by James A. Martin

SafePay Fraud-Protection iPhone App Not Ready for Prime Time

Aug 10, 20123 mins

SafePay Solutions Group has a great idea for an iPhone app that could help prevent unauthorized charges from hitting your credit cards. But the beta service is still mostly in a concept phase, says blogger James A. Martin.

Not long ago, I paid for gas with my American Express card. I’d read the horror stories about how easy it is for thieves to steal your debit card information at gas station pay pumps, but I figured I’d be okay using Amex.

I was wrong.

About a day or so later, I noticed a bunch of $5 charges on my Amex from an Internet company I’d never heard of. I can’t prove the charges were a result of my gas station payment, but the coincidence is suspicious.

And so I read with interest about a new, free iPhone app called SafePay. It’s a great concept, though in my experience, the service—which is in beta—isn’t ready for practical use.

The concept: SafePay Solutions Group alerts you via its iOS app whenever an online charge is made to a credit card you’ve registered with the SafePay service. When you receive an alert, you have 60 seconds to authorize or deny the transaction. Since most iPhone users almost always have their iPhones with them, responding in time shouldn’t be a problem–at least that’s what the folks at SafePay are hoping.

Clicking the “Deny” button in a SafePay alert terminates the transaction immediately, the company says. If you don’t respond in time, the online merchant must decide whether or not to proceed with the transaction.

SafePay screen shot

The service is free to consumers; merchants pay to be a part of the SafePay network. The net result: If you forget your phone or the battery runs out or you don’t have service, a retailer can deny your purchase.

I appreciate that SafePay doesn’t ask for your complete credit card number, expiration date or security number. It asks for just enough of your credit card number to identify it. You can register multiple cards with the service.

In my tests, though, the SafePay service is more of a concept than a service that’s truly useful.

I went to the company’s website to browse for merchants in their network. As of this writing, zero retailers are listed in the directory. Since I have no idea which online retail sites might work with the service, I rolled the dice and tried Amazon. I bought an item that I’d already planned to purchase, but I received no SafePay alert. A company spokesperson later told me that Amazon isn’t currently a partner. He added that SafePay is “presently closing several deals with merchants across Canada and the US,” but he didn’t name names.

In short: SafePay is a great concept. But I feel like the 60-second cut-off is a bit too brief. Giving users five minutes to react seems more comfortable to me. At any rate, without merchants on board, there’s really no practical application for consumers at the moment.

Also of note: If you do a Google search for SafePay Solutions, you’ll find a scary number of pages describing “SafePay scams.” The company says this other company is “completely different,” and it is “looking into strategies to distance ourselves from them.” A name change sounds like a good strategy to me.

(Image from SafePay Solutions Group)