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BillGuard launches iPhone app to help consumers identify fraudulent charges

Personal finance security company BillGuard is helping consumers save money by identifying “gray charges” via a mobile application.

BillGuard was founded two years ago to help consumers find and dispute gray charges on their credit cards, and now the service will be available via an app. Gray charges are recurring payments that consumers agreed to but may have forgotten about.

“When we first launched BillGuard two years ago we set out to build a really simple Web app that would check your credit/debit card bills for you and alert you to potentially unwanted charges,” said Yaron Samid, CEO and co-founder of BillGuard, New York. “The technology worked really well, yet the foundational premise of BillGuard is based on the notion that if we all shared knowledge about unwanted charges on our own bills, we’d all be safer together.

“As a natural next step to increase inbound engagement and knowledge sharing in the app, we redesigned it from the ground up to offer a lean-forward mobile experience,” he said. “The new BillGuard iPhone app is hands down the fastest, smartest way for you to check your bills – with the help of some very sophisticated algorithms and millions of other cardholders that report unwanted charges on their own bills each year.

“It’s designed to be a ‘Smart inbox for your money,’ a self-learning system that gets better the more you use it. So far engagement numbers have been 10 times that of the Web-based security product.”

Mobile protection
BillGuard is intended to help consumers be more aware of gray charges so that they can save money.

If a consumer signed up for a free trial that resulted in subscription charges, he or she may forget to actively unsubscribe and may incur unwanted charges. BillGuard identifies such charges by alerting users to new, questionable charges.

BillGuard’s app will send users push notifications when questionable charges pop up.

Users can then open the app and verify charges by swiping right.

If they are unsure about a charge, they can swipe left to go to the help screen. This screen lets users dispute a charge or save it for later.

The app uses the information it receives from past verifications to identify new charges from questionable vendors. BillGuard also crowdsources data to identify common vendors and charges.

BillGuard’s app is available for free in Apple’s App Store. Users can add up to two credit cards for free or up to ten cards for $9.99.

Gray charges
According to a BillGuard study, around 233 million gray charges are posted to United States credit cards every year, resulting in about $14.3 billion lost by consumers annually.

By launching an app, BillGuard will be able to combat such data.

BillGuard has accumulated a large database of vendors, so it can contact the vendors directly and avoid having to deal with banks. This saves users time and money.

The app comes at a time where commerce in general is moving towards mobile.

For example, MasterCard, Kalixa Group and DeviceFidelity offer a mobile wallet for consumers in the United States and Britain (see story).

With consumers making payments via mobile, it is possible that these gray charges will increase, and an app like BillGuard could ensure higher security for mcommerce.

“It’s well documented that security drives adoption and conversion of payment services,” Mr. Samid said. “BillGuard is uniquely positioned as a data-centric consumer protection service to play a critical enabling role for mobile payment services.”

Creating a mobile app also benefits the BillGuard service itself.

“Mobile makes BillGuard smarter by facilitating more user engagement with the app and by exposing more people to the app,” he said. “Mobile also supplements BillGuard’s dataset with geo and other data services which can be critical to identifying suspicious spending behavior on credit/debit cards.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York