Home > 2011 > Personal Finance

BillGuard: We are Smarter than Me

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 4 Comments


What do you do when you notice an unusual transaction on your credit card? If you’re like most people, you call the credit card company to complain. If you’re really worked up about it you might also post a rant on one of those bitch board web sites where people complain about fraudulent or otherwise sneaky credit card charges.

But those sites don’t really do much good, other than let you blow off some steam. The parties responsible for double charges, unauthorized recurring subscription charges, hidden fees, fraudulent charges, unauthorized charges, and “accidental” charges merrily move on to other hapless victims for fleecing.

[Featured Product: Looking for credit cards for bad credit?]

And many victims don’t even realize they’ve been ripped off, because credit card statements are often confusing to read. According to one company, “the average consumer loses over $300 a year to unwanted charges they’re not even aware of.” The name of the company is BillGuard, and it has come up with a way to solve the problem of dodgy credit card charges by harvesting the wisdom of the crowd. It calls its free service a “people powered, anti-virus for bills.”

BillGuard is easy to use. You pick a username and password, and then register your credit cards (granting “read only” access to BillGuard). BillGuard scans your transactions on your behalf, looking for questionable charges. How does it sniff out fishy transactions? In two ways: it looks at transactions other BillGuard users have flagged as suspect, and it monitors web sites from the likes of the Better Business Bureau, social networks, and bitch boards for chatter about credit cards scams. BillGuard analyzes and incorporates its findings into algorithms that analyze your transactions, flagging ones that require your attention. If you see an unusual charge on one of your cards that BillGuard doesn’t catch, you can flag it and BillGuard will look for similar charges on other BillGuard users’ bills and alert them. BillGuard calls their technology “collective vigilance.” It’s a “we are smarter than me” method of identifying hard-to-spot problems.

[Tool: Quickly assess your risk of identity theft for free]

The first time you use BillGuard, it scans all the transactions that your credit card providers have in their history files for you. After that, BillGuard scans your transactions daily. If it finds an iffy charge, it sends you email alerting you about it. I registered three cards and BillGuard returned one “unsure” transaction: an order for 1-800-Flowers.com. It was a legit charge, so I clicked the “OK” button. All the other charges were tagged “OK.” I looked through them all and determined that BillGuard didn’t miss anything out of the ordinary.

I hope BillGuard expands its collective vigilance to more than credit card transactions. I have a teenager with a mobile phone and each month I have to closely examine the phone bill to make sure that she didn’t accidentally sign up for a monthly ringtone charge by responding to a text message, dialing a 1-800-number, or clicking a link.

[Related article: 6 Tips to Protect Your Personal Data After a Breach]

Image: www.billguard.com

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • http://www.morelightmorelight.com Matt Katz

    I wonder how they make their money. How do I pay them? If I’m not the customer, I suspect that I am the product being sold.

  • http://www.billguard.com Yaron Samid

    Thanks for the great post Mark. Cell phone bill support is in the works!

    CEO, BillGuard

  • daniel123123

    How is “granting “read only” access to BillGuard” an accurate description of what occurs here?

    With your password you give BillGuard full access to your account. BillGuard shares this with another business (Yodlee) who now has full access to your account.

    If I run a house keeping business and I make a copy of your key and give it to an employee or an independent contractor would you consider it honest for me to say that I don’t have a copy of your key?

  • Pingback: StartupDigest | The best information about the tech startup world()

  • Milton Loeb

    I’d like more info on how access to my accounts is protected before I sign up.

  • Pingback: BillGuard Protects From Unwanted Credit Card Charges | Medical Billing and Coding Online Blog | Allen School Online()

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team