Friday, February 10, 2012

Security gets in the way

Over the years that I have had internet connections, I have bought hundreds of items online from scores of different companies – it is my favourite way of shopping!

The process is usually quite straightforward; you create an account with your email address and a password, provide the address that your credit card is registered to and then you are ready to go. All you need to do then is to enter the credit card details; name to which it is registered, number from the front, expiry date, the security number from the back and the order is complete. The online seller can verify that all  is kosher and at that point you can sit back and wait for the friendly courier to bring the goods to your door.

Of course there is a lot of fraud going on out there so it pays to be vigilant about the sites you use and make sure that the site is secure (https). It is reassuring when companies use the Visa security systems where you have to enter further details from a password to complete the transaction. 

However, things are not always that easy.

The other day, I wanted to order goods from a well known hypermarket chain in Spain via their online system. Sure enough, I had to register an account by providing the usual information and not unusually for Spain, I had to provide either my DNI, residency card or passport number. When it came to my credit card, the site used the system whereby my bank sends me an SMS message with a six figure security code to verify that I am in fact the holder of the card.

Having done all that, I thought my order was complete and I would shortly receive the goods. In fact I got an email to say that my order had been placed satisfactorily. However, when I went to the online site to track the status of my order, it showed that my data was incomplete. When I checked the small print about setting up an account it explained that, once you had provided details, you then had to send by fax or by email copies of your identity document, your credit card (showing the last four numbers) and a signed note authorising them to use your card for payment.

When I queried this, I got an email confirming what it said online. I dutifully complied and sent an email with the document copies inserted. Sods law, the lady who I am dealing with wrote back and said she needed the documents attached to an email. So now I have sent the documents  both attached as jpegs and as a pdf file they can read with Adobe Acrobat Reader. I have my fingers crossed that one or other of those methods works.

The good side to this story is that the company are obviously keen to protect both themselves and the shopper by making sure that the purchase is genuine. The bad side is that jumping through all these hoops has been a pain in the backside. Without a modicum of IT experience not to mention a scanner and the software to produce the documents in the right format, I would have given up. I know quite a few people who would have had no choice but to cancel  the order and either go to the shop or try elsewhere. Oh yes I nearly forgot, to cancel an order I’m sure you have to send a fax or an email with copies of your documents!!

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