Have Citibank fraud alert calls become the worst in the industry?

Posted on December 17, 2014 by in Travel Deals

Since I got back to the US at Thanksgiving, I have taken to make sure I fulfill all minimum spend requirements and do some Manufactured Spend with more vigilance. For me, this usually involves buying PayPal cards and loading the Target for American Express cards.

Given that some of my credit card accounts lie rather quiet the rest of the year, I can understand the fraud alerts and temporary blocks that banks set up for the transactions.

I highlighted my own experiences with credit card-issuers' customer service recently. Fraud alerts are especially sensitive, since banks do not know if they are speaking to their customer or to a fraudster right away.

American Express usually sends me emails and text messages after a declined transaction (e.g. $2k in minutes at a Target store) that give me the option to say yes or no about a charge. Once done, my account is usually unlocked. If not, I can call in and speak to a friendly agent who has no issues running me through a multiple choice test or who requests more personal data points for me.

Chase uses emails as well and that usually does the trick. They also have an 'Identity Verification Department' which pushes a long process on you (I usually land there when applying, but sometimes also after a fraud alert). It takes a while, but the process is smooth.

Now with Citibank, the story is vastly different! Regular Citi agents for their Premium cards (I have a Prestige and 2 Executive MasterCards) are usually courteous and often chatty and knowledgeable.

However, I had a fraud alert yesterday (because I called from a new number to customer service the other day, not even because of a suspicious charge!)

The computer recognized my new number when dialing in and I just entered the last 4 digits of my account, my zip code and password.

The call went like this:

Agent: What's your number?

Me: Torsten Jacobi

Agent: Can I put you on hold to review your account?

Me: Sure!

3 minute wait.

Agent: We have an unrecognized call from a Las Vegas number to customer service. Is the number ending in 5623 yours?

Me: I'm not sure. I use VOIP to call usually.

Agent: So is that your number?

Me: The service uses many numbers. But I did call yesterday.

Agent: I need to call you on this number.

Me: This won't work.

Agent: I need to verify your identity. Is the number 8910 active?

Me: I updated the number last week since the numbers have changed (I recently got a new Google Voice number).

Agent: I can see that update, but I need to call you on your OLD number.

Me: I changed them because they don't work anymore. Why do you think I called in EARLIER this week.

Agent: I need to verify your number. Is number 5623 yours?

Me: I just told you I can't tell you, but I called customer service at 10.30 Pacific Time.

Agent: I need to call you on your old number. Can I call you now?

Me: I'm not sure what else I can tell you. Can't you use another way to verify my identity?

Agent: Is the number 5623 yours?

Me: I give up. How often do you want to ask me the same question?

Agent: So you are not in the US now?

Me: I am – just I have a new phone number.

Agent: I need to call you on your old number.

Me: Should I just stop using Citi cards since I don't call from the same number all the time? This won't change in the future.

Agent: Let me put you on hold.

Agent: What is your bank account number used for payments?

Me: This is my number.

Agent: Thanks. I can connect you now.

Arrgh – what a confrontation for nothing! The agent had very clear English with a southern accent – I would not blame the 'offshore' agents this time. The tone of voice was very aggressive and borderline rude.

This was my 3rd fraud alert that went a similar way. I keep changing my phone numbers (new cell phone and new Google Voice number) now but for Citi, it seems if you can't handle all your life through one number, then you can't be their customer.

Picture courtesy of gophoto.us

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