An open letter to Tesco and the Financial Regulator.
CC: Financial Regulator, Dublin 2
CC: Tesco Ireland, Gresham House, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin
CC: Tesco Customer Service, PO Box 73, Baird Avenue, Dundee DD1 9NF
CC: Tesco Card Center, PO Box 5747, Southendon-Sea, SS 11 9AJ
RE: Tesco Credit Card Security Procedures
I would like to file a formal complaint about Tesco Personal Finance security procedures for contacting customers by telephone. I have been contacted twice by their staff in recent weeks, and I was shocked by their call procedures in both cases.
The first time I was contacted, via a private number, the staff member wouldn’t introduce themselves or who they represent â€œfor security reasonsâ€. They then proceeded to ask me for personal information to authenticate myself to them. When I explained that there was absolutely no way I was going to authenticate myself to someone that is unwilling to authenticate themselves, they cited the Data Protection Act as justification. I hung up.
At this point I guessed it was Tesco Personal Finance that was contacting me, but there’s no way I could have been sure of this until it was confirmed by the second caller a week later, who at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves and the company. However they also asked me to authenticate myself, which I again refused to do. When I complained about the procedures they didn’t attempt to resolve the situation in any way, they simply cited chapter and verse back at me.
I understand why Tesco was trying to contact me; I received a letter about an overdue amount on my account and sent a cheque to bring it in order on the 31st of March. I accept that was my error and apologise to Tesco for the inconvenience, although in my defence I would add that I changed banks recently and simply had no way to pay the outstanding amount, as my previous account was closed automatically by my old bank before the new account was fully open.
I would also add that if Tesco had invested in just one Irish staff member to handle payments locally, or had invested in an online account management tool for Tesco credit cards, I would have been aware of the issue earlier and they would have received the payment already. I understand the service is outsourced, but Tesco can’t afford 50 or 100k for these simple features?
That’s neither here nor there though, my issue is with the security procedures. While I understand the need for these procedures, their implementation in this case is incompetent at best and dangerous at worst. Consumers are told every single day via various sources not to respond to hoax emails or phone calls, not to give authentications details to just anyone, yet here is Tesco ringing me out of the blue, on a private number, asking for my date of birth and mother’s maiden name.
Please change these procedures to protect Tesco customers, and the customers of other financial institutions whose senses may be dulled by these nonsensical security procedures. A security professional could and should be contacted to discuss the best way to go about it, but even someone like me with the most basic interest in security can suggest something better:
- The call shouldn’t come from a private number. The number doesn’t even have to work inbound, a simple recorded message can be used to authenticate.
- The staff member should introduce themselves by name.
- If allowed by data protection law, the company should be introduced. If this is an issue, tell them that their personal credit card provider is calling, but due to data protection law further details cannot be disclosed. I would be very surprised if the Data Protection Commissioner wouldn’t allow this, but they can and of course should be contacted to confirm this. Rest assured it won’t cost anything.
- It should be explained to the customer that the provider is trying to get in touch to discuss the details of the account, but for security reasons they need to initiate contact by calling the freephone number on the back of their card.
- Apologise for the inconvenience.
You can even automate this part of the procedure because no actual conversation will take place; not a bad idea in my opinion given the inability of Tesco’s staff to work off-script. Again though, I’m not a security expert, and one should be consulted. I’d strongly suggest Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Systems as one of the most respected experts in the industry.
But of course you should do your own research into this and not take my word for it, since I could be anybody; in much the same way that I don’t take the word of someone that rings me out of the blue. Seeing a pattern here? Please, do something about this idiocy. It’s dangerous.
This is an open letter, the full content will be published on my website at the following address:
All recipients are welcome to respond there or by email to [REMOVED] instead of in writing. If you would prefer that your response remain private, please make this clear in same. I reserve the right to post a summary of responses on my website.