On HSBC fighting card fraud with the wrong tools


I am growing more and more concerned about the tricks that the banking industry dares to use these days. Fair enough, they have to make a living, but as the subprime shambles has proofed to everyone, they have crossed the line, and there they sit, happily grazing as if laws and rules didn’t apply to them.

Let me share with you the last of their works of art.

A couple of nights ago I tried to purchase a flight online. Before going ahead with the purchase, I made sure that the account had sufficient funds to cover the cost of the flight. It did. Well, my HSBC MasterCard was declined.

I must say that in the past I’ve had many problems purchasing online with their credit card, so it didn’t come us a surprise. Dressed up as a fraud prevention scheme, what they have put together is one of the worse user friendly credit card services on the high street.

I didn’t know the reason why the purchase was declined, I got my debit card and re-started the process all over again. However, by the time I went to choose the flights I was interested in, they were already gone at the price and dates I wanted. Eventually I had to change my travel dates to a less employer-friendly option.

Up until that point, and with the bad experiences that shopping online with HSBC gave me in the past, I did not give it further attention.

But this morning it all just got interesting. I received a recorded message from their Fraud Prevention Department kindly asking me to ring them back.

I did so, and one of their agents somewhere in Asia –not being racist here, just emphasising what we all know by now, that they have outsourced their call centres but not their decision making brains- informed me that it was a security and fraud call and after checking my debit cards, they didn’t find anything wrong with them.

I was asked whether I had a credit card. I confirmed so and informed the lady on the phone that the night before I tried to purchase online a flight but the card was declined for no apparent reason.

Heaven opened, my friend! She started reading from her screen one of the phoniest stories I’ve ever heard from a bank employee (or any industry, for that matter.)

Apparently, their Investigations Department (didn’t even know they had one) had been working closely with the Police and my credit card number was on a list of cloned cards. You know which card, the one she didn’t even know I had a few minutes before but now seemed the reason of their phone call. She didn’t give me more details on the matter but told me I was lucky they “intercepted” the transaction before they could use the card fraudulently.

I told the lady on the phone that they didn’t intercept anything, but declined a genuine transaction I was trying to make.

My card being on a Police list passed over to HSBC’s fraud department? It doesn’t sound just right. Why did they ring me instead of automatically cancel the card and let me know? Why didn’t the bank contact me straight away? Why didn’t the agent know that it was the credit, not the debit cards that had been supposedly “cloned”?

To me, it seems that they are just taking pre-emptive actions to avoid fraud risk. Who hasn’t heard of people travelling abroad and HSBC blocking their cards for “security reasons”? The story goes that you just have to let them know that you are going abroad before you travel, so that they can expect it. Who are they? My mother? The government? Hang on a sec… I really see a pattern of behaviour here… they are transmutating into government-like organisations, aren’t they? They take your money and you cannot avoid it, they self-regulate themselves, they get away with gross wrongdoing and get an exaggerated slice of the cake.

Just to double check I am going to contact the Police to verify their explanation. I am growing a bit tired of their treating us first as fraudsters, convicts and an untrustworthy bunch, second as a money making machine, and a distant third as customers. And now they even use the name of the Police to their advantage.

What is wrong with banking in the UK? Standards are low and frozen in the 1970’s, customer service impossible if you are handless (no dialling 1 for anything, you see) or have a strong Polish, Spanish or Scottish accent and now, already well in the 21st century, cancelling online transactions for the sake of security and giving away bogus excuses to cover up their user unfriendly actions is just ridiculous.
I am not sure where I heard it, but apparently it is custom to train their branch staff so that they do NOT make decisions on their own.

In my case, it is not the first time that HSBC try to use dubious practices. Last summer they played around with some charges on my debit card that unknowingly took place in Thailand while on holiday, and as far as I know, Cirrus ended up paying over the odds. But that is a story for another day.


PS. Browsing the net I found something that really goes with this post.


3 Responses

  1. I agree there story sounds very manafactured for these types of scearios. I have had many simialr problems when banking online with HSBC cards, both for my current account and my credit card. I think they there outsourcing as you so delicatly put it is a large part of the problem. Even now when i go into a branch to sort a problem out there is only so much they can do without puttin gme on the phone.

  2. John,

    You are absolutely right. You raised a capital subject: Outsourcing.
    If done well, it mustn’t be a hassle for the customer. As I have suffered myself, call centres in Manchester or Norwich do not guarantee a better service or response. Therefore, I understand that they are not doing a proper job when outsourcing, you cannot leave your customer services to a separate company (here or abroad). That is business suicide.

    As I commented on an earlier post, they subtly force you into online banking where you do everything and they save on staff, but they don’t give you extra interest on your account or reduce their fees. Who’s the double winner and the double loser? I tell you, we are not the winners.

  3. These details show why fraud crimes will continue to get worse until banks exploit KEY and PIN system.

    Massive increase in fraud crimes should make the government and banks realise that their data protection and Chip and PIN systems are diverting rather than deterring fraud crimes simply because these systems are not making signature and PIN system reliable.

    This shows that fraud will continue to grow until they exploit KEY and PIN system described on website http://www.xwave.co.uk which will deter BOTH identity and card fraud by making signature and PIN systems reliable and foolproof.

    Fake documents have made our signature system unreliable while skimmers and pin-hole cameras etc. have made PIN system unreliable. We have option to make signatures reliable by personalising them with ID stickers and option to use Card Key Code to make PIN system reliable to make use of stolen and skimmed cards meaningless. By ignoring to exploit this system banks are only letting fraud crimes grow.

    ID KEY system will eliminate the need for us to protect our personal and card details since fraudsters will be deterred from misusing these stolen details.

    Proposed ID KEY can be treated as a reliable international ID card because it will personalise signature and PIN number to only the right individuals in any country.

    We hope that the government and banks will appreciate these details and exploit KEY and PIN system before it is too late to stop a fraud boom.

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