Category Archives: Privacy

On-Line Business

Sometimes one feels like they are in a world gone mad.

With the explosion of ebusiness, a lot of companies seem to be under the absolutely ludicrous impression that everyone is always on-line, and wishes to conduct all their business that way. Some twenty-something teckie who is in love with the idea of technology has convinced management that the only way to do business is on-line, and it will solve all their problems. There are a terrifying number of airlines, shops, banks and other service companies who appear to have forgotten why they were in business in the first place. In a word, giving SERVICE to their CLIENTS.

Do they really expect the silver-haired octogenarian to conduct her business on-line? The infirmed? To book airline tickets, do their banking, and deal with problems by accessing a computer? As some of the modern telephones are intimidating enough, never mind being told by a recorded voice that if you have a problem, ‘you can contact us on line at ‘ www.noservice.com’ or ‘we’re too important to speak to you on the telephone.com’ or ‘we don’t care about you.com’ and being incapable of actually finding a human being to speak to.

Computers are a truly wonderful creation, I’ve spent most of my career working in the computer industry, and am enthralled by the level of imagination in the field. From voice recognition, 3D animation, robotics , aircraft simulators for pilot training, complete with cockpits which actually move, microscopic surgery, and artificial limbs, the uses of technology are advancing daily, and most of it at the click of a mouse. However, companies must understand that not everyone wishes to live through the use of technology, nor does everyone think with the logic of a computer. Some people are visual, some auditory, others tactile, some mathematical, and others just plain lonely. Never underestimate the value of a live human voice. No automated system can ever replace the sound of the words,
‘can I help you with something? Is everything ok?”

Although I work in the industry, and am extremely savvy to the uses of technology, as it happens I am also someone who does NOT wish to conduct my personal business on-line. And it is interesting to note, that there a great number of people like myself, who have decided that if a company does not wish to speak with me in person in order to obtain my custom, then I will probably not be doing business with them.

So, next time you decide to automate a customer service function, try asking the clients what they think about the idea first.

Clients pay your salary and your rent. They should have a voice. The old expression ‘money talks and money walks’ should be remembered. Do something original.
ASK.!

Customer Loyalty Programs

……fabulous or an invasion of privacy?

They are a double edged sword.

Companies are convincing their clients to sign up for all sorts of Customer Loyalty Programs ostensibly to reach certain levels and receive gifts or free travel. In exchange, companies are collecting extensive experience on their clients buying habits, from restaurants, travel, pharmacy, clothes and groceries, which they are then mining for trends. If a client consistently purchases expensive clothes, then their information is sold to third parties for cash and the client is solicited by other companies for credit cards, cars and other products. Although in the last few years it has been mandatory to request permission to share the information, it is not always the case. This crosses and interesting line between misuse of information and invasion of privacy, in many cases, both personal and corporate.

In days of old, there was an interpersonal relationship between merchant and client, where the client would ask the merchant to please advise them of certain items coming into the shop, or sales.

Some people I know put every possible expenditure they can on their corporate credit card in order to collect travel points, and then use the points to travel internationally for free,  which can be an interesting compensation for someone who travels extensively on company business. Other people use their credit cards for everything from groceries to gas, and collect points.

In the electronic age, there is no such thing as privacy, the more information is collected, the more is known about you. A lot of people use the argument, ‘I have nothing to hide’, however, that is not really the case. Do you really want someone, unknown to you, to be able to do a lifestyle analysis on you and track your purchases, travels and buying habits?  From personal hygiene products to drugs?

Do you really think it is a good idea for strangers to be able to mine your life and find out what doctors you visit, what stores you frequent, what restaurants you eat in, and how much you spend on groceries versus restaurants every week?

One frightening bit of information which is unknown to most people, is that the credit bureau also hosts all the insurance data, so, it is not a large stretch of the imagination, to envisage the day when one required to fill in an application form for a loan, and be obliged to allow the insurance information to be provided as well. Think about it. The next step after that is job applications where this information must be provided. Then what?

Big Brother is Watching.

Credit Card Hoax= Buyer Beware

Over the years I have spoken to people endlessly about the abuses of privacy and credit, and the incredible damage which can be done  which is practically impossible to un-do.

Privacy, and the abuse of personal information, credit card and identity theft are running so high the banks and credit card companies are seeking any excuse to put the blame on the innocent victims.

A couple of months ago, there was a contest which looked like it was from a particular bank, so a young lady (20) filled in the information online and then never heard anything again. A couple of weeks ago, she received a telephone call informing her that she had won a trip to Florida and a tour of the Universal Studios….as you can imagine, she was thrilled, and, when they gave her the last 4 digits of her credit card number, she was more than happy to provide the balance of the numbers, as well as the security code. Her limit being too low, she quickly offered up another credit card to cover the balance of the deposit which was required. She called the office to speak to her father, and upon hearing the details of the trip, as well as the way in which the credit card information was taken from her, I quickly told her that she had been scammed, and that she should cancel both credit cards as fast as she could. By the time she called the 2 credit card companies, the amounts had been put through, and she was in fact, over her limit on one of the cards. We quickly brought her to the police station to fill in the appropriate forms, hopeful that her money would be returned by the 2 credit card companies.

