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So I've moved to a different city recently but still travel extensively throughout the country.  All the issues that one deals with when moving to another city have been the usual headache.  A new cell plan and local number, getting all the utilities connected and turned on.  Finding a competent and inexpensive internet provider.  I've forgone any sort of TV service for now, simply because I'm not here enough to justify dealing with ComCast, possibly the most evil cable company in existence.

Along with all that came a new bank.  My previous small regional bank had no branches within 200miles of my new home, so I bit on an offer of "free $125 after your first 5 check card purchases" from Chase.  

And then something rather disturbing happened today.  The story after the fold.

I wanted online banking, which was set up for me when I went to the branch and set up the account. The banker also asked if I wanted another Chase credit card "because you had been a credit card holder of ours before."  Ha.  I don't think that anyone would be fool enough to open a credit card account these days, nor do I plan on getting back into that hole.  It had been a long time digging out. So I politely refused.  

This line of questioning didn't really bother me.  I had been a previous customer, they had that information, no big surprise.

Today, I tried to get onto their online system, to check if the opening deposit had cleared.  I couldn't get in.  The password I had set up at the banker's desk wasn't responding, nor did my email get the requests for password renewal.  So I ground my teeth and dialed the customer service number.

After the usual advertisements for other Chase products, the interminable computer menus and entering all the information that the representative will ignore anyway, I got a nice guy on the phone. His accent suggested a hint of Brooklyn.  After identifying myself, we had to go through the "security questions."  And that's where things got weird.  

"These questions are generated from public records" the rep assured me.  And then he began:

"In what city does (my father's name) own property?"  He gave three choices, and I answered correctly after much hesitating.

"What month was (my mother) born?"  He had mangled my mother's name so badly, I didn't know who he was talking about.  We moved on to another question.

"In what county was (my address from 10 years ago when I was their customer) located?"  Hell, I didn't remember, that was ten years and 5 moves ago!  I had to google it.  We were done with questions, he reset my password and corrected the screwup of my email address so I could get password emails in the future.

Now, I get the need for banking security.  Identity theft and fraud is a problem for banks and customers alike.  My ex had her identity stolen ten years ago and it was a nightmare getting the mess sorted out, even with me having access to her real credit report, not the joke supplied when you call the companies.  So I do get the need to make sure you are talking to who you think you're talking to.

But searching my last name online?  Connecting it to not mine, but my father's property records?  My mother's birthday?  What else is in that computer in front of you, Mr. Brooklyn?  

I google myself all the time, have taken down a fairly well read blog and have my Facebook settings on "paranoid."  I thought I knew what was out there on me, what wasn't, and I was rather comfortable in my digital anonymity.  Obviously, Chase took the information they got when opening a checking account, then went searching public records and was amazingly effective.  And that bothers the shit out of me.

I'll probably stay with Chase, for two reasons.  I have to assume they're not the only bank that does this; any other national bank with branches everywhere I travel probably does.  And I want my $125. The fine print on the offer states I have to keep the account open and active for at least 6 months or they'll take it back.  It's a free account, so if using their check card to make them money (which I will because I hate carrying cash) gets me a cut of the action, I'm ok with that.  But the feeling of being watched by Big Corporate Brother was a little unsettling today.

Originally posted to The Voice from the Cave on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM PDT.

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