Why Don’t Banks Ask Us Security Questions We Can Actually Answer?
I was trying to log into my credit card account to pay a bill when up popped those persnickety security questions that I had forgotten how to answer. It may be I was on a device the credit card gods were not familiar with or it was just bad luck, but there I was confronted with questions that I had never seen before. Had I really told them I knew who my first-grade teacher was? Criminy, I’m a Gen Xer, how am I supposed to remember that?
By the time they locked me out of my account I was in a rage against the machine. After what seemed like an hour on the phone trying to reach a real person who sounded far away to unlock my account I was determined to try harder at remembering my past life so that I could answer the damn security questions and verify that I did indeed have a normal existence.
But then I started to wonder, whose idea was it to ask “What was the name of your first pet?” Mine was DC, a nickname for damned cat, which was what my dad called our black kitten when I first brought it home. But the credit card gods wouldn’t take DC and I thought writing out Damned Cat, damned cat, or damncat may get confusing every time I logged in so I didn’t choose that option.
Next up came what was the first movie you ever went to see? Really? If I had to think it may have been Halloween, or maybe it was Cinderella. I really don’t know, and I probably wouldn’t know next time I try to log into my account and the gods want to verify I’m a real person. Honestly, does anyone remember the first movie they ever saw unless of course it was Harry Potter? Skipped that one.
What was the first name of the date who took you to a dance? How do they know we had dates? Most dances were just that, you went, you danced. And why assume someone took me and not the other way around? The only dance I recalled ever having a date was my senior prom. His name was easy to remember. Click.
What was the name of the city of your first job. Well that is tricky. Do you mean as a babysitter or my first professional job? I moved a few times after college. Will I remember which I chose? Skip.
What was the name of your favorite teacher? I never had a favorite. Skip.
What was the color of your first car? Well if you count the hatchback station wagon my dad gave me with two hundred thousand miles on it then maybe it is gray but if you are counting the Plymouth I bought with my own money after totaling the Toyota only three months later, then it was beige. Or was that brown? Skip.
The more options I skipped the more difficult the questions got and I wondered if I was not the only one thinking that maybe it's ridiculous for the credit card company gods to think we can all recall memories of our past when trying to navigate an online system so we can pay a bill or check a balance or do whatever it is we need to do to make our financial life stable. What makes them think we have that kind of memory recall anyway? I sometimes can’t even remember the name of a person I met last week. And I consider that I have fairly good mental acuity. I started to wonder who these people were that came up with the questions. What age are they, what is their life experience? Why are they assuming everyone had a pet or a date? It seems to me we consumers should have a say in the type of questions asked to verify our identity. After all, we lived our lives, we know what experiences we can recall without having to wrack our brains.
I began to wonder when things became so complicated and they stopped asking the maiden name of my mother. Maybe because a lot of women don’t change their names anymore so maiden is outdated. Okay, we should move on from that one. But what about the first name of my paternal grandfather, or grandmother, or how about just my mom’s name. That would be easy. Maybe too easy. Okay, so how about what is the name of your best friend. Best friends don’t change too often. Or do they?
Sheila Myers is an award winning author and Professor at a small college in Upstate NY. She enjoys writing, swimming in lakes, and walking in nature. Not always in that order.