NOT THE CASE.

As she had willingly provided the security codes, the companies said that there was nothing they either would or could do. It was now firmly on HER shoulders, and although she reported the incident instantly as well as going to the police, she was at fault. She is 20. How can an honest, hard=working student hope to pay this money back?

Through no fault of her own, she now risks bad credit to pay back a fraud.

Something wrong with this picture.

Last autumn, I was also the recipient of a similar telephone call. The timing was interesting, as I had recently spoken to a group about the very subject, and not a week later I received a call telling me that I had won a cruise!   As I rarely enter contests, it sounded a bit strange. The fact that there was no name on the telephone under call display as well as a strange telephone number on the display, made me doubt the caller. It also sounded like a telephone call center in the background, too many voices, too animated, but, WOW! Was the caller smooth. He identified himself as ‘Jason” and told me I had won a cruise, and required a valid credit card number to process my trip. I told him that I don’t have one. He then proceeded to argue with me saying that he knew I had an ‘emergency’ credit card number, and that he had it on file, so would I confirm it. I laughed and told him that he should tell me which credit card number he had, as it had been 15 years since I had a credit card. He was amazingly smooth on the telephone and laughed me off, saying that he knew I had a ‘secret’ credit card for travel and we both knew about it. I kept asking him what credit card it was and he kept changing the subject. He was incredibly well trained at the art of turning a conversation around. He kept insisting that I had a  secret credit card ,and that he needed it as a security deposit incase I had a ‘rock star moment’ on the cruise and trashed my room, so that they were covered. I finally told him that as far as I was concerned, the call was a hoax, there was no cruise, I had not entered any contests, and he was not getting a non-existent credit card number, and he hung up the telephone.

Two nights later I was at an event, and one of the participants came running up to me to thank me for my constant discussions of fraud and credit card abuses, she is a retired woman in her 80’s who lives alone, and she had received the same telephone call, they had been equally charming with her on the telephone and she went along with the call ….until she hung up the receiver and realized she had been scammed. She immediately rang up the credit card company and cancelled her card, and thanked me profusely for discussing the issue relentlessly. She actually got to the credit card company before the charge was put through, and was saved. Unfortunately, in the case of our pretty 20 year old, she lost her money and the credit card company told her that because she willingly gave out her codes, they wouldn’t do anything about it, she would have to pay the money. Even though it is fraud, and she has a police report.

Be careful out there folks, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone calls you saying you won a contest and requests your

Credit card information, do the smart thing, ask for their name, company name and telephone number and check them out. Chances are, they will either hang up on you, or give you a number which is not ever answered,, and that will be your proof of fraud. Report them to the police regularly, that is the only way this illicit behaviour will stop.

Collection Agencies

Overzealous thugs.

No, I am not being kind. If most people were aware of how their credit information is used, and the abuses in the system, they would think twice before giving all the information freely which is requested.

The current system works on the magical assumption that most people work and are paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, and therefore all bills are due on the beginning of the month. However, during the last 10 years, that situation has changed drastically, and the financial models which are used are in many cases no longer suitable. For individuals who are self-employed, one does the work, invoices, and waits anywhere from 10 days to 2 months. The total elapse time is 3 months. The credit system works on the old model, so if someone is 3 months behind paying their bills, they are immediately labeled a ‘deadbeat’, and bills are placed into collection.

With more and more people not having land lines, and relying entirely on mobile telephones, and changing their numbers and providers on a fairly regular basis, it makes for interesting times for collectors.

One of my business associates has been bombarded with telephone calls from a collection agency for the past month, with calls at all hours of the day, as well as on the weekend. The bill collector calls his home and asked him to identify himself, which, of course, being in the IT industry, and most importantly within the Identity and Privacy specialist, he refused to do. He asked over and over who they were, why they were calling, and they became increasingly hostile and belligerent over the telephone. He became so exasperated that at one point he threatened to call the police if they didn’t stop calling  over and over. He insisted to speak with a supervisor, also to no avail. Finally, after a complete day of rude non-stop calls, a supervisor finally called back. She confirmed the telephone number, it was correct, she confirmed the name, also correct, after much discussion, she finally admitted she was from a collection agency, so he inquired  exactly which bill it was that he was supposed to have not paid, it was an account he doesn’t have. The conversation ensued, she then asked if he lived in a particular town, considering the telephone number, it would have been impossible as the area codes do not correspond. That being said, she then asked if his birthday was a particular day and a particular month, it was not. So, it turns out, the person they were seeking had the same name, lives in a different area, has a different birth date, and is no relation. She then admitted that they were working their way through the telephone book and calling everyone with that name. No apologies, simply that she would update the file and they would cease calling.

We had a long discussion about the credit system, he then called the telephone company and had to pay to have his telephone number changed and unlisted.

This is disgraceful. The wrong person, the wrong address, the wrong everything, yet legally they have the right to call and threaten and treat people as deadbeats.

What is the reason for this article? To make you all mindful of the way the system works, and to warn you of a credit system gone mad.

Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you know who they are, and are aware of the use of the information. Give as little as possible, don’t believe the rhetoric about how it is necessary. In most cases it is not.