Saturday, 16 January 2016

Daylight Robbery

On Friday, I took a great trip into town to visit my doctor. Nothing too terrible. A test that was long overdue, a refill for my prescriptions, and a test to see if the ache in my knee is arthritis or something I’m sure she made up on the spot called patella didn’t-catch-the-next-two-words-but-not-arthritis.

When I went to pay for the visit, I had my credit card at the ready. The amount entered, I picked up the card machine and looked at my credit card to see which end I should insert. When I looked back at the machine it said ‘Card Inserted’ then ‘Card Accepted’ then the transaction ended and a receipt printed out.

Accidental Pay Wave.

I don’t often use my physical credit card for purchases because if buying what I need doesn’t necessitate awkward small talk (and believe me, my small talk is always awkward). Although I realise the pay wave capability is there, I also thought it was something I’d have to do something different to activate. Like, wave it at a particular part of the machine, or at a different machine, or after specifically asking the receptionist.

To have it go off accidentally made me realise my practice of having my card at the ready while standing in line was perhaps a dangerous move. Without knowing which particular thing was receiving the card information, I now can’t be sure it won’t activate to pay for the purchase of the person in front of me, instead of my own.

Never mind. Live and learn. I’ll just wait until I’m at the front of the queue before fumbling in my wallet for my card – as though being asked to pay is a surprise - like everyone else.

On the bus on the way home I received a message from the bank asking me to phone them regarding my last purchase. It had set off alarm bells at their end and they’d blocked the card until it was sorted out.

Stifling a grumble – pay wave is their system after all – I made a mental note to call them once I arrived home. I spent a lot of my formative years living in the seventies and eighties where phoning someone on the bus meant you were a mental case and even though the technology is there I feel more comfortable waiting for my living room.

My mental note was completely erased by the journey home as we were experiencing a wind storm, which was fine while I was on the bus but would cease to be fine the minute I stepped off.

The bank is obviously used to this situation and had followed up the instant message with an email saying I needed to call them and they’d declined my last transaction. It took me an hour and a quarter to walk to the doctor’s office and another thirty-five minutes of busing to get home. I didn’t want to go through the same experience just to make a credit card payment.

So I dutifully called the bank and gave them all my personal details in sequence before they’d tell me why I was calling them.

It turned out four minutes after my transaction at my doctor’s office “somebody” ordered up over $800 of travel online. I wish it had been me. The bank politely declined the purchase and put a block on my credit card until I could get in touch. I know it’s a coincidence, nothing more, but the fact that an unexpected experience in my doctor’s office preceded my credit card details being filched and used for fraudulent purposes seems connected. I’m awaiting a call from the bank’s fraud team who will probe the issue further and I’ll be sure to ask them some incoherent questions masked as light accusation about their pay wave system and the security therein.

Until then I’m combing through my bank statement trying to work out which of my regular debits is paid via credit card and working out which system they use to update (phoning being a last resort due to ugh phones).

If I didn’t have a sunny holiday on Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast rapidly approaching I might even be upset.


  1. Not familiar with "pay wave"...I have a love/hate relationship with technology.

  2. It's where you "wave" your card at the machine and it automatically pays something (up to $80).

    Must say, I'm not on the best of terms with it myself, lately :)