Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Internet Security

No, I haven't fallen victim to identity theft or some nasty computer virus. On the contrary, I've been the victim of the new, improved "safe" internet. Over the past week, I've run into two situations trying to make purchases on-line that have had me ready to pull my hair out.

There are some places I shop on-line that just work. You select the items you want to buy, click a button or two, and voila, a box arrives on your doorstep with your stuff in it. Awesome. Amazon is one company that jumps to mind. They've even got a "one-click" purchase option you can sign up for.

On the other end of the spectrum are companies like the ones I've been dealing with this week. I understand that the hurdles I have to jump over to make a purchase on-line have been put in place for "my protection," but why is it that some companies can make it easy while other make it so hard.

A big part of my problem is that I'm not making standard purchases. In both cases I was making a purchase on-line that wasn't directly for me. First, I bought myself a few scuba accessories online and had them shipped to my mother in Massachusetts. She is then going to forward them to me in Singapore much cheaper than I can get them sent directly here. The other was buying airline tickes for Melissa and Jack's summer vacation from Singapore Airlines.

After making my purchase online at the scuba company (joediveramerica.com), I got an email from their customer service department the next day. Since my billing address and shipping address didn't match, they needed further verification of my identity before they would ship my package. (Of course, they had already charged my credit card at this point.) They wanted me to fax them a copy of my drivers license and my credit card bill showing the purchase to prove that I owned the card I was using. I debated for a day and a half on whether I would send this to them. Considering that I'd already been billed and I didn't want the hassle of trying to talk them into refunding my money, I gave in and sent them what they asked for. Of course, I made a whiny comment to them that I thought it was a bit ironic that they were asking me for the info an identity thief would want in their effort to protect me. Regardless, even though the gear showed up right when they said it would, no more purchases from these guys.

Singapore Airlines was even more of a pain in the butt. We found tickets for Melissa and Jack's summer trip the the US at a great rate on Singapore Air. After filling out tons of info like passport numbers, email addresses, frequent flier numbers, names and ages for 20 minutes, we finally made it to the payment page. The page first asks you if the person paying for the ticket will be one of the travelers. I had my credit card with me, so I said "no." I then got a message stating that as I was not traveling as part of this purchase, I would have to fill out an affidavit stating I was paying for these tickets and I would be responsible for the cost of the flight. I would then have to bring myself, my credit card and this paper to a Singapore Air office prior to the flight to confirm the purchase.

"Forget this," I said. "Melissa, get me your credit card."

I switch back to "Yes, purchaser will be flying'" and the nasty message goes away. I then enter the data from Melissa's Visa card and hit "purchase". (You don't think this is the end of the story, do you?)

A new window pops up. "This card in enrolled in "Verified by Visa". Please enter your Verified by Visa password."

"What the hell is Verified by Visa? When did you sign up for this?" I ask Melissa.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she says.


We try plugging in a few of the passwords we commonly use to no avail. A new window pops up on the screen. "Your session has timed out. Thank you for visiting singaporeairlines.com"

Great googily moogily.

What next? We start researching Verified by Visa. Turns out, it is a service provided by Visa in partnership with a number of vendors in an effort to never let you buy anything on-line ever again. After searching for 20 minutes, we find that we need to apply through the bank that issues the credit card. We then go to the Chase website and find their FAQ on Verified by Visa. We click on the link for "forgot your password" and it asks us to enter the card number. The next message is the one that sent me over the edge.

"As you have not previously set up a profile online, we can not access your information. Please contact Chase at 1-800 blah blah."

Alright....I then go back and try to set up a profile. After again entering the card number, I get this one.

"You already have an account. If you have forgotten your password, please click on the 'forgot your password' link to have your password emailed to you."

Both Chase bank and Visa are now invited to bite me.

At this point , my only option was to pull out my trusty American Express card. I don't know what AmEx does differently than everyone else, but I have never had one problem using that card. Of course, now I have to fill out another form, and drag myself to the Singapore Airlines ticket office downtown next Saturday, and submit my DNA and a stool sample to complete my purchase.

1 comment:

Deacon Frank Tremblay said...

I read this and laughed and laughed and laughed - then called your mother who laughed and laughed and laughed.