So, today I got a note from Bank of America telling me that—as a result of some suspicious charges—my debit card had been suspended. I had to call them to get the card reinstated.
I assumed that something in my last week’s worth of purchases (all sort of odds and ends to prepare for my trip to Senegal this week) had tripped the algorithm. My money was on the three transactions that I managed to have take place at REI last week, despite having never spent money on fitness gear before.
Once I worked my way through the many painful phone menus involved in getting to the right customer service robot, the system read the suspicious charges to me. The REI charges were not among them. In fact, none of my unusual travel charges were. Instead, my card got flagged for these three purchases:
- $8.56 spent on pizza at 10:30 last night.
- $8.93 spent on grocery store mini cheesecakes at 10:00 the night before.
- $25.00 spent at a CVS the night before that. (Which was very nearly $45.00, but they were out of Genie Bras in my size.)
Bank of America flagged me for buying food—and in the CVS case, acne medication—late at night. Along with being massively embarrassing (mini cheesecakes are not a food that screams “dignity”), these purchases are completely within the realm of normal for me. I have been to all of these stores before. I usually spend about $10 when I get food and about $25 when I go on a CVS binge.
What I have not ever done is spend $100 at REI, then get refunded $50, then spend $26, then get refunded $26. That transaction (having to do with some confusion about what mosquito net I needed) happened the same day as the CVS debacle, and BoA did not bat an eye at it.
The algorithm it’s applying to my account is one that makes sense for my parents. It is not one that makes sense for a physically inactive college student with poor impulse control and a deep love of cream cheese. Conveniently, as Bank of America has every possible bit of information about me, it knows which one of those two demographics I fit in.
So, the moral of this story—for those of you seeking to commit identity fraud—is to buy some really sweet and easily resold luggage at REI. However, avoid groceries. The bank might catch on.