My bank is on a spree of extra security and it’s becoming increasingly intrusive. I now have to have a calculator-sized debit card reader in order to make payments to people, which means that I can’t do it by just logging in to e-banking from wherever I am, I must be at home with access to their little gadget (unless I’m expected to carry it with me). And when I make online purchases (through websites participating in the Mastercard SecureCard or the Visa VerifiedByVisa scheme) I go through an extra hoop of authentication directly to my bank.

The former is particularly irritating, because it’s not really for my security as advertised, but rather theirs. It ensures that I have my debit card in order to move money via e-banking, so if someone steels my PIN and password, they still can’t steal money. This is very obviously protection from the bank’s naive customers that reply to the hundreds of emails of the this-is-your-bank-please-give-us-your-security-details type. But it’s just an inconvenience for the rest of us that recognise this type of scam, it offers me no protection whatsoever.

The latter is fair enough, it keeps people from stealing my credit card number, expiration date and security code and using it to buy stuff of the web (well at least from participating websites). But today the scheme stopped me from making a payment to my own credit card(!). No explanation. Just failed. Well, this is much more secure. If I can’t spend money online, I definitely won’t be losing any money online.

Eventually, I never lose money anyway because the bank will refund payments that were fraudulent. Even the bank doesn’t bear that cost directly, as they are insured against this type of thing, although I’m sure that the volume of fraud increases their insurance premium.  I understand that banks lose loads of money from scams and naive customers, but there must be a line drawn between protecting the bank and preserving usability and convenience for the customer. It seems that we’re starting to move away from giving more power and control to the customer and starting to close things down again in the name of security.

This Dilbert comic strip says it all: