was able to cancel using the 866-802-7621. They did give me a confirmation, also offered 5 months free – but I declined.

  13. I called the 866-number-number number once, talked to a very “racist comment” sounding man. He did not cancel my account, and instead sent me some bogus email with a link in it after telling me I needed to print out my full purchase history after compleating a number of questionares, inspect my history item-per-item, and then call back.

    I hung up, waited five minutes so they could think I actually did that–not because I had to desperatly use the restroom, no. I was hoping to re-speak with him over and over. Sadly, I got a very Middle United States sounding man the second time.

    After going through the “let’s make sure you are who we want you to be,” garbage all I had to do was say, “I’d like to cancel my account.”
    My account is now cancled, the second call took less than three minutes, over two hundred percent less than the first.

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