Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Problems with Algorithms

Subtitle: I'm completely fed up with General Electric credit card's fraud detection algorithm.
  1. I started buying things in Cambridge, MA, like I do every summer. I charged my cell phone bill to my credit card, like I do every month. I bought a plane ticket (in my name, from my home city). They called. I told them that I made all the charges. I told them that I was spending the summer in Cambridge, MA.

  2. I bought a few more things in Cambridge, MA -- in the same stores that I tend to buy things in when I'm at home. I charged my cell phone bill to my credit card, like I do every month. They called again. I explained again.

  3. I bought gas at a gas station about half a mile from my house. I joined a gym about two miles from my house. I tried to buy a Macintosh online. I haven't done that since June of 2006 (same credit card), but I do buy more than my fair share of stuff from Apple. They called me.

  4. Here's where the story gets annoying. I told the credit card company that yes, I made the charges, and they denied them anyway. I called them back, and they apologized and said that they had removed the flag and the charge would go through. I asked what I could do to stop triggering the fraud alerts. They told me that I could put my number on file with them and they could call me to verify charges. I pointed out that they had called and still denied the charge after I confirmed it. They assured me that everything was OK and that the charge would be approved.

  5. Then I called Apple and told them that they could try to put the charge through again. Denied again! At this point I got out the second cell phone and had one phone on each ear: credit card on the left and Apple on the right. After a few back-and-forths, the charge finally went through.

  6. My iMac should be arriving some time next week. Wish me luck with that.

  7. My dad points out that odds are this defective algorithm is from Niskayuna, NY -- my home town and the headquarters of GE Research.