Austin startup takes on online fraud, identity theft

Dec 9, 2013
Austin American Statesman

Can location-based software on your smartphone prevent identity theft and online fraud?


Austin startup Toopher says yes. The company, founded in 2011 by two former University of Texas students, has developed a GPS-based system that stops unauthorized users from accessing a person’s online accounts, even when user names and passwords are compromised.


Toopher’s name is based on the concept that identity verification should use two factors instead of a single password. The company provides an additional layer of security by using a smartphone’s location to verify a user’s identity.


Users download the free Toopher app to their smartphones. Then, the first time they log on to a Toopher-enabled website, the app prompts them to verify their identity. Toopher uses the phone’s GPS capabilities to confirm the user’s location and verify that it’s really them in front of the monitor.


“Even if a hacker has the correct user name and password combination, if they’re not in front of the screen, they are still locked out,” Alexander says.


Last November, Toopher raised $2 million from investors including Alsop Louie Partners of San Francisco. Stewart Alsop, a partner with Alsop Louie, said at the time that his firm initially wasn’t interested in Toopher because of the proliferation of startups developing two-step verification systems.


“But then we saw how they have solved a really broad and significant problem in a really novel way,” Alsop told the Statesman. “They’re doing something that’s very technically difficult but it is very easy for customers to integrate into their system, and it’s very easy to use. That’s what we look for — entrepreneurs that have solved a really difficult problem.”


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