TechFaster: Today we’re sitting down with Mary Anne Keegan, the CMO of BillGuard. Hello.
Mary Anne Keegan: Hi, How are you? Thanks for having me.
TechFaster: Yeah no problem. Can you just start us out with a little overview of what BillGuard is and what you guys do?
Mary Anne: I’d be happy to do that. BillGuard is a personal finance security company and we are focused on alerting consumers to grey charges that we find on their credit and debit card transactions. Grey charges are a little different than fraud. Grey charges are charges that are deceptive and unwanted and usually they’re a result of misleading sales and billing practices. As we know there’s been a lot of attention in the market place around identity fraud and identity protection and payment fraud, but there really hasn’t been any service available at this point in time to really alert consumers to grey charges. It really hits most consumers on a day to day basis. When you look at fraud, not everyone will be a victim of fraud in their lifetime. But when you look at grey charges, everyone almost on an annual basis will be a victim of some type of grey charge that creeps into some transaction that they’ve performed.
TechFaster: Okay good deal. I’ve done a little bit of homework and studied a little bit about BillGuard. Can you tell us a little bit about your plans, if you have any, for mobile?
Mary Anne: Sure. We’re actually going to be launching our mobile app later on this spring. We’re very excited about that. It’ll really be a new game changer for a lot of folks that monitor their transactions online. For example, today if you have a debit card with one particular financial institution and you have a credit card with someone else, from an online banking perspective you’re actually logging into two different systems to monitor your transactions. With our mobile app you’ll be able to see everything in one place in real time, so you’ll be able to look at all of your transactions and similar to you inbox of your email system, we’ll have a priority inbox where we’ll be promoting those types of charges that need your immediate attention on a regular basis. If you do find a charge that needs your attention, you’ll be able to dispute it right then and there with the merchant as well. So we’re trying to facilitate consumers not only finding these grey charges, but also getting their money back as soon as possible. So we’ll have that all in one place on the go.
TechFaster: Okay great. Getting into the whole grey charge area, can you maybe talk about the crowdsourcing that you guys do and how that is incorporated into BillGuard?
Mary Anne: Sure absolutely. We use crowdsourcing and big data analytics as our back engine to be able to find these grey charges. We do that with our own community users. We scour the web for information as well as getting information directly from banks. We look at primary sources, we look for billing disputes, we look for concerns that consumers have with specific transactions. As you know today with social media, if I’m a consumer and I have some type of bad charge, the likelihood that somebody’s going to start tweeting about it is pretty high. Then you can see a trend happening with a lot of these types of bad charges on the internet as well as in our own community of users. We crowd source that information and through our own analytics, can define those types of charges that give promoters grey charges and we alert consumers to that. The nice thing with the big community aspect as well is that we can also alert similar members of the community that have a similar charge. So if we have a group of complaints about a specific charge and we know that you, for example Ryan, also have that type of charge we can bring that to your attention.
TechFaster: Could you tell me a little bit about the dispute process and the success rate of that? Can you touch on that a little bit, how that works? If I found something that was a grey charge on my side how would be handle that?
Mary Anne: Initially if there’s a dispute or if you have a concern about a charge on one of your transactions on your debit or credit card, the traditional method is that you’d pick up the phone and call the credit card company and dispute that charge. The reality is as human beings we often times just don’t recognize a charge that’s pretty common in most cases. If you have a charge and the name of the merchant shows up differently in your statement, for example if I’m taking a taxicab in New York City and I get in this specific type of cab, on my transaction report it may show up as a different name. So typically we’d pick up the phone and we’d call ready to dispute a charge and we find out that we actually incurred that charge. So as a step one from the dispute perspective, we allow consumers right within the app to get more information about that merchant so if they’re uncertain about a merchant they can actually see the name of the merchant and go, “That’s right I did shop there, I did transact there.” If they really feel like they’re unsure about a charge, like they want to get more information we provide the consumer with information on how to contact the merchant directly which would be the first step to resolve the issue. To just contact the merchant. If in fact they want to dispute that charge further they can do that directly with the merchant themselves. A couple of ways to get their money back: within the mobile app they’ll be able to basically click on a button and let us know that they want to dispute a charge or at least get more information about a charge with the merchant and we will send that information directly to the merchant to allow the merchant the opportunity to resolve that problem directly with the consumer. At that point in time, if there’s no resolution that takes place it will get escalated. What we’re trying to do is we’re working with financial institutions as much as the merchant community to try and lower the number of those dispute calls. Quite frankly a lot of those calls are not problematic, they’re just people who don’t recognize a charge so we’re trying to at least alleviate some of those calls and get those calls out of the system directly with the merchant. The grand analogy is kind of like trying to settle your affairs outside of court so go directly to the source, get your money back, and if you’re not happy then escalate to the board.
TechFaster: That was really good insight. We appreciate it. Is there anything you would like to leave us with about BillGuard and any recent developments or news?
Mary Anne: Sure. The service is free for consumers up to three cards. We are really trying to make consumers aware about grey charges. I think everyone’s heard of negative option marketing and there are unknown subscriptions, but there are a lot of different types of charges that creep into our day to day affairs. We’re really trying to get consumers to protect themselves around these types of charges and working with financial institutions and merchants, we’re trying to work with them to integrate a type of card protection into their system so that no different than fraud protection as another lay of security, we can offer that type of security across the country. We’re also working with some folks in Washington to try and make consumers more aware around this. More importantly, to have some regulation around this because a lot of these charges are not regulated. They are disclosed by merchants, but they’re just very deceptive in nature and again consumers don’t read the fine print. I think if anything consumers should definitely read the fine print, definitely monitor they’re transactions. If they don’t have the time like most of us don’t, there’s BillGuard to definitely help them with that and have they’re back 24/7.
TechFaster: That’s really good insight and we appreciate it and we’re both fans so you have two more users here at TechFaster. Thank you very much Mary Anne. It’s Mary Anne with BillGuard and stay tuned into TechFaster and we’ll be in touch.
Mary Anne: Thank you.