My mom can't stop buying anti-virus software.
May 29, 2013 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as a credit card that can only be used in person? My mom needs that, because she'll give it to any website that tells her to.

My mother has very poor memory and has purchased over 20 copies of AVG in the past three months because every time a website tells her that her antivirus software is expiring, she'll believe it.

I've tried:

* Installing malware blockers, but somehow she keeps running into these pseudo-scams.
* Putting a note on her computer saying "Do not put your credit card # into the computer!!!" but she took it down.

Right now I've cancelled all her cards, but that's going to be inconvenient when she wants to go to the store or restaurants.

Is there such a thing as a "card present only" credit card?
posted by justkevin to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does she need a desktop computer? This seems like the sort of situation that an iPad would be ideal for; they're locked down enough that she won't be downloading sketchy crap everyday, but can still have email and everything.
posted by kagredon at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

My credit card has "Verified by Visa" which is an extra step I have to go through to use it online. it's basically just putting in a password but I managed to input it incorrectly three times so now I'm locked out of that step. So I can't use my card online until I ring the bank and get it reset. It's been locked since last October and I haven't got around to it yet, but the card works otherwise.

Not all retailers use the Verified by Visa system but it most do (I'm in Europe, don't know if that makes a difference), so it has drastically reduced my online spending with that card. Something like this might be better than nothing if you can't sort out a better solution.
posted by shelleycat at 12:50 PM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you've got enough control over her finances to have canceled her cards, can you just have her use cash/checks from now on?
posted by chaiminda at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Remove the three digit code from the back.

You could carefully melt one of the numbers into illegibility, but that might be a problem at stores that verify the numbers printed on the card match what's encoded.

Another option is to buy her a debit card that you can add money to remotely, and have the ability to see what her transactions are. This won't stop her from buying anything, but will limit the financial damage she can do.
posted by yohko at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's easy to think of old people as being out of touch with technology and unable to use the internet correctly, but your question makes me wonder if your mom is having some other type of cognitive problem that extends beyond just being an easy mark for scare ads and this is the symptom you're seeing. This goes way beyond "very poor memory" and into "Probably unable to manage her own finances", IMO.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:59 PM on May 29, 2013 [33 favorites]

Agreeing with Inspector.Gadget here, inasmuch as she took the note down, which is an odd thing for someone to do if they want to, and are trying to, remember.
posted by davejay at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2013

I had this problem with my mom, offline, and had her use cash and checks only.

Does she have a diagnosis re: cognition and memory? Mine does.
posted by Riverine at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2013

I assume that since OP has the power to cancel "all her cards", OP's mom probably already has the appropriate diagnosis, and OP has the appropriate authority to manager her finances.

Here's my advice:

I like the idea of removing/obscuring the 3 digit code on the back (or front for an AMEX). If she's got as bad of a memory as you say, then she shouldn't be able to memorize this.

I'd also suggest monitoring card activity like a hawk (maybe even daily) basis, so that charges can be caught, and perhaps refunds could be requested right away.

Is she buying AVG directly through AVG, or though some kind of scammy reseller? If the former, you could also try contact AVG and asking if there is a way to put some kind of hold on your mother's account
posted by sparklemotion at 1:17 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also install some ad-block software to her browser. Disable pop-ups while you're at it.
posted by fontophilic at 1:20 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


* Add and the domains referring her to purchase to the HOSTS file to block them
* Switch her DNS to OpenDNS and add the referring domains to the blocked list
* Switch her to Chrome/Firefox and install Adblock Plus extensions to block popups
* Switch her to an iPad
posted by bluecore at 1:21 PM on May 29, 2013

Verified by Visa might not work, as some online stores don't participate, and I'm betting the scammy "buy AVG!" places don't. For participating online shops, it requires an extra password, which you could set, and then not give it to your mum. But, at non-participating stores, it just works like a regular card. MasterCard has the same thing called SecureCode.

Obscuring the 3 digit CVV number might work (though, rarely, some shops don't require it). I don't think locking down the computer will, though, especially considering she took the reminder down. My uncle has similar issues, and his family has restricted him to using cash and checks only. He would always find ways to make ill-considered purchases online -- you can still buy lots of stuff on an iPad even without sketchy pop-ups. It hasn't been a problem at stores and restaurants to pay in cash (he has an ATM card, but no debit card). For any large purchases, though, his family has to help out. But, that makes sense, considering he can't really manage his own finances any more.
posted by bluefly at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2013

She sees a neurologist twice a year, and we have a good handle on her mental capacities: possible early onset dementia, but stable.

