Final Update 10/15/15: After emailing with the Capital One support person below and given that they’d provided the credit that I asked for, I reactivated my accounts to give the new text alert system a try. Their exec support team called and made it quick and easy to reactivate the accounts. We’ll see how it goes.

Update: I received the following response from Capital One through my media team query:

Thanks for forwarding, Jeff, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience of your card being blocked for suspected fraud when you were trying to make an international, online purchase. Capital One has tools to help alert customers to fraud declines, and rather than the email alert, perhaps a better solution for you would have been our text alerts. I apologize if no one informed you of that option. The text alerts enable customers to immediately clear a fraud concern by responding to the text we send when we suspect there is fraud. This enables the customer to continue using the credit card. We strive to balance protecting customer accounts and avoiding disruptions in service and again, apologies this didn’t meet your expectations. Further, not hearing back from our Executive Resolutions department was a slip on our part and we gave your account a $100 courtesy credit for that miss. It was unacceptable. Let me know if you have any additional questions, and again, we’re sorry that these fraud flags led to ending your relationship with us.

I have asked for more information about the text alert system and whether it actually does slow the shutdown or allow it to be easily managed. The support team never told me about this either time I encountered this problem. My experience last week was that the card was shut down immediately after the ClearTrip.com decline.


On Sunday, Capital One declined a $280 travel reservation I charged at India-based ClearTrip.com and immediately shut off my card for all transactions until I contacted them by phone. The reservations, meals and seats that I’d taken time to reserve for my partner and me were lost. It was frustrating and unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time that CapitalOne had shut off my card after a single suspect transaction. But, I’d actually purchased from ClearTrip.com using my CapitalOne card on two other occasions in early 2014. It was an example of very poor fraud detection and led me on a tour of their pathetic customer service.

I’ve been a customer with Capital One for nearly three years. I try to pay nearly all my expenses with my CapitalOne account to maximize rewards points and organize my spending in one place. So, I’ve charged a lot of money with the company. I’ve also made every one of my monthly payments on time. I’m an excellent customer.

So, if three or more unusual transactions totaling more than $500 rapidly appeared on my account, I’d understand them shutting down my account. Less than that, I’d expect an email notification or a phone call before valid transactions were blocked.

Instead, in this case, a single international transaction for less than $300 from a company which I had purchased from twice before triggered an immediate shut off in my account. This is just weak data analysis and stupid fraud analysis. It also can leave a customer at risk if they’re solely reliant on the card.

Earlier Charges to ClearTrip.com

Earlier Charges to ClearTrip.com

After having this happen twice before (once with Capital One), I was tired of being asked to make phone calls to the bank’s terrible customer service lines just to get my card access back. The last time Capital One shut off my credit card due to fraud it suspected, I was so frustrated I asked the customer support team to place a note on my account that I would close my accounts if it happened again.

So, Sunday, I began the tortuous process of reactivating my cards. First, I spoke to their online chat support – first connected with what seemed like overseas support tech “Alonso.” He began with the typical patronizing comments, “As a consumer I myself understand how it feel when you are unable to use your card to make purchases” and “If I were in your place I would have felt the same way.”

@AskCapitalOne Unanswered Direct Messages

@AskCapitalOne Unanswered Direct Messages

After ten minutes, I was connected to “John.” After making no progress, I instructed him to close my accounts. Finally, John said, “I’d be happy to escalate this issue to our Executive Resolutions team and have a representative contact you back by phone. Would you like to speak with our Executive Resolution team before we proceed to close?” After I relented, John said, “A representative from Executive Resolutions will contact you in 1 – ­2 business days regarding this issue.” I never heard from anyone. I think this is just a tactic they use to reduce closure rates.

Then, I reached out to Capital One support over Twitter – and was told to follow them for direct messaging. I did as instructed and never heard from them. I emailed Capital One’s media team to ask if they would like to comment on this story but have not received a response.

