Yesterday, it got up to about 98 degrees. I spent most of the day in rooms where I have portable air conditioners, which helped a bit. It’s still pretty miserable, though, this time of year in Germany. I was sweating all day, and spent a good portion of the afternoon sleeping and having weird dreams. I even pulled out a cold wrap I bought on a trip to Maine about ten years ago. It can be microwaved or frozen and put over the shoulders. It does help to cool one off, but only for as long as the wrap stays cold… which isn’t that long.
Just before I was about to go to bed, I got an email from USAA. Someone tried to use my credit card to buy $107 worth of chicken wings from Wingstop! I had been watching the card all week, because there was a pending fraudulent charge all week from Stack Magazines. The charge was authorized, but the merchant never took the money. I didn’t call, because in the past, when I’ve called the bank about pending charges, they tell me there’s nothing they can do until it goes through. Obviously, the person who got my credit card number decided to be bold and try to order food. Thankfully, USAA caught it, but now once again, I have to wait for a new card to get to me.
A few months ago, my debit card got scammed, and I had to wait for a new one to get to me. I was pretty angry about it, because they kept denying legit charges, but then when an obviously fraudulent one went through, they approved it. It was obvious, because it was for a food outlet in the USA, and I can’t even access their Web site from my location because it’s geo restricted. They denied charges in Europe, thinking that was “weird”, even though I live in Europe and have for eight years. But then they let some idiot in the USA pay for food and an Uber with my card.
At least this time, they immediately blocked the charge, so good on USAA for that. I see that they’ve also already assigned me a new number, though I still have to wait for the card to get to me. I do think it’s crappy that I’ve had this happen twice now with USAA’s cards, just in 2022 alone. It’s probably not their fault, though. It’s the lowlife scumbags who think they have the right to steal from other people by committing credit card fraud who are at fault. Also, I was happy that the person I spoke to last night was professional and polite. Unfortunately, that’s no longer a given with USAA. They used to have stellar customer service, but things have definitely gone downhill.
I’ve been trying to get rid of USAA’s banking services, but it’s really hard to do that over here. German banks don’t like doing business with Americans, thanks to our tax laws. They are required to report to the US government on any accounts held by US citizens. So, that’s why we use American banks… It’s a pain. Cumbersome banking is a somewhat small price to pay, though, since the lifestyle is good here. Except, of course, when it gets hot, and there’s no air conditioning. Slowly but surely, Europe is starting to embrace the concept of cooling homes… but our house doesn’t have it yet. I bet our landlord will eventually put it in, though. He says he wants to install a heat pump, replacing the oil system we have now.
I’ve been reading more horror stories about the state of the world. I could write about them today, but I think I’d like to take a short break from those headlines and keep things somewhat “light” for my Friday post. Right now, I’m listening to Doris Day and thinking I’d like to try one of her songs. Writing about the usual topics doesn’t exactly contribute to the romantic mood of Doris Day’s songs. So, I think I will close today’s post and do a little music for a change. It’s good for my mood. Better than reading about gun violence, anti-abortion zealots, and child abuse, anyway…
A couple of weeks ago, the security on my USAA debit card was breached. There were a couple of fraudulent charges made, which I immediately reported. Because of the security breach, I had to get a new debit card. And because I live abroad, it took approximately two weeks to get the new card. In the meantime, I was relying on my credit cards to make purchases.
Three days ago, I got an alert from USAA to activate my card, which I couldn’t do, because it hadn’t yet arrived. But when I did get the card yesterday, I immediately went on USAA’s Web site and activated it. It was pretty funny, too, because as soon as I activated the card, I got an urgent alert in my inbox letting me know that the card was activated. Then, there was a follow up alert, letting me know that the card was activated and urging me to contact them immediately if I didn’t initiate this action. I deleted the second message and went on with my day.
