It’s been a banner year for credit card thieves.
First came Target’s announcement that up to 40 million cards had been compromised during the height of the holiday shopping season. Neiman Marcus was next, with 1.1 million customers affected by a data breach. By the time Michael’s announced that it had been hacked, leaking credit and debit card information from some 3 million customers, it seemed that no one was safe.
But new help is on the way. On Thursday, OnDot Systems — a San Jose, California-based startup that’s been in stealth mode since it was founded in 2011 — unveiled an app that acts as a kind of “remote control” for your credit, debit, and prepaid cards. With this app — known as CardControl — you can turn your cards on and off with the click of a button, and you can tightly control when, where, and how they’re used.
Working alongside an old colleague named Rachna Ahlawat, OnDot CEO Vaduvur Bharghavan founded the company after his own credit and debit cards were hacked in 2010. “It bothered me that I couldn’t just lock my card,” he says.
OnDot is just one of many companies looking to improve the security of credit card purchases. Most notably, Visa and Mastercard are in the process of rolling out so-called chip and PIN cards, a more secure alternative to cards with a magnetic strip. Retailers and issuers have until October of next year to enable chip and PIN capability. Those who miss that deadline, the major credit card companies say, will be liable for fraudulent charges.
Others are offering security apps along the same lines as CardControl, but the new app goes further than most. It lets you set spending limits, disable charges from certain types of merchants, and, perhaps most important, sync the app to your phone’s GPS. That way, if you lose your card and someone tries to use it 10 miles away, the app will alert you to potential fraud.
The startup is part of what’s called the on-demand economy. In a time when services like Uber let people summon a car and driver with the tap of a finger, no one wants to sit on the phone with their bank or credit card company disputing a charge. Consumers are now trained to expect convenience. And CardControl is as convenient as it gets.