What My Credit Card Taught Me About NSA Snooping

I’ll get back to writing about our cross country trip later today. First, a story about my credit card and how it relates to the whole NSA mishegas.

While driving toward Lincoln, NE I got an email from Chase. They’re behind the credit card we use most often. Chase wanted me to call their Security Department.

Uh oh. The last thing we needed was trouble with the card we were using to get to SoCal.

Before we left we notified Chase we’d be traveling and even changed our address to the new home in California. Still, when they saw a large charge for gas somewhere in Iowa they freaked.

I called the number given in the email, but was asked so many personal questions I wondered if it was a scam? How many bits of data did I have to give Chase before they knew it was me? I balked at my date of birth, hung up and called the number on the back of the card.

This time I spoke to Jay in the Philippines. We solved the problem, but not before I’d gone through a half hour of angst, two calls to Chase and lots of questions an identity thief could take to the bank–literally.

No person at Chase made the decision there was a problem. I certainly did nothing wrong. It was artificial intelligence, a computer on the lookout for unusual activity.

Chase purposely sets their criteria low enough that false positives make up a large percentage of their work. It’s better for them to hassle people like me than miss real fraud. When it comes to fraudulent purchases, they’re left holding the bag.

In order to comb through all its data the NSA also uses computer driven AI. They too will come up with false positives. People who’ve done nothing wrong will get hassled, possibly worse.

In the end most of the mistakes the NSA makes will be corrected. Probably not all. Certainly not before innocent people suffer undue stress.

Look at the TSA’s “No Fly” list. We’ve all heard stories about people who are on it and can’t get off. Here’s the story of young boy who was on. He’s not alone.

Computers and the Internet have allowed data to be organized in ways never possible before. The question before us is how we want that data used? I can choose to ditch Chase, but I only get one government. And Chase can’t put me in jail.

We should be protected from government snooping by the 4th Amendment. It is very clear.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5 thoughts on “What My Credit Card Taught Me About NSA Snooping”

  1. The same thing happens yearly to my aunt and uncle that drive to Ct. from Florida. If gas is purchased anywhere between their Fl. and Ct. they go through the same hassle with the CC company. Then again, I have a friend that does online banking with them, and he found a large CC purchase that was made over the phone that wasn’t his. He had to notify Chase about it. At least he caught it. Safe travels.

  2. Hi Fox. Man, are you making homesick for Nebraska!! Although I use U.S. Route 30 to cross Nebraska (to follow the Union Pacific Railroad mainline), I agree, it’s flat out there. And I love it!! Having lived in suburbia all of my life, I so love being out in NE. I look forward to hopefully retiring out there in Cozad. And yes, the northeast corner of Colorado is as you described. Below you on I-76 are the roads that I travel thru Stering. There is a general/grocery store that makes great sandwiches. I stop in a small park right along the railroad and munch and watch the trains roll by. I follow the mainline thru Colorado and then I am back in Nebraska at the town of Chapelle. And aren’t the Rockies beautiful?? They are something. And I agree with you on I-70 west of Denver. It is quite the “raceway”. Damn fun to drive on. I found it to be a blast!! Anyway, safe travels. Love to the girls.


    Phil N1BOW

  3. I dunno, Geof…

    My Amex card number was used illicitly last year. I got a phone call on my home phone, my cell, and got an email– all asking me to call Amex. I got a real live person immediately. He asked, “Did you buy a SwissAir ticket in Dubai today?” Then he went through all the charges for the past couple of days with me to be sure there were no other phonies.

    Finally, he told me my new Amex card would be overnighted to me– and I had it the next day.

    Now, this is not one of those snooty you-pay-hundreds-of-dollars cards; it’s Amex Blue– the one that lets you run a balance from month to month. And it’s a cash-back card.

    You might want to consider a different card, unless the bennies from your Chase card are worth the occasional hassle.

  4. My experience was a lot like the person above, Mari Bonomi… Only, I was vacationing in Colorado (I live in Connecticut), and my card was used in some other state (I think it was Michigan). My credit card company called my cell phone (I found out later that they had also emailed me and called my house phone)and asked me about the last 5 charges. I verified all but the one they were questioning. They immediately shut down my card and I was grateful that the person who bought gas with my card in another state was stopped before they could do some REAL charging. I had another credit card with me as did my children who were traveling with me so I was not stuck with no credit card. Sounds like they need to change their procedures at YOUR credit card company.

    1. Annie and Matt –

      If someone uses your credit card number, but you still have the card, your liability is ZERO!

      That’s right, it’s 100% the card company’s responsibility. They are doing you no favor. This is all for them. You’re working for free to help their bottom line.

      If you have your card stolen, or it’s lost and someone uses it, your maximum liability is $50 as long as you report it within 60 days.

      This is among the most consumer friendly laws we have. It’s amazing it passed!

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