Securing

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Sometimes I don’t think things through.

(That’s a sort of sideways way of saying that sometimes I can be pretty dumb.)

When I buy ‘most’ things, I tend to use cash rather than other, um, ‘alternatives.’ (I’ve stated my opinion of things like debit cards before). A consequence of this is that, from time to time, I have to go get more. Last week, for example, I ran out of cash on Friday which meant that a trip to a bank machine was in order — if I didn’t visit the machine, there would be No Ribs For Me.

Before heading out, I wandered around the house, gathering things that I’d need. Things like socks. Shoes. Glasses (the kind you look through, not the kind that hold refreshing beverages. I’m constantly forgetting where I put them.). Outerwear (it’s cold out there, after all). Essential things like that.

During this process I had an idle thought — what were the balances of my various accounts? If I had thought it through, I would have realized that I could ask the machine THAT I WAS PREPARING TO GO TO so I’d know within minutes. But I didn’t think it through — in particular, I decided that I could just look that information up on the bank’s web site (what they call ‘online banking.’) So I took my socks to the back room, sat down, navigated to the ‘online banking’ web site and prepared to log in. I answered one of the security questions, (Why they needed to know Ms. Rose’s middle name before asking me for a userid or password I don’t know.) typed in the sixteen digit number on my bank card and before you know it I was facing the ‘enter your password’ page.

That was when the problems started: I couldn’t remember what it was. This isn’t an uncommon thing — I have a zillion passwords and I’m forever forgetting the ones that I don’t use on a daily basis. I rely heavily on the ‘I’ve forgotten my password’ functionality of, well, pretty much every web site in existence.

In that respect this one was no exception, so I clicked on the ‘I’ve forgotten my password’ link and was immediately asked to type in the same sixteen digit number that I had just typed in. I cursed them (but just a little) and dutifully typed it in. To my surprise, though, I wasn’t presented a link to click on or a box to type in. No, I was presented with a message that said that my bank card couldn’t use the automated password reset procedure. I had to call a phone number and someone would do it for me — they were nice enough to provide the phone number in the message.

I blinked. I didn’t expect that but I did what I was told and phoned the number. It took a while, but eventually I got a voice that took my details, took the sixteen digit number (twice), went ‘Hm’ and told me that she couldn’t do it — I would have to visit my local branch and they would do it. Why? She couldn’t say. That was odd, I thought, I didn’t have to do that to set the account up, but no problem —  if you recall, I was going there anyway. At the branch I was directed to a nice lady, I told her my story and she… picked up a phone and called someone. “I don’t know why they tell people to visit us” she said, “we can’t do anything.” She talked on the phone for a while then handed it to me.

I told this voice my story. She seemed scandalized: “They should never have told you that. What number did you call?” I couldn’t remember, of course. She went on “Go home, call the number on the back of your bank card and tell them your story. They’ll fix everything.”

I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I got the cash I needed, checked my account balances, then went home, called the number and asked for the online banking group. I got yet another voice. I told her my story and asked if I could speak to the helpful voice that I had spoken to at the bank. I could not, I was told.

That’s not when I lost it. Heck, I wasn’t even surprised.

“So I’ll just have to ask you some security questions, then we can reset that password of yours. Are you ready?” I was. “What branch were your accounts opened at?”

Umm. That’s a little tricky. Did she mean the branch where the accounts were actually opened, or the branch where they last had gratuitous changes made at the behest of some fat guy in a suit? Either, she said. Oh. “Umm, the accounts were opened at a branch that was closed in the mid 1980s.” “No problem”, she said “What was the street address of that branch?” Pardon? She wanted to know the street address of a branch that closed THIRTY YEARS AGO? (As part of their relentless quest to reduce customer service, but that’s a different rant.)

That’s not when I lost it. I did indicate that I thought the question was perhaps a tad unreasonable. No problem; she was ready to move on. “Let’s talk about the other branch. What was its street address?” That was clearly not as unreasonable — after all it had only closed TWENTY years ago.

That’s not when I lost it either but I did demand to speak to her supervisor.

There was a long wait and a new voice spoke to me. I explained with some, um, ‘enthusiasm’ that I found the security questions ridiculous and stupid and the whole process a deliberate attempt to waste my time. I understood the necessity for security, but thirty year old street addresses? Really?

Eventually I asked him to delete my account — after all, it had been trivial to set up, presumably would be trivial to set up again and besides, deleting it might clear whatever condition was blocking my access to the automated password reset process. He changed the subject, claiming that I had been blocked from the automated reset process because I hadn’t used Internet Explorer to access the website. I told him that I believed that was unlikely and asked him again to delete the account. Again he changed the subject, this time claiming that I had received the error because I had gone to the website via a search engine and not from a bookmark in my browser-that-wasn’t-Internet Explorer. I asked a third and fourth time. Each time his ‘explanations’ got wilder and wilder. After the fifth request, he admitted that he couldn’t delete the account because he wasn’t part of the online banking group.

Wait, what? I had asked for the online banking group, we had talked for half an hour before he got around to mentioning that he wasn’t in the online banking group?

And that’s when I lost it.

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The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.

5 Comments

  1. Im sorry you had to go through this just to get access to YOUR account with YOUR money in it but I have to admit you had me laughing at how ridiculous it all was. Where are you banking so i know never ever to bank there?

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    • i’m in canada and, as far as i can tell, you’re in new york so i suspect the odds are low that you’ll ever have to worry about dealing with this particular establishment. it wasn’t really a big deal — i think dealing with the customer ‘service’ arm of ANY large corporation is likely to have its surreal moments, i just thought that this was a little more surreal than usual. (while i was venting spleen at bruce (almost certainly not his real name — i have no idea why it’s considered ‘good’ for a faceless voice to lie about his or her name) i remember thinking “i totally have to write about this later.”)

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  2. it wasn’t really ‘pain.’ i’m not sure exactly what it was, but it had a dash of indignation, a soupcon of resignation and a healthy dollop of “are these people cretins? and are they TOTALLY irony-impaired?”

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  3. Pingback: Numbering – Rose Glace's Blog

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