Imagine: A virtual card immune to fraud

Philip Belamant (Pic: Gugu Lourie)
Philip Belamant (Pic: Gugu Lourie)
Johannesburg - Every so often an enterprising geek or company will claim they’ve finally found a secure way to pay for your goods and services without using paper money.

They’ll claim that their innovative platforms will stop card fraudsters from embezzling your hard-earned cash. But as always, fraudsters find a way to beat the new system – after all skimming credit and debit cards is big business.

South Africa’s Net1 Mobile Solutions, however, is readying to write a different chapter with mobile virtual cards.

In the next few months the company is set to launch a mobile virtual card payment app, known as VCpay.

Net1 Mobile Solutions - a subsidiary of JSE and Nasdaq-listed Net1 Group [JSE:NT1] – believes its mobile virtual card (MVC) cannot be cloned or compromised. The company defines this as “the beauty” of their new app.

MD, Philip Belamant is confident that his company has found an innovative way to secure its mobile virtual card from any kind of fraud.

Its VCpay app generates MVCs offline, making it a matchless platform. A cardholder generates an MVC offline and no-one else can access it until the transaction is complete.

The offline capability prevents card skimmers from accessing card details through conventional back-end systems.

With an MVC card, which is endorsed by MasterCard and Visa in different regions, network coverage or signal is not an issue as the transaction can be completed offline.

As part of the safety of the app, the MVC expires immediately after the transaction.

'It's beautiful, honestly'

The VCpay app has been in testing for about two years in South Africa. The Beta version of the app already has thousands of users in the country. Belamant believes the new app has the potential to attract millions of customers in India and the US over time, and in the hundreds of thousands in SA.

Its latest version includes near field communications (NFC), which could be used in the future to make payments, from a smartphone to a POS or directly between two NFC enabled smartphones.

“This app will work anywhere that accepts MasterCard or Visa. The mobile virtual card is for one time use, as soon as the transaction happens that card is gone – it has expired – that’s the beauty of it – so your balance is safe,” explains Belamant.

He adds that with plastic cards your identity and details are not always safe because card skimmers can access and spend your money.

“I think to expect that the details will never be compromised when you pay with your credit card online is a bit naïve,” says Belamant.

Creating an offline MVC seems to be a better and secured option. “It’s beautiful, honestly,” says Belamant.

“We believe we’ve got a market probably 5-odd times the current bank card market in the country we can tap into.”

Net1 Mobile Solutions has patents for mobile virtual card payments in most countries in the world – Bankinter in Spain has already licensed the MVC technology.

The South African-based company employs 150 people in its office in the suburb of Bryanston in Johannesburg.
Net1 Mobile Solutions uses the skills of South Africans to come up with innovative products.

In a market, concerned about the much publicised skills shortages, Net1 Mobile Solutions engages university graduates and provides them with an incubation type of an environment to train them and later they can be part of a bigger team.

Disrupting the market

The company is using the same pool of talent in South Africa to expand its products and services across the globe. The Bryanston office supports its global expansion plans.

Presently Net1 Mobile Solutions is expanding into the untapped Indian market.

“We have just opened our office in India, which will be a large market for us,” says Belamant.

Asked when the company was likely to break even, considering the millions it pumped into developing the app and securing expensive global patents, Belamant responds: “Because of the programmes already in use in the US and user base we have in South Africa, the company is already profitable but obviously we see the business in South Africa as a start-up in our business”.

For now the VCpay app is being re-engineered and as a virtual cardholder can get a full statement, overall spend and individual statement per card.

Belamant says: “The reason we have invested so much time and money into this app is because we want to make the user experience seamless.

“So, if you create an MVC and sent it to your daughter or son and load R1 000, you can log in through this app and see each individual transaction and you can decide to cancel the balance if it’s not being used for the purposes discussed. This is really cool.”

Belamant expects this new app to attract tens of millions of users in India and the US. In SA the projected target is around 500 000 users initially.

“Net1 Mobile Solutions is all about how we can disrupt the market and constantly add value to our clients,” says Belamant.

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