She doesn't manage her own finances, I do, but she lives in a retirement community by herself. A credit card is useful for her to buy her groceries, or pay for dinner when she goes to a restaurant.

iPad is not a bad idea, but I think learning a new technology might be a bit much.

I know credit card companies differentiate between card not present and card present merchants, I thought maybe some would create cards that could only be used with one.
posted by justkevin at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2013

There may be a keystroke monitoring program that can look out for the first 6 numbers of the credit card, then when the 7th is typed it would send 7 backspaces, thus preventing her from entering the number. This one may do it.
posted by Sophont at 2:20 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to have a debit card that did not have any kind of credit backing it up. The result was that I could use it at the ATM and at stores that had pin pads, but not for online purchases. Would something like that be a good compromise for her since she can't be "trusted" with a credit card?
posted by telegraph at 2:40 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not quite ready yet, but a friend of mine is about to launch a credit card that allows folks to intelligently manage others' credit card activity — exactly for situations like you're in. You can sign up now — they should launch in August. True Link.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:28 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get her a reloadable prepaid debit card. You can reload it periodically with what she needs for the month or week. Make sure it's a prepaid card that does not allow for overdraft, and she'll never be able to spend more than you allocate to it.

The downside of prepaid cards is that you'll probably pay a monthly fee, and it's not protected by FDIC insurance and some other regulations that apply to bank accounts and credit cards, but those sound like reasonable tradeoffs for your situation.

Green Dot gets good reviews for a prepaid card. You can also check out CardHub, which is a reliable online research/review site for prepaid cards.
posted by yarly at 5:09 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would an ad-blocker help? If most of these scams are in banner ads maybe you can just prevent them from showing on her computer.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:28 PM on May 29, 2013

I like the idea of removing/obscuring the 3 digit code on the back

Bonus - she could still use that card in person in stores, just not online. (The card-in-hand tests I've seen stores use, if any, don't involve this number)

And If you replace the number with "Ask JustKevin for this number", then she can shop online too, but has to check in with you first.
posted by anonymisc at 6:01 PM on May 29, 2013

If she's not tech savvy, I'm wondering if you could install some kind of system-wide style sheet (with Stylish or something similar), applicable to every page, that simply doesn't display forms. Hrm, that would break search boxes. Doesn't display form boxes exactly 16 digits long?

The easiest might be Bluecore suggestion of OpenDNS, which allows you to block the entire Ecommerce/Shopping category, as well as add your own blacklisted domains.
posted by timepiece at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2013

Are there just a few restaurants she goes to? Refillable gift card for those restaurants and the grocery store.
posted by yohko at 10:15 PM on May 29, 2013

Does she need a desktop computer? This seems like the sort of situation that an iPad would be ideal for; they're locked down enough that she won't be downloading sketchy crap everyday, but can still have email and everything.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't an iPad still going to let her put the CC number in and purchase AVG again, whether or not she can actually then download and install it?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:18 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding an ad-blocker. I have AdBlockPro for Firefox and that seems to stop pretty much all banner ads, and I'm assuming it's the banner ads telling her that her AV is expiring?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:19 AM on May 30, 2013

I know credit card companies differentiate between card not present and card present merchants, I thought maybe some would create cards that could only be used with one.

Rather than a card that's designed for this purpose up front, have you tried calling the customer service line on the back of any given credit card to ask if they can do this as a setting on the account? I know if you think you lost your card, they can place a temporary hold while you look for it. It wouldn't be surprising if they could put an indefinite hold just on online transactions the same way. You'd want to call customer service for an existing account (maybe one of your own to see if it's possible?), because it would be something their fraud prevention team knew about rather than their sales team.
posted by jhc at 10:09 AM on May 30, 2013

If virus SW is all she is compulsively buying, get her a Mac. The virus threat will disappear as will the AVG (and other virus) ads. They wont pop up if it does not detect Windows.
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 4:47 PM on August 21, 2013

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