Firm Comes Up with a Safer (e) Way to Shop

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Canberra-based Web Active Corporation will launch a new service in the United States and Australia on Friday that verifies the phone numbers of people making purchases over the Internet.

The service is aimed at making it harder for people to commit credit card fraud over the net. Called phoneAlert, the web service allows a merchant using the Internet to sell goods and services to verify a customer’s phone number. Before someone submits their payment details over the Internet, phoneAlert will ask the shopper to enter their phone number. The computer then rings the shopper and gives them a four-digit pin number. When they enter the number it matches the pin number issued by phoneAlert to the merchant and all the details that go with that phone number. The merchant can then verify the transaction.

Chief executive officer of Web Active, Matt Bullock, said a person using a stolen credit card was hardly likely to give something as traceable as their phone number over the Internet. Most web sites verify customers using e-mail, however, e-mail accounts can be set up with no real credentials. This is not as simple with phone numbers. The phoneAlert verification takes about 30 seconds in real time, at the time of doing the transaction over the Internet. If there is a problem with the order, such as processing of payment, the merchant has a correct phone number with which to contact the customer. The phoneAlert in action looks simple enough, but took about three months to develop to get multiple computer services linked and collaboration between Mr Bullock and staff members Steve Gluhak, Tony McGrath, Tim Munk and Matthew Horoschun.

Businesses reliant on e-commerce are already embracing the tighter security phoneAlert offers. General manager of Check- In.com.au Simon Isaacs, whose business offers a last-minute accommodation service for 1200 hotels around Australia, said a small percentage of people gave incorrect information when making bookings. Businesses were the ones to suffer financially when someone was using a stolen credit card. He welcomed phoneAlert and said it would offer his customers additional security as well.

Director of Icarus College in Melbourne, Dallas Gibson, said phoneAlert would give businesses such as his a 100 per cent solid way of making certain the person on the other end of the line was legitimate. “This will give us added security. We believe it is a unique service. No where else in the world can you get such a service.”

Mr Bullock, whose interest in e-commerce began when he sold software packages as a high school student in Parkes, formed Web Active in 1998. The company established eWAY which enables businesses to perform credit card transactions via the Internet. Last year about $100 million of goods and services were paid for over eWAY and this year the figure is likely to rise to about $150 million, making the service the second largest of its kind in Australia.