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Fraud Verification Phone Calls: Good or Bad?

In the Javelin Strategy blog, Heather Peters questions whether calls from your credit card issuer to verify purchases are stress or reassurance:

"I was recently on a vacation abroad. I failed to mention to my bank that I would be traveling. After a few transactions in Italy my HOME phone number was called and asked to validate the transactions. Now luckily I had family staying at the house and when I called to check-in they let me know the bank had called and needed me to call and verify use of the card for international transactions."

Heather wondered what would have happened if she hadn't called her credit card issuer:
1.What if I did not have someone at home – would they have frozen my card and left me in the cold?
2.The There was not an international number to call on the back of my card so it was really difficult and frustrating trying to contact them and let them know that yes I was traveling

I'm glad that Heather wrote about this. I agree. It is a good security habit for credit card issuers to contact cardholders when they see purchases outside of normal pattern. I don't worry about it because, a) I can check my home voice-mail remotely, and b) while traveling internationally, I always have Internet access and can lookup credit phone numbers at my credit-card issuer's web site.

I had a similar experience in 2004. I live in Boston. My employer sent me to London for a month-long business trip. Immediately, after that trip, I planned a cruise vacation around the Hawaiian islands. I sent a letter in advance to my credit card issuer informing them of my travel itinerary (and pre-paid part of my bill). I had no problems during both trips.

Before my trip, I'd also contacted my bank to verify ATM availability in London. My bank advised me that ATMs in London required a shorter PIN entered than the PIN I used in the USA. So, I modified my PIN accordingly.

All of this may seem like a hassle, but I look at it this way: this preparation is far less hassle than being stranded in a country without cash and without credit cards.


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