The Perils of Credit (cards)

On a recent trip that included China, half a dozen stops in Europe, and some time in New York and San Francisco, someone skimmed my corporate credit card. My bank, Bankwest, has a pretty impressive fraud detection system, and when someone (I think based in China) made a $1 transaction (so as to test whether the number was valid, before either selling the details on or coming back to try and clean me out), the bank’s team caught it and gave me a call.

Unfortunately, I was in the US at the time, and for some reason they didn’t see fit to leave a message, so all of a sudden, my card stopped working, but it was at the tail end of the trip, and I decided I’d look into it when I got back, thinking it might have just been a normal effect of running out of credit limit or something.

After getting home and calling the bank, I was told all about the fraud, that the card had been deactivated, and that they’d send me a new one.

With a number of automatic transactions with suppliers now rejecting, there was only a little bit of hassle involved with telling them the new number. Everyone except TPG internet.

With the new number in hand, I dutifully logged into their web control panel and updated the details. The system accepted them, but a short time later sent me an email and told me that the card wasn’t valid. I logged in again, thinking I must have mistyped a number or two, but again, after a while, an email came through rejecting things.

Not I thought they might have had something wrong on their end, as I’d been buying fuel for the car and paying other vendors successfully with it, and I made a note to come back in a day or two to try again.

This went on for a little while, until I got a call from the bank after I’d made a number of large transactions internationally in a short period of time. While confirming the transactions were legitimate, I happened to ask the caller from the bank whether she could see if there was anything wrong with the card that would explain why TPG’s transactions were failing.

She looked back through the records, only to see that TPG was trying to process my card with an expiry date of 20/22, ie, a month much greater than 12 in the year 2022.

When I got my email reminder from TPG accounts the next day, I replied and explained in some detail what I’d discovered, and asked if someone could give me a call or reply via email with an update on what’s happening at their end.

Later that day, upon getting to my home office, I tried to log on, only to find I’d been disconnected. I called through to their phone number on the bottom of their accounts email, and selected accounts, only to find I’d called 10 mins after they’d closed for the day. Of course, they then hung up on me. So I rang again pressed 2 for tech support, thinking I’d play dumb about my connection not working, and hope they’d take my credit card over the phone and reactivate or unblock the account. Instead of being placed in the support queue, however, I was just told they couldn’t help me right now (presumably too many people in the queue, but the system didn’t say that) and promptly hung up on me. Customer service: FAIL.

Giving up, I called the next morning, and after 15 mins on hold for accounts, I told my story to an outsourced phone support person. I tried to explain my situation with some difficulty because of language issues, and she tried to take the CC payment over the phone. Again, it failed. She put me on hold, and then 10 minutes later, hung up on me. Repeating the process, and now getting having been at it for almost an hour by this time, I am finally asked some details about the card, like the bank it is with. “Oh, we’re sorry, we’re having problems with some Bankwest cards”.

So, while on one hand I’m frustrated by the scammers who nicked my details and made this all necessary, I’m actually more frustrated with TPG. Their system had a problem, and they then disconnected me and made me jump through hoops to try and diagnose and solve it, and even with the accurate information, it still took an hour to have someone recognise it.

They’ve now demanded I give them a different credit card, or access to draw money out of my bank account, but I’ve told them to get stuffed – they should fix their system, and email me when they’ve done it. No one else I’m working with is having any problems, and given the quality of their website – design last touched in 1997 or something I think – and their poor quality customer service, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were massively cutting corners on their payment processing gateway: there’s some things you just shouldn’t scrimp on.

If they do this again, I’m off to Internode, who I heard nothing but great stories about while at OSDC last week.

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