I’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:
Your Identity Monitor service sucks.
This telegram was purchased with a stolen credit card.
Please terminate account #***************. Millions are monitoring your next move.
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.