I called my credit card company, and when they verified my identity I got super depressed

I recently signed up for a new credit card.

I don't normally do that on a whim, but instead do it for the big sign-up bonuses they offer. I get the card for one year, and then cancel it before I have to pay the annual fee. The big sign-up bonus points are typically worth between 40,000 - 50,000 points which are good towards the cost of a flight somewhere, or you get more bang-for-your-(points)-buck by applying it towards hotel.

To me, credit cards are mostly interchangeable [1]. Unless I get a nice sign-up bonus, it's all the same (just like it is to the many-faced god on Game of Thrones). This particular card wasn't all that impressive. All I got was rental card insurance (which I already have for a different credit card), and 2x bonus points on certain purchases. The 2x bonus points isn't all that enticing, you have to spend a lot of money over a long period of time to get anywhere close to the sign-up bonus on a good card. Without that, the card doesn't have anything to make me get excited over it.

I don't even know why I got it other than my wife made me do it.

But anyway, I'm not writing a blog post to discuss the rather mediocre offers that credit cards make to me.

Instead, I'm writing a blog post to discuss my existential nihilism when I called up the credit card company.

For you see, I did get a new credit card issued by the same bank as another one I had. But it wasn't showing up on my online account. Not only that, but I couldn't figure out how to link it to my bank account. I had to call them up and get them to sort it out for me to link it.

You may be saying "That doesn't sound so bad." But it gets worse.

Earlier this evening, I was doing some stretching and self-massage (I have a bad neck and back due to years of bad posture caused by sitting in a computer chair for hours on end). When I do, I like to listen to podcasts. This time, I listened to Money for the Rest of Us which is a podcast about personal advance. I like it because it's not for beginners, but also not too super advanced. I'd say on a scale of 1-10 for sophistication, it's intended for a 7 or 8.

The episode I listened to was entitled "Equifax Aftermath - Should you freeze your credit to protect against identity theft?" In case you've been living in a cave the past two weeks, the credit reporting company Equifax revealed that tons of sensitive data was leaked after they were breached by an attacker. The host, David Stein, was discussing possible steps you can take to limit the damage to yourself. A few days ago I checked to see if my data was leaked. I suspected what the answer was, and my fears were confirmed - it was.

Not only that, Stein recounted leak after leak after leak that has occurred over the past 10 years. I know that other bits of my data were leaked in those breaches, too. I had to change credit cards a few times already.

The Equifax breach is especially egregious because it's Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, birth dates, and a bunch of other personally identifiable information, and it's all floating around the black markets by now. It's there for anyone whose willing to pay for it, and there's nothing I can do to change that information other than maybe issue a credit freeze. It's very disempowering. What am I supposed to do? Sure, my credit can be frozen, but that's not all that can be done with that information.

Which brings me back to calling up my credit card company.

I'm on the phone, trying to link up my account to my new credit card. This is 30 minutes after listened to that podcast. The agent on the other end of the phone was helpful, but before she could link up my account, she asked me to verify some personal information.

And a big knot formed in the pit of my stomach.

She asked me for the last 4 digits of my Social Security number and I almost said "What's the point of asking me this? Hackers out there have it and could be using it to impersonate me."

She then gave me an address and asked me what county (in the state where I live) the address referred to, giving me three options plus none of the above. Finally, she asked me what address I had previously resided at, giving me three options plus none of the above. I answered the questions and she linked my account.

And all I could think of was "This information that I'm using to identify myself is probably leaked. A hacker could get that data and use it to impersonate me. It's probably no security at all, the very thing I'm doing now could be done by somebody else. What's the point of it all?"

And that thought was depressing.


[1] The one exception is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card which I got earlier this year. This is the one credit card that is totally worth it. Not only did I get rental car insurance (which is good when I rent cars, which isn't often), I also got a 100,000 point sign-up bonus. That's double what almost any other card gets you. But the coup-de-grace is that it came with a Priority Pass which gets you access to airport lounges around the world. It's awesome! I don't know how I ever flew before this year.

The card was so popular that Chase stopped issuing it after three months.

The thing about this card is that the annual fee, including the Priority Pass, is $450 but only $150 in the first year. But because the Priority Pass is so great, I am considering renewing the card. Not sure I want to pay $450 for zero bonus other than the meh-tacular rental car insurance, but the lounge pass benefit sure is tempting.

Comments (2)
  1. Page says:

    Yeah, totally understand you there. In the country where I live it’s become popular to steal a person’s phone number using GSM operators’ faulty process of phone number restoring, and if the number is bound to a credit card they can easily get an access to my bank accounts. And security services from phone operators and from banks do not react!

  2. Jason says:

    The Equifax Hack Checker doesn’t work. It will always say you may have been affected. Tried it myself with made up info and confirmed it doesn’t work. They ask for the last 6 for you SSN too, which giving that info is a security risk in itself. hxxps://www.cnet.com/how-to/psa-equifaxs-hack-checker-is-a-hot-mess/

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