Why do banks ask such stupid questions?
This, I imagine, is a thought that will have gone through many readers’ minds on occasions when their bank attempts to verify their identity.
The scenario is a familiar one. You call your bank and the person in the call centre utters the dreaded words: ‘I just need to ask a few questions to take you through security’.
And the chosen subject is you! Passing bank security can be Mastermind on your memory as you are required to recall haphazard and arcane information
At times you may breeze through, as the bank asks you a few seemingly relevant and simple to answer things.
The pain comes on the other occasions, when you endure a quiz on selected letters from memorable places, old pets, and your best friend at primary school’s mum’s name.
(I made that last one up but wouldn’t be surprised to be told someone had actually been asked it).
To pass muster you will also need an encyclopaedic knowledge of payments in and out of your account, the exact amount of bill direct debits, and whatever daft names your bank chose to call those now almost zero-rate savings accounts that you are fool enough to still hold.
This process is only made more painful when it was the bank that phoned you in the first place.
The banks, of course, argue that all of this is done to protect us and our account’s security.
Yet, I have long thought that the practice of a short hit-or-miss quiz on our past and financial lives actually has the opposite effect.
My theory is that if your bank regularly asks you questions that can often seem haphazard, you think less of answering questions that come from a fraudster fishing for information.
I reflected on this recently as I watched two family members fail security, as they were asked questions they couldn’t answer by impatient customer service staff.
One was asked by Lloyds for the limit on her main credit card. To which she replied that she didn’t even have a card with Lloyds and was then forced to guess which provider the question was about.
The other was asked by Nationwide how she had originally opened a joint account almost 15 years ago.
Met with befuddlement in both cases, the bank workers’ responses amounted to, ‘of course you should know the answers to these questions’.
I imagine these minor frustrations of modern life will strike a chord with many readers.
The problem is that some of them may one day get a call from a fraudster posing as their bank and think to themselves: ‘Well why wouldn’t they ask me this – they are always asking stupid questions’.