Thursday, June 20, 2024

How to Get Bank Fraud Alerts in Real Time

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Like some of you, I was in the market to buy a new phone late last year, and went online to the AT&T store to make my purchase the day or so after the new iPhone 4S was available. Smart, I thought to myself: avoid the lines (not that there are many lines here in St. Louis, but still). Took about five minutes to enter all my information and then I was done. I got a confirmation email that my order had been placed, and an estimated ship date a few weeks away. That was fine: I wasn’t in a hurry.

But then there were a bizarre series of circumstances. My order was summarily cancelled by AT&T. I thought at first that there was something wrong with my credit card, so I tried a debit card. Same process: initial confirmation emails followed by a cancelled order. That was perplexing. Now I was getting steamed: a simple five-minute process to avoid the hassles was turning into a project. What gives?

It turns out that I have a fraud alert on my credit card, due to some ID theft circumstances a few years ago. And apparently, when you purchase something from AT&T online, they don’t have any way to check with you out of band to see if that purchase was legit. Or so I guessed.

If you have ever had one of your purchases challenged by your bank or credit provider, then you’ll want to be aware of what Clairmail is doing with its mobile fraud prevention system. You can’t buy this as an individual: they sell just to banks and other financial institutions.

But you get the idea: they send you text messages when suspicious activity is flagged on your account, in real time, while you are in the store, about to make the purchase. No more awkward moments hearing that your card has been declined because you failed to alert your bank that you are traveling overseas, or because you placed a fraud alert marker on your account. A quick text to confirm that it is indeed an intended purchase and you are good to go. has “hit a home run” with their mobile solution, according to Sean Mulvihill, the VP of Sales and Marketing for the company. Their software is found in many of the nation’s top banks and they have other products that enable banks to white-label online services for an entire secure mobile Web app. I just wish my bank were one of their customers.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. I ordered the phone from and got it without any hassles.

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