Visa Account Updater - Part 1

Posted On: Tuesday - June 29th 2021 11:24AM MST
In Topics: 
  Economics  Big-Biz Stupidity  Scams

Before I get into this, let me state that the Scams topic key is not attached here to indicate that Visa Account Updater itself is a scam. It CAN be, however, helpful for situations in which one IS being scammed, helpful for the scammer, that is. Therefore, this topic key reflects that the post does involve scamming.

We just learned something new about the American financial world a couple of days ago. My wife had ordered some type of vitamin pills, nutrition supplements, or what-have-you on-line. I'm not sure if I've yet got it straight whether she signed up for recurring monthly shipments with their recurring charges on the credit card or whether that was unexpected.

I'll state right now that I avoid signing up for ANYTHING that involves automatic repeating payments. My wife may be seeing the light on this. However, it's not always possible, or at least easy, to avoid them. One instance is the cell phone bill. For a few of the companies we've been through, they will charge you an extra $5, maybe $10 even, if you just want to send checks each month*. There are so many deadbeats out there that, as they always say, "ruin it for the rest of us". It's true in this case. I still resent being considered a likely deadbeat from the get-go or having to pay more for the small risk the Big Biz operation takes. (They can just cut off service easily enough these days, with the flip of a switch transistor.)

My wife didn't think these pills were worth anything after a while, so she had written or called that she didn't want any more. This company apparently wasn't having any of that. When she got another batch of these things** in the mail the next month she cut off the credit card***. They kept on coming, well at least one more month, because that's when she realized they were charging the items on the replacement CC with a new number. WTF! She was on the phone with them using the word "scam" a number of times, and I ended up writing a post on facebook (I'm no member, but my wife has some kind of bogus account), going all out and noting that perhaps these people were Indian credit card hackers. I kind of regret that latter bit, as only then did we get the story straight from the bank that the CC was issued by.

So that's the back story, and here's what most Americans probably don't have any idea about. (We sure didn't.): There's an operation, I believe a part of the Visa company itself, but, I'm not sure on that, called "Visa Account Updater". It is a middle-man computer outfit that operates between the merchant and the card issuing bank. Here is a .pdf page with a decent explanation. You just have to know some banking/transaction terminology that I don't. The figure above is from that page - note the term "Acquirers" which is so damn lame a term that I put it down there in the terminology stupidity trash bin along with "first responders".**** It's a real lack of creativity, IMO.

The nice bank lady explained the following to me on the phone: In the recent past, a merchant and its, spit, "acquirer" would have received some sort of electronic bad card notice in the past on a cancelled card number. It was too bad for them if the customer already had already gotten the product or made use of their service. That's good, or that's bad, but that's the subject of Part 2. Now what happens is this middle-computer Visa Account Updater outfit has been fed the new CC number of this card holder. After the charge on the first card is denied, the merchant/etc. will make use of the VAU service - there's very likely a charge! - and have the amount charged to the new card. That merchant doesn't receive the new CC info (number, expiration date, and 3-digit code), but it just gets its money from the customer's account.

This is interesting stuff. I do understand the need for it, as it can actually help the many customers who have to change CCs often due to scammers. I also understand that this can cut the leverage out from a customer who is being scammed. As I wrote just above, Part 2 will cover more about this Visa Account Updater.

PS: We wondered a while ago how my friend was able to get the Uber ride working when he knew it had only his old, cancelled CC in the system. We got the ride, the driver was certain he'd get his 75% cut (I tip in cash), and we figured Uber can just suck it if they don't get paid. Now I get completely what happened.

* For that matter, on some of the bills that I can actually count on not being somehow screwed by Big Biz on anytime in the near future, I'll even pay 6 months ahead. They should be spending time down on their knees in their corporate "worship center" just praising God for customers like me... well, until they piss me off.

** I wonder if they've got that old guarantee I used to see on the TV commercials: "If you are not satisfied, we'll send you another one, for FREE!"

*** Which has also been a recurring thing. The charges from scammers have been coming almost fast enough to where I can "burn my (old) credit cards for fuel". (Old, old, Neil Young reference there. Anyone here know which song, besides me?)

**** Sometimes, the first responder is the patient himself, who becomes responsive, gets up and says "fuck this sheeet, homies. I'm gonna get outta here fore the popo finds out how many shots I done took first!"

The Alarmist
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 2:03PM MST

@Adam Smith, ours in Europe is in French, but it only serves to confuse my family when they call. I didn’t think to record the one in the US in French ... en fait, je parle québécois, pour lequel les français se moquent de moi... I’ll have to try it on my US machine anyway.

@PeterIke, I have a US simcard, so it’s all good. What I wonder is, if the UK ever lets me back in, will I have to pay roaming there. My carrier indicated it has no plans to return to roaming charges, which is typical CorporateSpeak for it being almost a certainty.
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 12:01PM MST
Oh forgot to add, call your cell phone provider as well. Saves a shit ton of trouble to set all that up before you go. DO NOT assume your phone will "just work" in whatever country you wash up in.

Things are much better now than a dozen years ago, but still. Also you'll get charged out the wazoo if you don't sign up for an overseas plan (temporary one).
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 12:00PM MST
For foreign travel, the thing to do is just call your credit card before your trip and say "I'm going to be in Tasmania, Beirut and Timbuktu over the next week." They put a note in your account. It generally works out fine.

