Security – is it just me?

Here is a scenario that I’m sure will be familiar to most of you. You call your bank, your doctor, your insurance company etc. and have to answer increasingly personal waves of questions in order to do whatever it is that you called them for. An example of this is when I had to call the Microsoft Store to request a VAT invoice for a Surface Pro we bought on a customer’s behalf. I was more than happy to give my name, company and order number to allow the operative to locate the invoice. But then came the dreaded phrase “Before I can help you I just need to run through a few security questions with you”… They ask for the last four digits of your credit card, so you dig out your wallet and read out the numbers. You put the card back in its wallet. They ask for the expiry date, so you get the card out again and give the info. Next comes “What is the first line of the cardholders address?” I give this information and suggest to the operative that this is now getting tedious and joke that they will soon know more about me than I do! They give an apology and assure me that it is company policy and is required for data protection purposes. This seems to rattle them and to counter my obstinacy they retaliate with yet another question – “What month were you born in?” I remind them that I just want an invoice and not the combined nuclear codes for NATO – bad joke and I am quickly shot down with “What is your most memorable place?” Now I need to ask the operative a question of my own – “Please forget company policy for just a second and using your own free thoughts, tell me what could possibly happen if a copy of my invoice were to fall into the wrong hands. Could it lead to the end of civilization?” The response from our pre-programmed auto-bot was the half expected “I am sorry sir but without the required information I cannot assist you.” I decide to play devils’ advocate and ask if they can see the invoice details on the screen, which they confirm is the case. So I ask “How do I know I can trust you now that you can see the invoice? How do I know you won’t take a copy home and the leave it on the bus by accident, thus allowing enemies of the state to know I bought a computer?”

This stalemate goes on for a few minutes more till I finally realize that I am fighting a losing battle and if I want the invoice I must disclose every piece of information they request. I submit and sing like a canary, giving inside leg measurements, Swiss bank account numbers and as a token gesture even admit to supporting Crystal Palace.

Finally the ordeal is over and I sense progress as I hear the auto-bot’s keyboard start to click again. They say “I have requested an invoice is posted to you. Please allow up to EIGHT WEEKS for it to arrive.”

Flabbergasted I ask if the delay is caused by the need to arrange for an SAS escort to accompany my invoice, only to be told it will be sent by normal post, sorted and delivered by un-vetted postman. How secure is that?

But hey, perhaps it’s just me. Thanks for listening to my rant!

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