Attention Discovery Card: 2006 called. They want their PIN reset procedure back.

DiscoveryCard are giving human beings access to your PIN when they reset it. On top of this they actually call you and read you your new PIN *over the phone*.
In an age where SIM-swap banking fraud syndicates infiltrate mobile phone operators, I don’t believe this is a very prudent or secure thing for DiscoveryCard to do.

And the convoluted process also takes anything up to 48 hours. Welcome to the modern fast-paced world of technology.

I discovered this by having the misfortune of my PIN being blocked – something I’m not willing to take responsibility for either: VISA Online Secure/Verified by VISA was down on Tuesday as I attempted to make online purchases. This transaction failed a number of attempts before I gave up and called Discovery, to which I was redirected first to FNB and then back to another call centre agent who confirmed the stupid VISA verification service, which by the way only actually protects the bank – not the consumer, was down. It came back later in the day and I completed my online transaction.

Later that evening I may have mistyped the PIN once while paying my bill, and then used the correct PIN, but suddenly it was already blocked. I proceeded to try a few more times before I saw a flood of text messages about a blocked PIN – please contact Discovery during office hours. I know I used the correct PIN because it’s a new one and I had it written down. I suspect this is linked back to the Online Secure problems.

After trying the Discovery website and FNB online banking and getting shoved from link to useless link I became aware the PIN reset functionality that was previously available online was no longer there, although there were many stale and outdated links still suggesting the feature. So I called Discovery, gave them answers to the really basic security questions they use to verify one’s identity, and then was told a PIN reset had been requested, and would occur at midnight. I figured I could survive for an evening without this credit card, but the next thing I heard blew me away:

Within 48 hours someone from Discovery Card would phone me and read my new PIN to me over the phone!

But that’s my PIN! My PIN. MY PIN! The most personal 4 digits in my financial existence. How can they let some stranger see my PIN? And read it to me. What if I don’t change it? Then that PIN exists in someone’s memory. And what if the telephone line is not secure? Wait, I know the telephone line is not secure! Run that by me again: Someone will call and read you your new PIN. Haha, Get out!

This shocked me, so I asked Discovery about the insecurity of this process on Twitter:

and received this reply:

This is crazy. This is a human element introduced into a system that third persons do not belong in. Anybody with devious intentions could get a PIN out of that department easily. Surely these people go to lunch? Or they go home at night? They leave the building at some stage at least, and remembering a 4 digit number for a short period is trivial. Or one could steal a document. Or they could just phone the “wrong number” and give the PIN out that way. Or there are so many ways to compromise this system. And even if all the staff are 100% honest, they’re still susceptible to blackmail.

Previously one could just manage one’s PIN online. It was a simple secure transaction between you and a cool patterned printed piece of paper that cleverly concealed the PIN. Or it was between you and the computer. Nobody else’s eyes were involved or could get involved.

I can’t believe Discovery have stepped so far backwards. Honestly, it’s a joke.

But still, I guess I’ll wait for my PIN, and then change it at an FNB ATM.
What’s that? Capitec have a credit card account now? Aha.

finance Rants

Discovery Card Interest Rate Hike

Although I try to be pretty credit conscious and pay my outstanding balance every single month, occasionally I do slip up. It happens, and I have to pay the penalty. And that’s how money lenders make their money. But this time Discovery Card have overstepped the mark. Without so much as a hint of a notification, from October to November they’ve hiked their interest rate a whopping 3% from 19.50% to 22.50%. (And somehow this despite me being a “Platinum” account holder, for whatever that’s worth).

Sorry okes, I’ll go back to gym next month – maybe that will help?


The Global Financial Crisis for Dummies

The Financial Crisis English

If you want the lowdown on what exactly has happened in the global economy to cause the panic and strain we’ve been seeing over the past few weeks in finance markets worldwide, you could do a lot worse than the following links:

In The Giant Pool of Money, This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR’s Adam Davidson to tell the surprisingly entertaining story of how the U.S. got itself into a housing crisis.

In the follow up show, Another Frightening Show About the Economy, Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson recount what happened when the credit markets froze, and how the housing crisis started impacting the markets as a whole through the ‘evils’ of unregulated credit default swaps.

In plain spoken English these guys do a great job of informing the rest of us exactly what the hell happened.

As an added bonus, they’ve now started the Planet Money Podcast and Planet Money Blog, essential material for anyone who wants to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of money.


Where to get a free credit report

Dangerous little pieces of plastic
Dangerous little pieces of plastic

Financial woes abound during this period of worldly financial turmoil. In addition to this, people across South Africa are being forced to hand back their big, expensive vehicles, with tears in their eyes at their inability to make the next payment. Some have even lost huge sums of money on purchases that have simply become too expensive with the current interest rates.

I’m glad I’m not in that boat, and perhaps it has something to do with knowing my credit status. It’s also quite handy to check up on who’s been checking out your credit status. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who is watching the credit givers, if you will.

If you need to get access to your personal credit report, which the credit bureaux legally have to provide to you at no cost once per year, head over to and register for your Transunion ITC report. Registration there was quick and easy and you get a cool pdf report emailed to you pretty quickly once registration is complete and the report has been ordered. I enjoyed tracing the deliberately confusing trail that I have intricately laid down for anyone who examines my credit situation. After all, they don’t need to know everything perfectly accurately, now do they?

There’s also CreditExpert, who will give you your status as per Experian’s records, but after registering they still wanted a whole lot of that eminently forgeable paperwork they call FICA records, so I have not yet seen the quality of their report.

Have fun. You now have the knowledge to get yourself out of any credit situation you might be stuck in. Oh, and when you’ve fixed that, take a minute and cut up one of those credit cards. It’ll do you a world of good.

Hacking Rants

Unofficial Standard Bank Credit Vetting

I have a problem with Standard Bank and the way they handle their Credit Card Division. Apart from their bumbling incompetence, I discovered a way to obtain all the balance details on a particular credit card. What’s more scary, the level of security is minimal.

Here’s how:
1) Dial +27 11 241 1000
2) Press ‘2’ for Balance and Payment details.
3) Key in the credit card number.
4) Press ‘1’ to confirm
5) Enter the first six digits of the cardholder’s ID number
(i.e. their date of birth – very lame security)
6) Enter the expiry date of the credit card.

All of the above information is extremely easy to socially engineer or otherwise obtain. And what is the benefit of doing this you ask? Well, You get access to the following details:

Balance outstanding for straight purchases.
Balance outstanding for budget purchases.
Available credit for straight and budget purchases.
Last payment date and amount.

Whatever made you think your credit record was private?