Adam Smith
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 10:16AM MST
PS: Good afternoon...

Mr. Alarmist, the message on our answering machine is in French.
Most robocalls simply hang up and do not leave a message.

The Alarmist
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 9:28AM MST

@Mr. Robert, I haven’t looked at the fine print lately, but I’m sure they’ve reserved the right to suspend charges pending verification of some sort. In the old days, the store clerk would hand you the telephone. That was in the days when we actually employed tens of thousands of people to keep the gears turning.

What was funny is that pre-coof, I had a travel pattern that put me in the same seven countries at least once in every quarter, and my bank’s systems had picked that up, but with more than a year of no biz travel, I pretty much trained the bank to expect charges in only three countries in CE.

It’s funny to hit the playback on my US answering machine when I come back, just to get twenty minutes of robo-calls that plead, cajole, and threaten me to give my money and votes or both. There aren’t many things beyond food, wine and women that make me grateful for living in the EU, but the bloc-wide restrictions on robo-calls are a rare blessing of the Eurocracy.
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 8:21AM MST
PS: Peter, are you telling me that you hung up on Jerome Powell? Did the call say anything at all about selling all your gold because it's a "barbarous relic"?

If the voice sounded very masculine than that's probably not Jerome Powell, but more likely ex-Chairman Janet Yellen, and yes, in that case it WAS a scam call.
Wednesday - June 30th 2021 7:49AM MST
Speaking of scams, I got a robocall today that said, in a robot voice, that the "Federal Reserve Service" was looking into my banking activity, and that there were suspicious actions in my account. Criminal ones! So I need to press 1 to talk to a law enforcement officer in order to avoid arrest.

I didn't press 1 so I don't know where the scam was heading -- probably "send us $$$ and we will make sure you're not arrested" or something. Or "we need your bank account info in order to check it out..."

On the other hand, perhaps I am about to be arrested for illegal banking activities. We shall see!
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 9:41PM MST
PS: Three is the charm. Remember. alcohol is evil

Mr. Moderator: 'Robert, I'm sure the suspense is killing you! ;-}'

Yes. I have alredy halved my repeating Credit Card Payments. You must satisfy me, or there will be consequences! Consequsinces!

Tuesday - June 29th 2021 6:44PM MST
PS: Robert, I'm sure the suspense is killing you! ;-}
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 6:43PM MST
PS: Robert, thanks for the explanation on the credit vs. debit. See, this was my wife's business, so I didn't get too involved. She's been doing too many of these things with recurring billing. As I wrote, that takes leverage away. I think she probably ate (well, not all the pills at once) at least one extra shipment, and I'm not sure if she will even get some money back for others.*

It was not some India-based total scam, mind you. They just didn't seem to get that she wanted out, at least twice. The main concern is that they can't keep charging whatever CC my wife has at the time. I will address that in Part 2.

* After that facebook comment of mine, I'm not sure she and customer service are still on speaking terms, haha!
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 6:38PM MST
PS: Alarmist, I had that problem in China. The bank's software was only doing what it was programmed to do, but I could not use this one-and-only debit card to get cash the whole time there. I could buy stuff, as I recall ... I think. It's been a while. The weird thing is, that card had worked fine on a previous trip. From then on, I called the bank if I were going somewhere far like that.

I had a time the card got declined due to by buying 60 G of aviation gas. The lady in the Philippines told me that was an inordinate amount of gas to buy, so I was flagged (what, I suppose I could be filling up mine and 3 friends' cars with a stolen CC? I guess.)
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 6:33PM MST
PS: Peter, that is pretty big money. How much goes to India, I wonder? The only phone scam that I even went as far as calling back on was that "you need to call about your (car) warranty" bit. I had a fairly new car, so it was the first time I've had one with any type of warranty or at least still on it.

I didn't get too far with it, as while waiting for an answer on the callback, I realized that it be the dealer or manufacturer customer service calling with more specifics than just "your car".

I'm from a family that's pretty difficult to scam, because we tend to be conservative and also slightly on the cheap side.
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 5:28PM MST
PS: Mr. Alarmist. A couple of times traveling in these Glorious States, my Credit Card would not be accepted in certain (diverse!) neighbourhoods in certain cities. Any mistaken charges are the Credit Card Company's problem here. (At least, it certainly used to be that way. --- You had a Contract with the Credit Card Company, and the Merchant had a Contract, but you did not enter into a Contract with the Merchant by making a purchase. With Debit Cards you were entering into a Contract with the Merchant.) I have read that that is not the case in Europe. Is that true?

Mr. Moderator, did you get your money back? If not, try with the Credit Card Company. I think they are still required to give it to you, in cases like this.
The Alarmist
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 3:13PM MST

After not coming to the US for more than a year, the first time I used my Euro-bank issued MasterCard, my bank shut it down, figuring I could not possibly be in the US. After turning it back on and apologizing, the fraud department explained that the US is super-problematic for them.
Tuesday - June 29th 2021 2:01PM MST
Scamming is big business! NY Post reports that we -- American suckers -- lost nearly $30 BILLION to phone scams last year. I question the methodology of the report, but still, if they're off by half it's still a ton of money.

Sadly, the report is only about numbers and doesn't tell you WHAT THE SCAMS ARE. So totally unhelpful.
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