Again, since I haven’t had my debit card, I’ve been using my credit card to buy things. I don’t like using my credit cards, because I once had a very high balance and it took me ages to get out of debt. When I do use credit cards, I tend to pay them off immediately. I usually only use credit for large purchases or travel expenses that require the extra protection that comes with using credit cards. I was looking forward to not using credit this morning, when I decided to buy some dog food for Noyzi. I have bought dog food for Noyzi using my old debit card a whole bunch of times. It was a run of the mill charge from a vendor I use all the time. I put in the new debit card’s information, clicked on “pay”, and sure enough, USAA immediately declined the transaction.
Off I went to USAA.com, where I went looking to see if my new card was listed. I’ve learned that when USAA turns off a card, it won’t show up if you go to the block/unblock card page. Sure enough, the new card, which was supposed to be active as of yesterday, did not appear on that page. So rather than call USAA and listen to their highly annoying hold music, I decided to engage chat. I figured it would take less time, since it’s the wee hours of the morning in the United States as I write this.
I used USAA’s chat function for the first time two weeks ago today, and found it somewhat less annoying than calling them. Plus, I am still pretty traumatized from my most recent USAA call, which involved talking to a man who was very rude to me. Granted, I was rude back, but my rudeness was borne out of extreme frustration, concern, and annoyance over trying to use my money. His rudeness seemed to be more because he didn’t like his job, didn’t like talking to a woman who wasn’t “keeping sweet”, and lacked a concept of customer service. Given how upset I was after that last phone call, I figured chat was the better option. When I used the chat two weeks ago, I noticed that the queues weren’t too long, probably because most of America is sleeping right now.
This morning, when I initially requested to chat, I was number 18 in line. It took about 45 minutes or so before I was finally at position 1. Then, Miranda T. came online. She advised that it would take two to four minutes to pull up my account. It took about seven minutes. Then, after another minute or two, she told me that there was a security alert on the card. She asked if my attempted transaction this morning was valid. I answered that it was. Several more minutes passed with no acknowledgement from Miranda, so I reiterated that the transaction was one I attempted to initiate. Another couple of minutes passed, and Miranda finally told me that she turned on the card and it was good to go.
I looked at the clock. I was engaged in this process for about an hour at a time of day when online traffic should have been pretty low. It was still the wee hours of the morning in the US. I decided to tweet, and didn’t even tweet at USAA. But they responded anyway, with apologies and an invite to send them a direct message. I thanked them, told them I was “good”, and quipped that it only took an hour. Seriously… a lot of people, lately, have been saying that they’ve been on hold with USAA for hours, or waiting hours for chat to initiate. To the Twitter responder’s credit, they did at least realize that I was being slightly facetious. And they said that USAA was “working on” shortening the queues. Does that mean hiring more “high quality” employees like the guy who was so rude to me two weeks ago?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten repeated false security alerts from USAA on valid transactions, which have required me to contact them multiple times. It’s honestly a crap shoot as to whether or not my card will be accepted on any given transaction. Every time I talk to their representatives, they apologize, but then it happens again. I complain, and then they call me and apologize, but nothing gets permanently fixed. It’s crazy that every transaction requires entering multiple security codes and assurances that I’m not being defrauded by anyone. But then when there’s actual fraud on the card, I get crickets…
Now… my question is… next time I try to use this new card, am I going to get another security alert as my card is declined? Will I have to spend another hour (or more) waiting for someone to chat with me about the problem? Or worse, will I have to call them and listen to their hold music from Hell for hours while I wait for them to turn on the card? I really hope we can make some changes soon… and get much better customer service. We have already refinanced our car loan with another financial institution, and as I write this, the pay off check is on its way to USAA.
I just think it’s crazy that in spite of all the erroneous fraud and security alerts USAA has enacted over the last couple of years, the one time there is actual fraud, they don’t engage that system and I have to deal with their fraud department. They randomly flag charges from retailers I’ve purchased from repeatedly and am geographically close to, but they ignore charges from US based food vendors whose Web sites I can’t even access without a VPN.
