The stupid American Express “prove you are you” policy

My phone rings – it’s a blocked call. I answer, and then a pause before I hear:

“Hello Mr. Wiggs

It’s so and so from American Express and this is a courtesy call. Can you please answer a question to prove that you are indeed Lance Wiggs?”

“Umm – can you please first supply me with some information to prove that you are from American Express?”

“I first need to get proof of who you are <paraphrased>

“But you could be anyone calling and trying to get my information?”

“I first need to get proof of who you are”

“I suspect you are calling because my account is overdue. I paid $xxxx it last night <now that I am back in internet land> – can you tell me at least whether that was enough?”

“I first need to get proof of who you are”


Clearly a frustrating call on both sides – the outbound telemarketing agent was constrained by some obnoxious rules and I was constrained by not wanting to give my details away to a potential scammer, but also not wanting to allow companies to engage in behaviour that could open them up to scammers doing the same.
Issues and how to resolve them

1: The American Express representative could not confirm he was in fact from Amex. He could have been from a bill collection agency, a scammer wanting to social engineer information out of me or indeed from Amex.

  • Show the correct caller ID when making calls to current or prospective customers. This could even be mandated
  • Tell the people receiving the call exactly who you work for – especially if you are from an agency calling on behalf of another company
  • Tell the customer something that American Express only would know to prove your identity
  • Abandon the “please prove who you are” piece, but only provide the limited information required by the call without further confirmation

2: My American Express account was overdue, and I did not know by how much. I was out of the country for 2 months, had lousy internet access, did not know my American Express website login/password as I never use the site and rarely use the card

  • Send me an email – saying you are overdue by $x and please pay (I assume you have my email address from the website login)
  • Send me a text – saying you are overdue by $x and please pay (I know you have my phone number – you used it)
  • Both those options are cheaper than a call, but the best thing to do is all three
  • Bonus – prove you are human and google me then contact me though Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc. It really is not that hard these days

3: I used the American Express card to buy my AirNZ round the world tickets instead of my normal BNZ card

  • BNZ should increase the limit of my credit card to something representing more than 2 weeks of income. They should do this based on the amount of money flowing through my account and not by requesting proof of earnings.
  • BNZ should offer me more than one credit card – e.g. a Visa and a Mastercard – to separate personal and business expenses
  • BNZ should be sucking up to me in general given the amount of money that I pay and have with them


Published by Lance Wiggs


3 replies on “The stupid American Express “prove you are you” policy”

  1. It really annoys me how banks (and credit cards) refuse to use email as a form of communication. The fact of the matter is, I probably won’t read my snail mail, probably won’t answer your phone call but I will read my email.

    This is just another example of them needing to get on the Cluetrain.


  2. I had this with vodafone the other day:
    “Hi, I’m calling from vodafone to help you see if you’re on the right call plan and check you’re happy. Do you have a couple of minutes”
    – No, I’m busy.
    “I could call back”
    – You got me now. Spit it out and be quick
    “Sure, first, could you give me your account PIN?”
    – Uh, why would I give that to someone who just called me out of the blue?
    “Oh, how about you give me an answer to some security questions”
    – Uh, why would I give that to someone who just called me out of the blue?
    “I’m sorry, you obviously see that the caller ID was concealed but that was because of Perhaps I could send you a text and you could call back on 777 and we can discuss it then?”
    – Look, you called me, I don’t even want this call, why would I call you back? You’ve got my call records, if you can see that I better plan would suit me then text me info about the plan I should be on.

    #text: Vodafone: Hi! This is noel from vodafone. This is just a health check making sure that you have everything you need from us. Pls feel free to call 777. Tnx!


  3. Even better from Vodafone – after ringing them about something, I got a customer satisfaction survey call FROM A MACHINE. I felt very special to know they cared so much.

    Here’s a clue Vodafone: using a machine to enquire whether I was happy with the service I received from your company tells me everything I need to know about your attitude to service.

    If you want to know whether I’m happy with your service, employ a real person to ask me – not a frickin machine. If that costs too much then don’t bother because all you’re doing is alienating your customers.


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