GUEST POST from Don: Finding the Exit:  Opting out of Online Payments

Before beginning I want to be clear: 1) I am not seeking advice.  I know the internet is “secure.”  I also know that internet entities spy on us.  (There may be a contradiction somewhere in those two statements).  2) I am not giving advice.      

I do not know how I became interested in this topic…maybe I was in a doctor’s waiting room.  (Unfortunately, not knowing I would enjoy writing after retiring, I did not keep a copy of the article).  Nevertheless, several others seem to agree.  In one, written a few years earlier, Doug Bolton, a writer for The Independent (British news source) on May 16, 2016 wrote “Hackers and government surveillance are making people abandon the internet, survey finds.”  In it he reported on a US survey that claimed that almost half of all internet users at that time had cut back on their internet activity (including banking) due to cybersecurity concerns and other reasons.

Every year there are a few more who choose NOT to engage in electronic banking and bill paying.  These are both people who have never opted in AND those who have and now are opting out.   Banks know that some people LIKE in-person banking; they still have plenty of branch locations.  Of course, electronic purchases and banking are not the only things people are abandoning.  Several reports claim that some teens have found social media to be disgusting and are opting out of it (Another topic for another day?  Hopefully not!)  And a very recent story claimed that nearly 75% of American adults have NEVER had a Twitter account (Thank God!)

Maybe I will join those opting out.  Recently I tried to go “mail-only” with one company after a series of communication missteps.  That company promises to customize their product to meet the customer’s needs.  One – of several – problems that continually arose was that my portal would not work because I do not use Chrome.  Apparently I could not customize THAT.  So, they mailed my documents to my old address (yes, I had already updated it).  

This month I ended my relationship with that online company.  I phoned a local business, set an appointment, then went in and spoke with a real person.  Amazingly rewarding to not sit on hold listening to too loud elevator music which is interrupted with statements like “Please stay on the line.  Your call is very important to us.”  The whole “in person” process (including the drive there and back) took less time, too.

Adults abandoning online purchasing, banking, and bill-paying are of all ages.  There are many reasons.  Some, like me, enjoy seeing and holding the item they want to buy.  Researching products and services online is OK, but making the purchase at a brick and mortar location is strangely … satisfying.  They are not opposed to using the internet or smart devices.  Rather, they no longer believe that convenience is the most relevant issue. (And, no, they do not wear tin-foil hats).

Oddly, one day at work about 6 years ago I was explaining to someone that I was uncomfortable doing my banking or bill-paying online.  My reason was that nearly half of the people I knew who had done so had the horrible experience of having their identity stolen.  (The risks may have changed since then??)  Anyway, one guy piped up nonchalantly saying that having ones identity stolen was no big deal, that it had happened to him 3 times, and he was still comfortable doing banking online.  I’d say he could have been the poster-child for why you should NOT.

Frankly, it used to be so much easier.  The same user-name and password worked for almost every site.  As a user you did not have much to remember.  Now, almost every site has different criteria for user-name and/or password selection.  However, if you have not accessed your account in a while, they may demand answers to obtuse questions (which means you have to write down the questions and answers, which also have different criteria attached).  Further, if it is a government or medical site they will send a NEW access code to your email every time you log in (which is a problem if Yahoo is phasing out your free email account that their website has on file for you).  Tried to change my phone number on one investment account AFTER I had already discontinued my landline.  Bad mistake!!!  They could not call me to verify that it was I…so, they grilled me for 15 minutes about everything from where I went to first grade to my mother’s brother’s name (seriously!!!)  How did they compile a dossier of all that personal information?  It spooked me.  My wife knew less about me when she accepted my proposal.  

It is becoming very complicated and MESSY!!!  The original concept was ease and simplicity.  I now have an actual address book FULL of access information.  (When did internet sites become more important than my friends and family?)

Finally, people are getting fed up with the growing problem of porch pirates.  Do you know exactly when the delivery service will drop off your prescriptions, dog treats, or bath gizmo?  So those items sit on the porch until someone notices them.  In my case I can say, “Hopefully that someone is ME.”  As “difficult” as it is to turn the ignition key and find a parking space at the physical store, that may be far easier than trying to get a refund on a stolen item and/or waiting another week for re-delivery.  In the last year only 5 items have been delivered to my house… including a sofa and a mattress.  Good luck, porch pirates, getting those into your old pale blue Civic!!

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