I see the email and freeze. “Citi CreditMonitor has detected a change in your credit report.”
This has never happened before. What could it be? Did someone steal my credit card number and go on a spree at the gay sex shop again? Did I black out and forget to pay a bill? Thank goodness there’s technology to tell me about these problems, right?
Within the (legit) email from my credit monitoring service, there’s a link to the service’s web program that will allow me to view the change. First of all, I can’t remember my login, or my password. Or maybe I do remember my login, but not my password. Or maybe I remember my password, but not my login. In any case, I can’t get in, and my entire financial future hangs in the balance. Apparently.
So I tell the computer that I can’t remember my login/password, and it sends me an email to walk me through. Swell. I log in using the correct information, and get the following: “You are not authorized to view this page. Please call 1-800-” whatever.
Great. Dysfunctional website telling me that my credit report has been altered. That’s not at all distressing. I envision my bank account dwindling as I dial the number, which, of course, directly connects me to Dubai or India.
“Thank you for calling, how am I helping you?”
I explain to the woman on the other end of the trans-continental phone line that I got this email, and now I can’t access the website. She starts the process of determining that I really am who I say I am. Name. Address (this requires thought; I moved a few months ago– which address do they have? If I give them the wrong one, will they arrest me?). Phone number (same thinking).
“Okay, thank you. Now, I will ask you ay securiteee question, ok?”
“Sure.” I’m expecting “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In which city were you born?” or “What was the name of your first pet?”
But she hits me with this one:
“Where is your longest car?”
“Where is your longest car?” she repeats.
Where is my longest car? Does she mean what car did I own the longest? Or what was my longest road trip? What the…?
“What?!” I’m so confused.
“Where. Is your longest. Car?”
I have no idea what this woman is talking about. Am I being punked?
“That doesn’t even make sense,” I blurt, sans gentility filter. It’s the stress of the unknown but surely life-changing credit change mixed with the confusion of the question. It’s making me snippy.
“I’m sorry,” she says, then tries again, slower: “Where. Is your longest car?”
I still can’t figure out what the hell this question is, because I don’t remember ever setting any kind of security question to be anything remotely resembling this random jumble of words. Suddenly, I realize it’s the language barrier. Saying it slower did not make it clearer. It only made it slower.
“Spell it,” I demand.
“Esse. Seeee. Ay. Arrr.”
At first, I don’t even know what she’s trying to spell. Then I catch on.
“Oh, SCAR!” I say. Phew! What do I win?!
(Wait. What the hell kind of security question is this? Where is my longest scar? Really?)
“Um… my stomach,” I tell her, my voice dropping. I feel a little awkward about telling a random total stranger in another country about my surgical scar from an episode with my reproductive system.
“Ummm, no, that is not correct,” she tells me, like I just lost the fabulous prize I thought I had won. What the hell? I think I know where– what is going on here?
“Actually, yes it is,” I inexplicably feel the need to argue. Immediately, I realize this is a completely ridiculous argument. But I happen to know exactly where my longest scar is, thank you very much, I almost died getting it and I’m rather put off that she says I’m wrong. How would she know?
“Nnnoooo–” she says cautiously.
I cut her off. “Look, I don’t even remember setting that as a security question. I mean that’s not even a good question. The answer can change.” I’m taking a tone that’s roughly equivalent to the way an eight-year-old protests math homework she doesn’t understand: “This is dumb.” I’m just angered by the principle of the question now. What kind of cockamamie security operation are you people running, here?
“Okay, let me connect you with the technical support,” she offers. So she connects me to The Technical Support, who has a slightly less accented accent. He explains conciliatorily that he has to ask me a bunch of questions. Three questions in, I realize the root of the problem: these factoids are from when I first opened the credit card in question. Seventeen years ago. No wonder I don’t remember the security question. And the scar on my lower abdomen is only eight years old. We navigate the treacherous waters of my memory from literally half my life ago vis-a-vis what county I lived in and what my phone number was, and establish that, as Romeo Crennel would insist, I am who we thought I was.
“Okay, ma’am, here’s what it is. Your credit card company reported to Equifax that you are paying your bill as arranged.”
Wait a minute.
“So… you’re saying they reported to Equifax that I pay my bills on time like I’m supposed to?”
Are you kidding me with this? I had a heart attack because CitiCard said, “Yeah, she’s good?” How dumb is that?! I’ve never had this happen before, and I’ve had this credit monitoring service for years.
“So… there’s nothing wrong.”
Well, that’s good. This whole exercise has been really stupid, but okay, I’m not perched on the precipice of financial ruin, so… yay me!
“Okay! Well… good! Um… hey, what is my credit score, anyway?”
“Yes, ma’am,” The Technical Support says. “I will put that information in for your web access. You can see it in 24 hours on the website.”
“The same site I couldn’t access today?”
“Yes, ma’am,” The Technical Support tells me happily. “Is there anything else I can be help with today?”
Sigh. “No, I suppose I’ll be calling again tomorrow…”
“Yes, ma’am. Have a good day!”