Security Through Stupidity, The Sequel

A couple of days ago I wrote about Washington Mutual’s new security “challenge questions”. So put off was I by the fact that I couldn’t choose just about any of their questions for my profile, and that without selecting a set of questions, I couldn’t access my account, I called them up.

The first call was to WaMu Customer Care at (800) 788-7000, featured prominently on the “introduction” page for this new “feature”. I spoke with Cindy, Arillia and Shannon during an extended hour-long series of hold-and-transfers. Most everyone was polite as I explained how I’m unable to select any of the specific questions since most of them didn’t pertain to my situation and of the remaining ones, I didn’t have any answers to give.

For the most part, they were all understanding. They indicated, repeatedly, that this new “feature” was meant to make our account more secure (whatever), and acknowledged that others have also called to complain. One suggested I create “fake” answers. One finally indicated that there’d be no way for me to bypass this functionality. Another suggested that I write to customer service to complain. Not via email, no… via postal mail:

Washington Mutual Customer Service

PO Box 465

Northridge, CA 91328

One even volunteered the name of the CEO (Kerry Killinger). Talk about not wanting to deal!

Not satisfied with this, I decided to investigate other options. My first instinct, of course, was blogging about it, and I figured I’d mention it to various press sources (still my plan). I decided to try finding some kind of “president’s line” that takes high-level customer service problem calls (every major company has one). Although I’m not sure how I found it (I think I tried the Media Hotline 800.228.9268 or the Corporate Switchboard 206.461.2000), I did find a number for the Executive Response Team and a woman named Anishka who was extremely sympathetic to my plight.

She indicated that she believed Technical Support could “opt me out” of having to answer these questions, and promised she’d call me back after speaking with them. Being the untrusting soul I am, I requested a direct number for me to call her back ((800) 225-5497).

Lo and behold, about 30 minutes later, I received a call from her. Alas, it was bad news: Technical Support could not, in fact, opt me out. I’d have to answer the questions “as best [I] can”.

She also gave me the direct number for Technical Support (360) 482-1095 so I could contact them directly and learn more about this functionality. I plan on doing that.

(I should note that she promised someone else would call me Wednesday, but that has yet to happen. I will be following up. Stay tuned.)

The situation is not as dire as I first feared, fortunately. So far, at least, if I try to log in, and I’m presented with the question selection, if I return to the main page and try logging in again, I don’t get the question page. Now, this might be coincidence, and they’re only making the page available to a random selection of people logging in, but I was able to get into my account online today.

I don’t know how long that will last. You can bet this is not the last of the Washington Mutual Security Through Stupidity entries….