I have been with the same bank for over forty-three years. During that time it has changed its name, but still has branches everywhere. However, since the Covid-19 problems, my local branch in the nearby town of Dereham has significantly reduced its opening hours. It now closes at 2pm every day, which makes it inconvenient for me.
In 2002, I bought my first laptop. Not long after, Julie set up Internet Banking on it for me. But I didn’t use it, as I could not bring myself to trust online dealing with my hard-earned money. Up until this very day, I still write cheques to pay bills, and if I have a banking issue, I go into the branch to sort it out face to face.
But cheques are going. Most banks intend to withdraw them from use soon, and with branch closures beginning in earnest, my local bank in Dereham may well face the axe in 2021. As the saying goes, history has caught up with me, and I will have to bank online to stay ‘relevant’ by the end of next year.
So yesterday evening, I logged on to that eighteen year-old account. Well, tried to log on of course, but was unable to. My previous numerical security code was no longer active, so I got a screen telling me to call a customer service telephone number. After ten minutes on hold, I was answered by someone from an Indian call centre. The man spoke very good English, but his voice was quiet. He also had a way of sounding a ‘W’ like a ‘V’, and a ‘V’ like a ‘W’ which made some of his conversation hard to grasp.
When I explained the situation, he was sure he could help me very quickly. I had to download an App onto my mobile phone he told me. I answered that I did not want to use my phone for banking. For one thing the screen, large as it is, is too small for me to use for that kind of detail. And for another, I might lose the phone or have it stolen. I wanted to use the tower PC in my office, with its TV-screen size monitor.
But no, I couldn’t do that until I had the App first, which must be downloaded onto my phone.
(You might want to make a hot drink at this point, and sit in a comfy chair…)
Once the App was on the phone, I had to close it, then open it again. With the man on the phone prompting me, I started to complete the new user registration process.
1) Invent a username. Don’t write it down, just remember it. (Yeah right, like that’s going to happen)
2) Create a security number that must be 6 numbers, with no doubles and no running sequence. It must not include numbers from your cash card PIN number, or any of your date of birth. (Did that, and wrote it down, just as I had the username)
3) Create a Security Key. (?) Apparently, that’s like a password, and has to have numbers and letters, but no more than six in total. (Did that, and of course wrote it down)
4) Memorable Questions. I had to choose three answers. One for a TV character, one for an ideal holiday destination, and another for a famous historical figure.
(They all went in my notebook too of course)
Once I had entered every answer twice to confirm, the App was ‘live’.
But all that was only the start. By now I had half a page of my notebook full of security codes and passwords that I wasn’t supposed to write down. Then the man told me I had to close the App, and log in on my PC using all the same answers.
Before I could do that, the bank had to send a ‘One time only’ numerical security code to my mobile phone which had to be entered in yet another box on my PC screen. With that in place, it opened the Internet banking facility, and asked me to complete everything I had just done on the phone again.
My patience was wearing thin. The man in India told me it was only because I was a first time user, and after that I would only need my security number. (In case you are as confused as I was, that’s (2) in the list above.)
Trying to stop myself swearing at the man, as I knew he was only doing his job, I entered everything carefully, checking all the details I had written in the notebook. (Could anyone really remember all that stuff after twenty minutes? If so, you’re a genius!) I pressed the box marked ‘Continue’ and breathed a sigh of relief.
Until the box turned red, and this warning appeared.
‘One of the three required fields has been entered incorrectly. Please try again’. But it didn’t tell me which one of course.
I had to exit the page on the PC, and start again. By now, I had been on the phone for forty-one minutes, and my stress levels were in the stratosphere. Five minutes later, I had done it all again, and got the red box again. This time it had a different warning message.
‘You have now entered one of the required fields incorrectly for the third time, and can no longer use this online facility’.
I told the man what it said, and asked him what the next move is. He thought for a moment. “You did use all block capitals, didn’t you sir?” Of course I hadn’t. Why would I? I told him that. So all those ‘errors’ were because I hadn’t typed everything in caps, and hadn’t been told to do that either by prompts on the screen, or by him.
Still talking quietly, and annoyingly switching his ‘W’ for ‘V’, and Wice-Werca, he came up with a great idea.
“You could go into your local branch when it is open, Mr Johnson. They should be able to reset your online account”.
I now have to go in before 2pm on Monday, and hope that the branch has not been closed down for good over the weekend.
So much for the ‘Simple, convenient, online banking’. (Their advertising)