Then, I have to spend two weeks using my credit card because my debit card was compromised, and I have to wait for a new one to get to me. When I finally get the card and activate it, they send me two urgent alerts making sure it was me who activated the card– from my supposedly secure account, no less. And then, when I finally try to use the card for the first time, I immediately get a fraud alert, causing me to have to waste an hour waiting for help.
This isn’t a good look for USAA. They didn’t used to suck. What a shame. What good are new debit cards if they don’t work, even after I have TWICE confirmed that I have the card and need to use it?
Earlier today, I wrote about how I wasn’t that pissed that USAA allowed fraudulent charges to go through on my debit card. Well… scratch that. I am now furious.
Here’s the deal. I had to call them yesterday, because I discovered three fraudulent charges on my card. This was a week after I had to call them to unblock my card, because they were flagging legitimate charges. Then, when I finally do get fraudulent charges on the debit card, they let those go through. Great… so I called them up and they blocked the debit card. I now only have my credit card to use until my new debit card gets to me. Since I don’t know when that will be, I have been updating my payment methods on revolving accounts.
Doing that, of course, resulted in a fraud alert on my credit card, since I don’t use the credit card very often. I got an urgent email to call them, so I tried to call on Skype. But since Skype doesn’t give me a permanent number, I had to call back on my German phone. Verifying my phone number is one of their security measures. And then I have to go through all of the other security rigamarole– telling them my SSN, my PIN, and reciting a security code they send to me.
I finally get this guy on the phone who starts giving me the usual spiel about fraud alerts. I try to tell him that I know all about it, because I’m constantly having to call them about this. He doesn’t listen, and repeatedly tries to talk over me, which only makes me angrier and more frustrated. I don’t usually yell at customer service agents, but it seems like everything I try to do to fix this problem only leads to more problems. And USAA used to be a pretty good place to do business, but it’s just really gone down the shitter.
So now I’m sitting here fuming, wondering how long and how painful it’s going to be to move my business to another bank. And all because some lowlife crook got ahold of my debit card number. I can’t even really complain about this, because everything on their Web site is automated.
I guess it’s a good thing no one depends on me for money.
Yesterday was a somewhat exasperating day. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I had to call USAA because of their heavy handed fraud alert system. I think it was triggered on Sunday night, when I decided to buy some underwear from Amazon. I use Amazon a lot, but because I had been traveling and had set a travel alert, I guess USAA’s bots figured I shouldn’t be ordering underwear. I’m wondering what would have happened if I’d tried to use my debit card in France.
I didn’t realize I had tripped the fraud alert until I went to order some brandy from my favorite Armenian brandy retailer, another vendor I use pretty often. I went to pay for my order, which included a bottle of apricot brandy for a local friend, when I realized the payment didn’t go through. Then I saw an urgent automated email from USAA telling me that they’d “tried to contact me” and I hadn’t answered. I didn’t answer, because I wasn’t wearing my Apple Watch and didn’t have my phone with me. I didn’t realize I’d need those items for buying underwear from a vendor I use all the time.
I got really pissed. Why? Because this happens ALL THE TIME. Several months ago, when I was trying to book hotels for our trip to Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, I got the same annoying fraud alerts from both USAA and PenFed. And because I live several hours ahead of USAA and PenFed, and it was the weekend, I had to wait hours before I could call them and straighten out the situation. It used to be that USAA would send me an email or text asking me to verify things. And I did notice that they sent texts this time. But again, I didn’t have my phone with me, because it was just underwear.
You can’t send USAA an email, so I complained on their Facebook chat. “Jason” responded with apologies, but I never heard from him again. Thanks for nothing, Jason. I can see that I did the same thing in October, when they blocked my card as I was trying to book lodging. I complained then, too, and even spoke to someone who called me while we were traveling. Fat lot of good that did.
Yesterday morning, as I was composing my blog post, I got an automated call from USAA. I answered it and verified the charges. The automated voice on the other end of the line said that my card was open and I didn’t need to do anything else. Wonderful. So I went back to the Armenian brandy purveyor and successfully completed an order… which tripped the fucking fraud alert system again. But again, I didn’t know I had tripped the fraud system, so I downloaded a couple of albums.
