US 20070205263 A1
A system and method for replenishing a wireless terminal account of a customer of a telecommunication service provider. In one embodiment the method includes transmitting through a point-of-sale device a merchant identification, a customer mobile identification number and an amount to the telecommunication service provider. The method also includes validating the merchant identification and crediting the customer account. The method may include delivering a merchant confirmation to the point-of-sale device and delivering a customer confirmation to the customer's wireless terminal.
1. A method for replenishing a wireless terminal account of a customer of a telecommunications service provider, the method comprising:
transmitting through a point-of-sale device a merchant identification, a customer mobile identification number and a monetary amount to the telecommunications service provider;
validating the merchant identification;
crediting the customer account;
delivering a merchant confirmation to the point-of-sale device; and
delivering a customer confirmation to the customer's wireless terminal.
The present application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/177,620, entitled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR REPLENISHING A WIRELESS TERMINAL ACCOUNT, and filed on Jun. 20, 2002 and is hereby incorporated by reference.
Various prepaid and other methods of payment are available to customers of wireless telecommunication services. When a prepaid amount in a customers account is exhausted, the customer may replenish the amount by buying a new prepaid card, or by calling a toll-free number to make a payment or by paying an invoice. It may be desirable to make such replenishment methods secure and fraud-resistant without compromising convenience for customers that reside in wide-ranging service areas.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,236,851 discloses a prepaid security cellular telecommunications system. U.S. Pat. No. 6,185,545 discloses an electronic payment system utilizing an intermediary account. U.S. Pat. No. 6,144,847 discloses a wireless telephone with credited airtime.
One embodiment of the invention provides a method for replenishing a wireless terminal account of a customer of a telecommunication service provider. In one embodiment, the method includes transmitting via a point-of-sale device a merchant identification, a customer mobile identification number and an amount to the telecommunication service provider. The method may also include validating the merchant identification and crediting the customer account. The method may include delivering a merchant confirmation to the point-of-sale device and delivering a customer confirmation to the customer's wireless terminal.
In the accompanying Figures, there are shown present embodiments of the invention wherein like reference numerals are employed to designate like parts and wherein:
Referring now to the drawings for the purpose of illustrating the invention and not for the purpose of limiting the same, it is to be understood that standard components or features that are within the purview of an artisan of ordinary skill and do not contribute to the understanding of the various embodiments of the invention are omitted from the drawings to enhance clarity.
For security and fraud-avoidance purposes, for example, the TSP may issue an identification number (hereinafter “merchant ID”) to each merchant who participates in the account replenishment program. The customer's wireless terminal 22 may be identified by a mobile identification number (hereinafter “customer MIN”) provided by the TSP. The POS device 24 may also have an identification number (hereinafter “POS IN”) associated with it and issued by the TSP.
The POS device 24 may be, for example, a wireless analog or digital handset, a battery-powered handset or a cordless handset or a hard-wired telephone apparatus. It may be dedicated to replenishment purposes or it may also include the functions and capabilities of a telephone handset. Additionally, it may be operated with a credit card scanner, a cash register, etc. The POS device 24 may also be provided with a calling number ID.
In one embodiment, the POS device 24 may be specifically provided by the TSP and it may be restricted to dialing only, for example, one toll-free number or another number to initiate the replenishment process. All inbound calls and other outbound calls from the POS device 24 may be blocked with the exception of the refresh toll-free access number. Such blocking may be accomplished by known methods, such as the methods used to setup emergency services. This is accomplished by providing a switch that hotlines the POS device 24 to a specified number for all outgoing calls except emergency calls and customer care calls.
The POS device 24 may be configured for entering data, such as, for example, the merchant ID, the customer MIN and the replenishment amount. The POS device 24 may transmit data via hard-wired telephony, satellite, the Internet or other radio transmittal methods and devices that communicate with an accounting center 40 belonging to the TSP and including a Prepaid Platform for prepaid wireless accounts. The accounting center 40 may include a processor 26 linked to a database 28, which includes customer and merchant account records and the respective customer MINs, merchant IDs and POS INs. The telecommunication service provider may establish a plurality of accounting centers throughout its service areas to accommodate customers residing in urban, suburban, and rural or other remote locations.
The POS device 24 may communicate with the accounting center 40 via an Interactive Voice Response module 30 (hereinafter “IVR module”) over a Local or Wide Area Network.
The merchant may dial a number via either a wired or preferably a wireless connection and communicate with the accounting center 40 through the IVR module 30. In one exemplary embodiment, shown in
Once the merchant ID is validated, the IVR module 30 prompts the merchant to enter the customer's MIN at step 46. The IVR module 30 may repeat the customer's mean foe confirmation at step 45. If the MIN was not entered correctly, the customer is asked to re-enter the MIN at step 50. If the MIN is entered correctly, the MIN is compared against a table of active customer MINs in the database 28 at step 48. If the customer's MIN cannot be validated, the merchant may be asked to re-enter the MIN or disconnect at step 50. After the customer's MIN is validated, the IVR module 30 prompts the merchant to enter the amount of replenishment at step 52. The IVR module 30 may also prompt the merchant to verify the amount at step 54 and to re-enter the amount at step 56 or to disconnect at step 58.
The IVR module 30 may also prompt the merchant to enter the POS IN, and then validate the POS IN against the merchant ID in a corresponding table in the database 28. Alternatively, the calling number ID of the POS device 24 maybe validated by comparing it in a table in the database 28. An example of the query/answer dialog is illustrated in tabular form in
The IVR module 30 may record the information received from the merchant. The information received is processed by the processor 26 to validate the merchant ID and/or the calling number ID and to update the customer's account records in the database 28.
The confirming message to the merchant may be delivered through, for example, a short message service (hereinafter “SMS”) message, which may be delivered without requiring the POS device 24 to be in active mode or within range. Additionally, the SMS messages may remain on the POS device 24 until manually deleted by the merchant or overwritten by subsequent messages. The number of messages that may be stored on the POS device 24 depends on the manufacturer of the device and the features setup.
The confirming message to the customer's wireless terminal 22 may also be in the form of an SMS text message if the customer's terminal 22 supports such messaging. The confirming message may also be delivered as a toll-free call to the customer's wireless terminal 22. Furthermore, the conforming message to the customer may be delivered directly to the customer as a receipt from the merchant.
The merchant may also keep an electronic or paper record of the communication and provide the customer with a receipt of the transaction.
Whereas particular embodiments of the invention have been described herein for the purpose of illustrating the invention and not for the purpose of limiting the same, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous variations of the details, materials and arrangement of parts may be made within the principle and scope of the invention without departing from the spirit invention. The preceding description, therefore, is not meant to limit the scope of the invention. Rather the scope of the invention is to be determined only by the appended claims and their equivalents.