I received a rather lengthy comment in response to my post called Like a Good Neighbor, my ass, about my difficulties with being locked out of my State Farm insurance online account. (BTW, I think I've found a solution which neither requires me to call State Farm's technical service 800 number, nor ever log-in to State Farm's website again. And I don't even have to switch insurance companies. More on that in a minute.)
Anyway, because the comment was so lengthy, and because my response is liable to be equally lengthy, I thought I'd address it in another post instead of doing a reply comment, like I usually do. First, here's the anonymous comment:
Hi Sra, I work for State Farm in the area that handles the security processes you mention. I know the questions can be a hassle, but Federal regulations require all institutions doing online banking activity to add additional security along with using the ID and password for authenticating customers.
We chose security questions as the additional security measures -- and customer feedback has made it clear we need to make the process more user-friendly.
We have started to do this. There are now only 2 security questions instead of 3, and the text field has been unmasked so you can see what you are typing for the answer. It is challenging to provide answers to these questions and then have to recall them months later. Keeping them short, simple, and easy can help. They don't even have to be true - just something you can remember.
But don't make them TOO easy, the reason they are there is not to make it hard for you to get into your account, they are there to help keep the hackers out.
Thank you, Anonymous, I appreciate your comment. I understand that there are Federal security regulations required of financial institutions. For instance, my credit union shows me a special image coupled with a keyword, both of which I chose, and they both appear on a screen after I have entered my password and ID. Once I see this image and keyword, I enter my bank PIN. Very easy to handle.
Security questions, however, are pieces of headache-inducing bullshit. Also, I used State Farm's online account for months before I was EVER asked my security questions, so naturally I couldn't remember the exact form of the answers by the time I was asked. If I were required to answer them every time, then this wouldn't have been an issue. I appreciate the advice to just make up an answer to the questions, and perhaps that's something I'll have to do in the future. I'll just use the same three words each time I have to answer security questions anywhere. Maybe it'll go like this:
What is your mother's maiden name?
What is your favorite color?
What is the air-speed velocity of a South-African homing pigeon?
Ok, so that last one is two words, but I think I could remember them well enough.
Finally, I want to reiterate (or is it iterate?), that my main complaint was not even about the stupid dick-blowing security questions. Rather, it was about the fact that State Farm REFUSED to help me via email. And no one has provided me with an adequate explanation for that. My email queries asking why we couldn't resolve this by email were either ignored completely, or I received the same stock answer along the lines of "We'd like to discuss this matter with you further, please call 1-888..." And when I said, "No, I won't call, let's resolve this by email, there's no good reason not to. The telephone is no more secure than email, and you can't know my identity any better by the phone versus email," the reply was, "We need to confirm your identity."
NO FUCKING KIDDING. Let's do it BY EMAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My imploring was eventually directed to someone who works at my agent's office, and she had this to say: "Because of the privacy act you are the only one who can get the password reset. The only way to do this is by calling 1-888..." But no explanation as to WHY THAT IS THE ONLY WAY.
None. Nothing to appease my need for a little rationality and respect from the people who are taking my money every month, and yet don't seem to care very much about my customer satisfaction.
So I think I've solved my own problem anyway, since State Farm was not able to help me. I use an Electronic Bill Pay through my Credit Union, and so I figured I'd set up State Farm on there, and just guesstimate the amount of my bill every month. It's usually pretty steady anyway. But when I set up the account, it turns out that you can opt for State Farm to send a copy of your bill via email, which I assume means it will include the bill amount. I'll know for sure next month, but until then, I feel victorious.