A couple of hours later, I was walking the dogs, and I got another fraud alert on my phone/watch. I tried to answer the watch while juggling my dogs. I had to give up, though, because it was impossible to walk the dogs and answer the phone. I checked my iPad and noticed that Apple had sent me a message that my card was declined. So I called up USAA and spoke to a very pleasant representative. Really, she was very nice… much like the representatives used to be, when USAA was still customer service oriented. I expressed my frustration at having to make international phone calls every time I need to unblock my card(s). I told her that I was strongly considering changing banks because of this issue.
I do have an account with PenFed. I used to have a checking account with them, but closed it because they charged a fee if the minimum balance wasn’t high enough. Last night, I started an application for another checking account with them, just so I have an alternative to USAA. But really, I think it may be time to migrate our business elsewhere. PenFed is also a bit of a pain in the butt about fraud alerts and shutting down access to things. I’ll have to call them later today to verify my identity because of the checking account request I made last night.
USAA really has gone downhill… and not just because of these customer service issues, but also because I suspect it’s a very culty kind of a place. I remember when Bill was looking for a job in 2014. He spoke to people at a USAA job fair and they asked him if he knew anyone who worked at USAA. He said he didn’t, and it became very clear that not knowing someone there was the “kiss of death”. It didn’t matter that he’s a retired veteran with about 30 years of service, or that he’s been a member of USAA since 1984, or that I’ve been a member for 27 years. I remember writing about that incident on my original OH blog, and USAA’s public relations goons stalked that post for months. If it had been up to me alone, I would have ditched them years ago.
Another thing I noticed last night was that, unbeknownst to me, Amazon put my underwear order on my credit card when the debit card was declined. That isn’t a huge deal, since the order was for less than $100, and I have a huge credit line. I’m just very particular about what I charge on my credit cards. I usually only use them for large purchases or travel. I did make a big payment this morning to cover our trip to France, though. I guess I need to remove that card from Amazon so they don’t do that again.
And then, after I straightened out the USAA blocking issue, I got an alert from Corona Warn, which is a German app where one can upload vaccine certificates and monitor the COVID situation in Germany. I also have a German app called CovPass, which is what I used exclusively when we traveled. We had to show our vaccine certifications at our hotel and in restaurants. The Germans and the French have different procedures. In Germany, we had to wear FFP2 masks and show the QR code, as well as our IDs. In France, surgical masks were okay, and after we showed our vaccine certifications, we were allowed to unmask.
So anyway, even though I didn’t use Corona Warn when I showed my vaccine certs, it was monitoring my location. And yesterday afternoon, I got a message from them, letting me know that I was exposed to COVID-19 sometime on March 2, 2022. It was either at a McDonald’s I went to when I needed to pee, or it was at the restaurant in Stuttgart where we had lunch. Either way, the exposure was five days ago, and we have been in France for most of those days.
Now… I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 at all, and I pretty much lead an isolated existence as a general rule. I don’t use public transportation, and once we got home from our trip, I have stayed at home, with the exception of a very short walk I took with the dogs yesterday as I was trying to deal with USAA. But when I got the “red tile”, as they call it, I went to the app to find out what I’m supposed to do now. I found information that was posted in December 2021. According to that info, I’m supposed to go home, check for symptoms, call the health department or my “doctor” (which I don’t have), get tested for COVID (supposedly free of charge), and if I have a positive result, isolate and share my test result.
I should mention that Bill doesn’t have Corona Warn on his phone, so he did not get an alert. However, since we were together the whole time, I guess he would get a “red tile”, too, if he had Corona Warn, which was silently monitoring me based on my cell phone’s location and bluetooth technology. While I understand how this works, it’s a little creepy that this app was monitoring me, even though I wasn’t using it when I showed my certifications.
