Column

Oliver: Credit-card issue offers online cautionary tale

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

’Tis the season for many people to hit the stores, both physical and virtual.

For me, it’s time to think about acquiring my preferred calendars for the coming year. This is not as easy as it used to be.

That’s probably because I am a dinosaur and a picky one at that. I have an old-school Filofax organizer that works for me, and I see no need to replace it.

In the past, you couldn’t go too far without running into its yearly inserts. No longer. These days, I have to go to the company’s website and get what I want from there.

The other calendar of choice is an Ansel Adams wall calendar that hangs in a prominent spot in the kitchen. The black-and-white photographs are lovely, but the real selling point is the big squares for each day, perfect for writing in our many appointments. With my cancer battle, let me just say the 2019 calendar has a lot of writing on it.

One used to be able to head over to the nearest Borders bookstore or Barnes and Noble to get one. Some years you had to move fast because they always sold out. That meant I couldn’t cheap out and wait until they were 50% off.

These days, it’s not even easy to find one online. One would think that Amazon would have them. They do, but only if you’re willing to pay more than the asking price.

So I had to do a bit of digging, and I located one on Walmart.com, which is trying to compete with Amazon for all that online business.

One recent morning I figured I’d get both calendar purchases out of the way and I logged on and went to Filofax first. Got that done and even managed to score a discount. Bonus.

Then I headed over to Walmart.com. As I was checking out, something went wrong. The website wouldn’t take my credit card and kept asking for another form of payment.

Uh, no. We are diligent about paying our balance off each month, so it certainly wasn’t a matter of being over the limit. Besides, this purchase was less than $30.

After a couple of tries to fix it, thinking I had typed in a digit incorrectly, I gave up. Just as I was heading to Amazon’s site, my phone rang.

Now, I never answer the house phone, mostly because it’s usually scam calls and recorded messages. So imagine my surprise when it was a robocall allegedly from my credit card company asking me to call back about potential fraud. The automated voice said that if I didn’t call back, my credit card would essentially be frozen.

OK, that’s weird, I thought to myself. Still, I had just a few minutes earlier been locked out from buying my calendar.

Just to be safe, I headed back to my computer and looked up my credit card company’s website, located the fraud unit’s number and called them.

Sure enough, something looked suspicious to them about my two purchases, which amounted to about $60 total. However, after jumping through a few hoops, I was back in business, able to go ahead and get my Ansel Adams calendar.

Of course, I’m still shaking my head. You mean to tell me that at this time of year a couple of back-to-back calendar purchases is going to set off fraud alarm bells? Really?

With all the thousands upon thousands of online holiday purchases yet to come, I’m sort of feeling sorry for the fraud detection units already.

Then again, it’s better to be safe than swindled.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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