How Good is Wired Internet Location Determination?

When I visit a website with one of those globes showing where current visitors are (such as at the GeoTech Center) via my home DSL, the tech nearly always gets my location correct. It mostly says "Boston, MA" which is certainly close enough for most purposes. Why then, over the weekend did my credit card company put a fraud alert on my card?

On Sunday, after a run and breakfast, I sat down at my kitchen table and ordered some bike gear (time for a new helmet) from a favorite online site. Then I tried to book an international plane ticket. To my surprise, the airline website could not complete the transaction and stated a representative would call me. Instead, I called the airline and nice lady in Albania told me about the hold on my card. She offered to put herself on hold while I called the credit card company. It's so normal for everyone to have more than one phone these days!

The credit card company rep said there was a flag because it seemed my card was in use in two different locations that morning. He noted the bike gear transaction was done from North Carolina and the airline ticket from New York. Nope, I said, they were both valid and both done from Boston. I confirmed a few more transactions and he lifted the hold. And, I got my plane ticket.

I really thought we were much better at IP-based locating these days. On the plus side, the credit card fraud alert system seems to be working fine.

Published Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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