American Express is weird

Alternate Title: chaos reigns.

So I got a hardcopy made-of-atoms letter via the United States Postal Service back in like May, on American Express letterhead, saying that with respect to American Express account number ending in nnnn (nnnn being the four digits that my AmEx card does in fact end in), they didn’t have my birthdate, and I should call the number on the back of the card and give it to them.

Seemed legit enough, given that they said to call the number on the back of the card, so a mere three months later when I found the letter again, I called them.  The nice lady with the Bangalore accent had no idea why I would have gotten such a letter.  And then it got weird.

Nice lady: What is your date of birth, sir?

Me: [gives date of birth]

Lady: Thank you, sir, I will just put you on hold for a moment here…

Me: [on hold for not too terribly long, but surprised I would be on hold at all]

Lady: Okay, sir, what you need to do is mail or Fax us a copy of your birth certificate or other legal document showing your date of birth.

Me: Um, no I don’t.  Why would I need to do that?  You’ve never asked me to do that before!

Lady: It’s for a security measure.

Me: No, it’s not.  Making me send a copy of my birth certificate to some number is the opposite of security.

Lady: Well, sir…

Me: What will happen if I don’t do it?   Because I don’t want to.

Lady: Just a moment, sir, I’ll have to put you on hold briefly again.

Me: [on hold while she no doubt finds the same clueless supervisor who told her to make me Fax them my birth certificate]

Lady: Sir, you have only the one account with us, is that correct?

Me: Yes.

Lady: In the letter that you got, did it show the correct last five [sic] digits of your account number?

Me: Let’s see, I think so, yes, the correct last four digits.

Lady: [typing, muttered conversation in the background] Okay, sir, it’s all right, we have your birthdate as [my birthdate] so it’s all fine.

Me: Okay, thank you!

Lady: Just one more thing sir, I want to check if… [typing]

Me: [surprised I am still on the phone] Yes?

Lady: I see you don’t have Membership Rewards activated on this account, sir.  It’s a no-cost program that lets you earn…

Me: Sorry, I didn’t call to be sold anything, thanks for your time!

I’m guessing that some random data-validation program hiccuped and sent me the letter more or less by accident, and then the phone support person and the supervisor were equally clueless about why I was calling, and the supervisor fell back on something in some manual that says that if a customer needs to legally prove their age for some reason, they have to Fax in a legal document, etc.

If I were (even) more cynical, I would guess that they just send these letters out at random to get people to call and get persuaded to sign up for Membership Rewards.  But if that were the case I would have thought they would have just accepted my birth date to start with, and not gone through the unpleasant “Fax us your legal documents” part.

Internet Research reveals that I’m not the only one.  I bet there is a bug recently open somewhere in their tracking system that says “Spurious birth-date letters sent to customers”, but it’s really low priority to track down and fix…

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2 Comments to “American Express is weird”

  1. I think its more likely that American Express let a phone number lapse and that a scammer picked up the number.

  2. Hm, I hadn’t even thought of that! But the call direction system that answered the number seemed very legit, enabled for both voice and phone buttons, and having many many paths off of the main menu that I didn’t take. It’s also (whew!) the main number listed for Customer Service on www americanexpress com.

    Oh, do you mean that there’s some other number, that is on the backs of some credit cards but not mine, that the scammers have picked up, and they send out these letters in hopes of having some people with those cards call them, and extracting personal information from them? Certainly a theory I hadn’t thought of!

Hm?

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