I finally called into their support lines, waded through the overseas layer of customer support up to what seemed like a domestic support personnel – and closed my accounts. I don’t necessarily expect different experiences with my new card providers but I no longer wanted to remain with a company that cared so little about how their policies were impacting me and my time — or one that used data to predict fraud so stupidly.

For example, if Capital One saw a single transaction it suspected might be fraud, it could keep my card active long enough for me to respond to a text message or email (or the next transaction) before shutting down my account. Or, it could wait until it saw a short series of suspect charges before doing so. There are intelligent data models for fraud detection and stupid ones but the banks don’t care. They want to minimize loss without regard to their customers’ experience.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest. Check out Portland Wild, a visual map-driven guide to Portland's public art, its Heritage Trees and its Little Free Libraries.

8 Comments

  1. So close to my story. Nearly identical circumstances and results. I’m so done with that company. Worst financial services customer experience of my life. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. I suspect Capital One is having serious issues with their fraud protection systems. Got an “URGENT” text message on a $1 charge (the auth hold) for the RaceTrac gas station closest to my house yesterday morning. Not only should something like that never be flagged, it’s someplace I go a few times a month and within my zip code.

    Best guess: Their offshore technology team just did a major botch on upgraded analytics following a heavy spat of fraud in August and September (which no one is talking about outside of the industry).

    Your experience and mine is why I carry cards from multiple issuers though. I can’t even trust USAA any more. After 20 years of fairly frequent business travel in North America and Europe, I have some work weeks where I am literally down to one functioning card (of 7 debit and credit cards) by the time I get home. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and the “we can re-activate your card over the phone” seems to take up to 48 hours at times.

    Reply

  3. My problems started after I attempted to buy software from a payment gateway in the Netherlands. My account was restricted and I called and we cleared up the problem. A couple of weeks passed and then….

    I had text and email alerts set up for everything – when they restricted my account I I was “notified” by having my card declined at a restaurant – no text message or email. All without explanation after 3 years as a member, never a late payment or balance for that matter, I was asked to send bank statements and photocopies of my identification. The tone and treatment from the fraud representative was kafkaesque and I would have closed my account on the spot but had over 100,000 points that would have been lost.
    My account became unrestricted a couple of days later and I cashed in my points and closed my account. I never imagined that I would be treated like a potential fraudster just because I tried to buy something at the wrong location.

    Side note: I also carry a second issuer’s card or my restaurant experience would have been very embarrassing.

    Reply

  4. Angel Of Caring For The Poor January 31, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Even the rich people who don’t even pay the annual fee do not have credit cards such as this one. The rich folks buy and put the whole thing on credit (from the store credit department). At the end of the year they say / claim it as a tax write-off, so all the foods and things they bought ON CREDIT is PARTIALLY PAID, so they get to eat and drink FREE. FREE…imagine that! The government gives them money and incentives, write-off, grants and they live in this world FREE OF CHARGE, yet they have millions of dollars in the bank. They go on vacation and can spend enormous amounts of money, while the poor eat shit and die poor with nothing to left over for anybody else who is alive and related to them. No inheritance, not a friggin’ thing. Horrible world this is. I hope GOD destroys these greedy son-of-a-bitches one by one.

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  5. thesunnysideofthestreet March 1, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    This morning I found I was unable to log into Capital One’s online account access. I called their “Customer Service” number and was transferred to a call center in the Philippines. The account representative demanded I tell him the phone number I was calling from (not the number on the account) for account verification. When I wouldn’t provide the number because it wasn’t associated with the account, he locked my account.

    I have now spent over an hour on hold trying to resolve a problem that was CAUSED by Capital One’s staff. I am unable to close the account or reactivate it and the Fraud Department is, OF COURSE receiving an “unusually high volute of calls.”

    Like you I’ve had enough and will be faxing Capital One a letter demanding my account be closed.

