industry news SME profile Monday 28 Jun 2021 @ 12:00 Why it’s time to Automate ID Verification in an Online World

Article by Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa

The pandemic has put the onus on the public sector to improve engagement online. After all, people are concerned about setting foot in enclosed spaces where the transmission of viruses is most likely to occur, such as inside a government building.

The public also recognise and increasingly prefer the convenience of interacting online. With expectations influenced by their experiences with big digital companies like Amazon and Google, they want fast and secure access to services, so when they register online for a service they expect it to be quick and seamless. And when they sign in to access that service they don’t want to be bogged down by a number of security questions and passwords to log into their accounts. It’s up to the public sector to meet these high expectations and provide similar friction-free interactions.

At the same time public bodies are increasingly focused on engaging with people online, fraud in the digital world is on the rise. In fact, fraud and error during the pandemic are set to cost the UK Government £4.6 billion the Policy Exchange estimates. Then there’s huge sums of money, between £31 and 48 billion a year, lost to fraud in the public sector, such as benefit, tax credit, or student loan scams.

This growth in fraud requires public bodies to know who they are engaging with. It’s confirmation of identity that will prevent valuable budgets from being disbursed incorrectly, especially those needed for the country to recover from the current health emergency. The question is how can they ensure accurate and fast ID verification?


Automate ID verification

Automation is the answer. It’s by far the quickest, most accurate and cost-effective way to deliver ID verification in the online world. This means adopting electronic ID verification (eIDV) instead of the manual ID checks that currently exist. Using an automated eIDV service supports cross-checks against an individual's contact data in real time as they complete an online application process, while ensuring the user experience isn’t compromised.

By matching the name, address, date of birth, email, or phone number against reputable data streams such as government agency, credit agency and utility records, those in the public sector can assess an applicant’s residency and proof of address to determine their ‘right’ to access the service or assistance. The ability to verify age as part of this process means it’s possible to protect tight budgets only for those who qualify for support and not a scammer.

For eIDV to work effectively the service must have real time access to a dataset of billions of consumer records from reputable third parties (as already mentioned) and politically exposed person (PEP) data. Ideally, it should also enrich customer records by highlighting and correcting any inaccuracies and adding missing data, where available.

Additionally, with eIDV it’s possible to strengthen governance by aiding compliance with ‘know your customer’ (KYC) or citizen, and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.


Automated biometric verification

In tandem with eIDV, public bodies should investigate the automated technology powering optical character recognition for its role in working with biometrics to verify ID. Based on human, physical and behavioural characteristics, its biometrics that provides individuals with fast and secure online access to their account, without the need for time-consuming security questions and passwords. 

Once the applicant to a service or product has scanned and provided their ID documents via their choice of device, biometric technology checks validity in real time. These documents might include a passport or driver’s licence with a photo. The software then examines a selfie via an algorithm within the technology, comparing it with the master image from the ID documents. The algorithm ensures the reliability of the process by immediately distinguishing differences between the selfie and the ID image, including skin imperfections, makeup, hairstyle, facial hair and head position.

It’s important to recognise that fraudsters using creative methods like 2D images and video playback can trick facial recognition technology to ‘prove’ they are the person they are impersonating. To prevent this liveness checks are required. This means using technology that includes a ‘challenge response’ that asks the individual to blink to confirm eye movement and proof of life. Only then can public bodies have a high level of confidence that engagement is taking place with a real live person, not a static image or avatar, to further help prevent fraud.

Ideally, the ID check via biometrics should lead to the creation of an electronic due diligence report for each applicant, one that can be referenced and audited if and when the need arises.


Automated ID vs. manual verification

The automation of ID verification is significantly better than the physical, time consuming, and more costly checks that traditionally take place behind the scenes at public bodies for a number of other reasons:

  • Staff are asked to check documents for authenticity, manually, despite not always having specific training in identifying forged or fraudulent documents.
  • With thousands of ID document types worldwide employees can’t be expected to know them all, which can cause review-related delays.
  • Thoroughly examining photographs against the document holders is not easy and can be uncomfortable for staff member to undertake.
  • Everyone is vulnerable to human error, making manual reviews less effective or stringent than they should be.
  • Records of ID checks can often be held in hard copy at various locations, making quality control difficult.
  • Operating manually does not usually allow for a quick response to changes, whether legislative or regulatory.
  • Is there any justification for continuing spending money on manual ID checks with staff on furlough and public sector budgets under extreme pressure, when speed and accuracy are offered via automation?

With a growing number of public sector services moving online and fraud in the digital world proliferating, implementing ID verification is critical. However, it must be an automated ID verification process. The accuracy, speed and cost benefits afforded by the automation powering eIDV and biometrics are significantly better than any manual approach, and are what the public sector urgently needs today and in the future.

About Melissa: Unlock the power of clean, current and consistent data. Melissa is here to help you solve even the most complex data challenges. Find out more


Recruiters Handbook: Download now and take the first steps towards developing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organisation.