Feb 17 2019

Brave New World

Category: English postsIuliana @ 1:41

No, this entry is not about the dystopian novel that we all know and love. This post is about how me, a person that has lived more than 30 years of life in eastern Europe just clashed with the reality of a more civilized country.

When I lived in Romania I never had to justify my income. I started writing books for Apress and I started receiving payments form US in my ING account and nobody from the bank called to ask me where is that money coming from and if it was taxed. The reason for that is that Eastern Europe is quite relaxed when it comes to a lot of rules, which gives people a sense of freedom, but people with bad intentions use this to their advantage, that is why there is so much corruption in the official institutions.

Well, here I am in the UK. And things have changed. As I’ve probably mentioned here, before I left Romania I installed Revolut, the wonder money-management application that helped me swim across the turbulent and diverse system that is the banking system. Until yesterday 4:00 am I was their biggest fan and preached to everyone who wanted to listen how advantageous using Revolut is. But, all good things come to an end. Go get yourself a big coffee, because this will be a loooong read.

The first interaction I had with their support was when I needed to transfer more money then the sum they allowed by default. I had to provide them with an account statement proving that the money was mine. Well considering how relaxed the laws are in Romania, even if the money was in my account, they might have ended there illicitly, so verifying  that the money is indeed mine, is not such a big thing. So, if I were a bad person, checking the “ownership” of the money would have bypassed their security quite easily. Anyway, I needed the money converted from RON to GBP with minimum costs for me so I send them the account statement and moved on.

I then provided the company where I work, my Revolut GBP account, so my salary could be wired. Of course the transaction was blocked until I proved that the sum was in fact my salary. Ooohhhh, it was justified I guess.

Then I changed the account that Apress was using to pay me to my Revolut USD account, because there was no point in losing money by changing USD to RON, when I have a 10 year USA visa and I will be going back there at some point, and spend the said USD. And here is where the fun began with me. Two transactions were lost in the Revolut Limbo and I had to contact support and give them the transaction number to find the money. Then they changed the account number format, and they did not notify me, so another Apress payment got lost in Limbo. Every time I had this problem I talked with somebody from support I told them I am a freaking technical author and it is my payment for my books.  Anyway, with the new account format, the last transaction got through. Problem solved, finally.

Revolut has a very nice feature called Vault. You can configure the app to either wire automatically money in there at various time intervals or you can configure for the remainder for every transaction (up to a round upper number) to be wired in there. This is quite a nice strategy for saving money without even knowing and I love it. As you can imagine, I had it set up and from moving to the UK, quite a nice sum was saved in there. At the end of the year I took the money out of the vault and wired them to my official bank account at my bank in the UK, because I want to apply for a credit card, to start building up a credit score. I mean, I am quite sure I want to stay in this country for a while, so I might end up needing credit to buy a house. Although I am annoyed by the credit scoring system, I will work the system, because I won’t be winning the lottery anytime soon, since I haven’t bought a ticket in 20 years. Right before this action of mine, Revolut has done their weird thing with the Bank of Lithuania, which made a lot of their users uncomfortable.

This Friday, at 04:00 am, I receive a notification from Revolut. As the head office of the company I work for is in USA, usually I receive that notification to let me know that my salary is in. And because I’m addicted to my mobile, I woke up and read my notification. Only it was not what I was expecting. It was a notification from Revolut, telling me that my account was limited because of suspicious activity and that I have to justify my income. And yes, my salary was not wired, it was being kept hostage until I “behaved”. I was asked for proof of my income. I send in the last three payslips. Although, for fuck’s sake, what kind of shitty algorithms are they running there? I have a recurrent transfer, of the same amount, in the same day of the month form the same source, every month since June, when I fucking told them I will be receiving my salary in this account. If this does not qualify as a salary, not sure what does. And the details of the company wiring the money are all on the transaction. How stupid can that algorithm be?? And of course I got pissed off and contacted support. After providing the payslips they at least released my salary safe and sound. But now the lady on the other side, asked me to justify the big transfer out of my Revolut account from a month ago, the one where I was using my savings to try to get a credit card. Apparently that transaction ticked off an alert in their system. I am wondering what kind of alert is that, because when I wired 6000 GBP to buy my car, my account was not locked and asked to justify it. Or maybe the alert was set up to verify how many clients they lost after their Bank of Lithuania scheme. I thought it was the end of it, but no… now they wanted to know where are my USD coming from. FML, who designed your database, don’t you have notes for every interaction with the freaking client? Because if you had notes, all this information would have already been there and a smart AI would have been able to use it to clear me AUTOMATICALLY. So of course I had to provide them my contact with Apress.

I work in IT and unfortunately for me I’ve been working on banking software since 2011 (I’m saying unfortunately, because I would very much prefer to do something else, but here is where the good money is and all the new job offers come from this domain because of my previous experience) and I know how to create algorithms to identify patterns in data, the fact that the Revolut system misplaces transactions and raises alerts for no good reason means they’ve hired the wrong people to build it. Maybe they will learn from this, maybe not, but until I have a different option, I will keep the money Revolut manages at a minimum.

I am well aware they are doing this to avoid problems with the law and make sure I’m not evading taxes, but I am feeling seriously violated right now. I was basically blackmailed into providing that information and I’ve never known anybody to say that being blackmailed feels good. The saddest thing is that they could have asked those questions without holding my salary hostage and I would have gladly answered them. But they did not. In this brave new world we are building, the presumption of innocence is starting to disappear.  If this is the cost I have to pay for the advantages of living in this country, I’m not sure I am comfortable paying it. I want to be a citizen here, I want to trust the system, but the system does not trust me. This is a broken relationship, and these days I am actually doubting it will work out.

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