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  6. I have had my Capital One card since August, so nearly 4 mos and have over 90k miles… it has been declined 6 times due to “suspected fraud.” Today it was declined again, then I called while in store and they said system was down so I had to use another card, ugh!! None of my purchases were fraudulent. It is so embarrassing to be in Nordstrom or any store for that matter and the clerk say your card is declined. I always pay my statement early and in full. This is the worst credit card!!!! I have never had a card my whole life falsely detect fraud, ever! I have wasted so much time on the phone to prove my good standing, lost air miles because I had to use a back up card, and have soooo much anxiety every time I use it. This card has been wrong about fraud every time. It wouldn’t know fraud if it slapped it in the face. Dumb archaic technology and software. So when I see the Capital One commercial say “What’s in your wallet? I immediately respond ” A shitty, useless Capital One card, what’s in yours?”

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  7. You think that’s something, here’s how stupid Capital One is. Before I begin, I want to warn everyone that calls Capital One DO NOT SPEAK WITH ANYONE FROM THEIR PHILIPNES OFFICE. If you do demand you speak to someone in the US. First they dont speak one word of english and secondly they play games with your account to make matters worse. So we have 40 to 60 transactions from the same merchant spanning some 9 months or so, small transactions $20, $30, $50 etc. Every single time I use a Capital One card these stupid aholes put a block on the account. This has been my 10th call now the most time consuming, for these idiots to take the block off the account. They gave me some BS excuse that that merchant was on their fraud list, and yet 9 months of transactions and no other problems from other companies. So yesterday 9/9/2017, I was put on hold for 1 hour plus just to get some jackass form the Phillipness that didnt undertand one word of english. Lied to me left and right, saying the fraud alert was not on their etc. After that I called back 1 hour alter and guess what another 50 minutes on the phone, so I get a representative from Virgina great! Guess what? that idiot transferred me to that backwards ass country. So here we go again, I simply say, “am i talking to someone in the Phillipness” all of the sudden that piece of dog xxxx puts me back on hold. So after an hour I hang up. So I check my account here’s nothing. Then today I go to Walmart to place a $12 charge 10 miles away and these MFers still placed a hold on the card. So now its 35 minutes on hold. Capital One are nothing but the biggest dumbasses around The fact that there are 9 months worth of charges, I pay my card several times a week, out of the 9 months I know those charges are there, they dont have the brains to simply look at the account and (1) see the charges (2) have not disputed those charges in that time period and (3) 10 different times I call in to state I made the charges. This is how moronic Capital One Bank is. Now I wasted over 3 hours in 2 days trying to get this BS straightened out. Will be filing complaints with the FTC, the SEC, the Attorney Generals Office and the Dept of Consumer Affairs. We will also be contacting Visa for violation of their card acceptance agreement. They knew the transactions were authorized and they must allow to accept transactions from Merchants that accept Visa. These Aholes knew the transactions were valid, they knew I’ve called in time after time saying the charges are valid, and I’ve made payments to cover those so called in their 0 IQ mind suspicious fraudulent charges. Never again will I use this card! If they close this account, I will stop making payments and let it go to default. Then turn around and sue them again.

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  8. Lol, recently opened a Dress Barn account, provided by Capital one.
    I sent an inquiry that their pictures on their site wasn’t displaying incorrectly. Then I get a letter from the Capital One fraud department, on behalf of Dress Barn to send them a front and back copy of a valid identification, in addition to a recent pay check stub, and a copy of a w2 form, as well as a bank statement.
    Sorry no financial institution should be given that amount of information via a letter.
    All of this information I am expected to provide merely because someone sends a letter? Well, I ask the same of them to prove they are whom they say they are, considering my information is a lot more of personal value than there’s.
    They threatened to close the account if I failed to give them all of the above, close the account, unless you give me your personal information.
    Another pissed off part of society.

    This is what amounts to a conversion. And it’s illegal. This is because credit line is considered as property, via equity according to the United States Congress.
    When they demand other financial information after the fact of establishing credit when there is no trespass on a creditor the conversion happens to be a tort claim.

    Reply

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