The instructions on what to do are kind of confusing, depending on a person’s vaccination status. Because I am fully vaccinated, it’s supposedly not compulsory for me to quarantine. But the exposure happened six days ago, anyway. And if I hadn’t had it on my phone, I would never have gotten this alert at all, tardy as it is. I had to make a separate Apple account for the German store to even get these apps, since they weren’t available in the US store last summer, when I downloaded them. That was a bit of a pain, too. I have heard that CovPass, at least, is now in the American Apple store. I’m not sure about Corona Warn.
The tile will turn green again on March 16th. Fortunately, I don’t think we have any big weekend plans… Bill says he’s going to do the taxes. I’ll probably work on my latest jigsaw puzzle… or maybe we’ll clean up the backyard and bring up the furniture for the forthcoming warmer weather. And maybe we’ll enjoy some of the Ukrainian vodka I just ordered. My German friend says she knows a lot of people who get the “red tile” and never get sick with COVID. It’s just a very sensitive app that lights up if you’re even in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive and shared that information with the app. Obviously, not everyone does that, though, so really, I could have been getting red tiles for months.
The featured photo is the view from our hotel room as the sun was setting… It about suits the mood of Wels.
Our second day in Wels was interesting. We tasted some Austrian wines, walked around the city, and ate some fabulous Greek food. Then last night, we ended up in an Irish pub, where the proprietor seemed to be trying to cater to our musical needs.
The pub was very small and, like all of the other buildings we’ve been in in Wels, had very thick walls and a cavernous kind of look. I love the ancient effect, but forget trying to use a cell phone. For about an hour, we were the only ones sitting in the very dark back of the bar. The guy turned on some of the lights, including the electric dart board and the TV, which he eventually tuned to South Park.
Then, after a few pretty horrifying songs on the sound system, to include a very profane number by Eminem, a classic Hall & Oates song came on called “You Make My Dreams”. Bill asked me what year the song came out. I said 1981… maybe 1980. Sure enough, the next song was “The Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)” from the movie Arthur (1981). We enjoyed the first half of that song before they changed it to “Locomotive Breath” by Jethro Tull. Then, we were back to rowdy Irish music by The Pogues.
I can’t say it was the most authentic Irish pub I’ve ever been to. Aside from the weird music, they also only offered candy bars for snacks. But it was fun to sit in a bar and watch a bunch of college aged Austrian guys shoot darts while we drank Guinness. It was actually kind of exciting to watch them. I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was that young. They looked like they could have been my sons. :'( But still, it’s fun to watch guys that age competing with each other. Their energy is infectious.
Sadly, my guts are still recovering from the nitrogen.
Oh… and I saw at least two young women urgently run for the toilet. I know how that goes. I’m not sure which end was about to explode, but I felt for them. I’ve been where they were. As we were leaving, the bartender asked us where we were from. I think he knew damned well that we are Americans. The real question was, what the hell were we doing in Wels? We told him we live in Germany. Wels isn’t a remarkable town, but it’s very pleasant and pretty. It’s not a bad place to stop in Austria. The last couple of days remind me of when I randomly got off a train in St. Polten, Austria, in 1997, and hung out there for three days while I made my way to meet friends in Zilina, Slovakia.
We probably should have made more of an attempt to visit museums and such yesterday, but honestly, it was just nice to be in a new town and walk around. Wels is definitely not a bad place to rest for a day or two. Don’t know if I’ll be back, but now I can cross it off the list of Austrian towns I’ve seen.
I am looking forward to getting to Croatia tonight.
One other thing… USAA called me last night and Tuesday night about my complaints regarding their tendency to block my credit and debit cards when I try to use them. I had to explain, once again, that they don’t allow international phone numbers for texts anymore. The person who called me didn’t seem to know. Something bad is happening to their customer service. It’s like they’re going through the motions. I might have to write a letter. Or maybe I’ll just blog and let their reputation management people stalk me so I can make a few pennies in ad revenue.
Well, so ends my brief recap of yesterday. Maybe, if the Internet is good, I’ll start travel blogging in Croatia, and there will be many pictures.
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