First USA: Human Error to Blame for Giving Toddler a Credit Card

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Credit card marketer First USA, Wilmington, DE, said human error was to blame for a recent incident in which it issued a credit card to a 3-year-old girl in New York. A First USA spokesman would not to provide details about how the error occurred but said its normal procedures should weed out such applications before any credit cards are issued.

"Obviously, we don't market card products to minors and it is not our practice to issue credit card products to minors -- and we take every possible step to exclude minors from our mailing lists," said George McCane, a spokesman for First USA, which is the credit card marketing arm of Bank One Corp. and markets such credit cards in partnerships with banks and other institutions, whose name is branded on the cards.

First USA has "taken steps to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

The company issued a Platinum Visa credit card from Charter One Bank, Cleveland, with a $5,000 line of credit to Alessandra Scalise of Rochester, NY, after the child's mother filled out the application as a joke. According to published reports, the application listed her true age and listed her occupation as "preschooler" but left most of the other lines on the application blank. In addition to Alessandra, applications also were sent to her triplet brother and sister.

Although McCane said First USA accepted the responsibility for issuing the credit card, it was not immediately clear how the triplets' names appeared on the list of prospects. McCane said Charter One Bank supplied the lists for the campaign, although he declined to discuss how the lists were treated. A spokesman for Charter One Bank said it was waiting to hear back from First USA before it commented on the blunder.

"I have asked First USA for a report on this, which I haven't received yet," William Dupuy, a spokesman for Charter One, said yesterday. Dupuy said he believed the parents of the children were customers of Charter One, which has branches in Michigan, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts.

First USA, which is the largest issuer of Visa cards in the country and also markets other credit cards, was responsible for verifying the credit-worthiness of the prospects.

McCane said that in his eight years at First USA, he recalls only one other incident like this one.

"Over the course of a year, we would receive millions and millions of applications," he said. "Some of those might be of this nature, and the vast, vast majority of those are caught by our system."

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