Fraud Protection Alert

American Express sent me an email recently which immediately got my attention. The subject line read: Fraud Protection Alert. The email included a date, a place–Saks; an amount–710 USD; and finally, the notice: Not Approved.

Yes, they were right, this was a case of fraud.

I’m always amazed at how good American Express is at knowing what I might buy and what I certainly wouldn’t. Since I travel randomly around the world, often to out-of-the-way places where I buy odd things, this feat is particularly amazing.

I say this because this was the fourth or fifth time they’ve caught fraudulent use of my credit card and in each case, they caught the fraud right away. Perfectly. Never a real purchase declined and never a fraudulent one approved. Extraordinary.

Somehow they knew that the purchase from Saks, from which I have bought things in the past, was fraudulent, but the one from Fogo, for Cuban marabu charcoal, was a legitimate purchase. I have never before bought anything from Fogo and never ordered Cuban marabu or any other kind of charcoal.

How do they do this?

While I was confirming the fraud with the AmEx representative, she let me know she was cancelling my card, and ordering a new one which would be send out immediately.

A few days later, there it was in my mailbox, just as promised. I opened the envelope and to my surprise, my replacement card was solid metal. At first, I was intrigued, but then as I played with it, I thought of something: airport security. I’m a Global Entry and Pre-Check flyer so never have to take anything out of my pockets or bags when passing through security, but I do have to walk through an old-style metal detector. Would the cool new metal American Express card set it off?

Two days later, I had the opportunity to find out before I boarded a plane for Charlotte. The card cleared security while staying in my wallet in my pocket. It did it the next day too, on my way to Detroit. How could I have been so silly to think that American Express had not thought about travelers such as me and airport security…

But the next day, on my way to Seattle, it happened. I went through the metal detector and it buzzed. I immediately reached for my wallet, took out the card and handed it to the TSA agent while mumbling about the ridiculousness of the thing. The agent laughed and said it wasn’t the credit card. I had just been the lucky random person the computer had picked for an extra security check.

Two more flights with metal detectors staying calm as I walked through them with my fancy new card, and I was home.

That’s what excellent customer service is all about. Taking care of customer problems before your customer even knows there is a problem. Thinking about how your product might be used and ensuring that these uses won’t cause trouble. And following through exactly as you say you will.

Sometimes people share credit card horror stories with me. I just smile and suggest they do what I do…carry an American Express card. Wherever you are in the world, they have your back.*

* Disclaimer: Not a paid endorsement. AX has no idea I’m writing this.

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  1. Rosario Giraldo September 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm · · Reply

    Very nice and interesting story Steve. We always enjoy your mails.
    But in Anchorage Zoo some time ago, they only accepted Visa and MasterCard.
    Kind regards from Lima, Peru
    Rosario.
    PD – Still waiting you to see you playing golf near the sea (Pacific Ocean, more peaceful).

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