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How to verify user identity

By verifying the identity of customers before they can make a transaction or access a service, businesses can prevent identity fraud, help customers keep their information safe, and meet global compliance.

July 21st, 2022

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If you run an online business, then you need to make sure that your customers are exactly who they’re claiming to be. This way, you can eliminate fraud and ensure regulatory compliance. 

Here, we’ll explain how to verify user identity. We’ll also outline popular verification methods and explain why verifying the identity of your users is so important. But let’s first start with the basics and provide a definition of user identity verification.

What is user identity verification?

User identity verification refers to the process of making sure every customer is exactly who they are supposed to be. By asking a user for documentation and verifying the information they provide, your business can answer two key questions:

  • Is the customer a real person?
  • Is the person attempting to access information or make a transaction the person they’re claiming to be?

For this reason, user identity verification is useful for both new customers and reverifying existing customers who are attempting to access their accounts. 

Overall, the user identity verification process ensures that fraudsters and bad actors cannot exploit a service. It also prevents anyone from carrying out a transaction on someone else’s behalf.

For some companies, identity verification processes are simply good to have. However, for businesses like financial services providers, they’re a mandatory part of anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) processes.

What types of verification are available?

The user identity verification process can take many different forms, depending on the channel and the information a customer is attempting to access. That said, the most popular identity verification methods are:

Biometric

Biometric authentication methods verify an individual based on their unique biological characteristics.

Biometric identification systems store authentic data and then compare this information with a user’s physical traits. They’re very useful both for onboarding new customers and reverifying returning customers. Different forms of biometric verification methods include:

Face Match

Our biometric authentication solution verifies a user by analyzing the shape of their face, and using important measurements such as the distance between their eyes. By asking the user for a selfie, the software can verify that a returning customer is exactly who they’re claiming to be.

Fingerprint scanners

Fingerprint scanners are the most popular form of biometric authentication. This is because fingerprints are easy to capture and analyze.

Fingerprint scanners work by identifying loop patterns. Once patterns have been identified, the scanners then find a match between a customer’s fingerprint and another fingerprint in their database.

Voice recognition and identification

Everyone’s voice is unique. This is because factors like movement variation and accent are unique to each individual and no two voices are the same. For this reason, pieces of voice recognition software can verify a person’s identity by listening to their speech. 

Due to the fact that only a customer’s speech is required to prove their identity, this process is ideal when verification needs to be completed over the phone.

Eye scanners

Eye scanners use visible and near-infrared light to check a person’s iris for unique characteristics. Often considered in the same category as facial recognition, eye scanners are highly accurate and can verify a user’s identity in only a couple of seconds.

Knowledge-based authentication

With knowledge-based authentication, a person’s identity can be verified if they correctly answer a unique security question.

Although these questions are simple in nature, they’re designed to be difficult for anyone other than the individual in question to answer. Popular questions include things like ‘what was the name of your first pet?’ or ‘who was your favorite teacher at school?’

Although knowledge-based authentication has its benefits (users like its ease and convenience), it’s becoming increasingly easy for hackers to find out the information required to access an account through social media and social engineering.

Online verification

Online verification methods (like our identity verification software) determine whether a government-issued ID is legitimate and whether it belongs to the person who is trying to access a service. All the customer needs to do is snap a selfie and provide a photo of their ID.

Online verification is very secure and can be completed in seconds.  

3rd party verification

3rd party verification (TPV) involves a business using a third party to review and confirm a customer’s information and intentions. It’s also commonly used in situations where a customer wants to provide or update information but cannot readily deliver a contract or a physical copy of that information.

2-factor authentication

2-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection to the sign-in process. Once a customer has entered their username and password, they’re then asked to provide a separate piece of information, such as a PIN or a piece of biometric information.

A great example of the 2-factor verification process is how customers gain access to their bank accounts. As well as a username and password, some banks will ask for a customer’s fingerprint when they’re using a banking app. Others will provide the user with a small box that will produce a unique numeric code each time they want to access their internet banking account.

In summary, finding the right identity verification solution for your needs can be tricky. Different solutions will provide you with different positives and drawbacks. Overall, the right solution for you will likely depend on the sensitivity of the information your customer is attempting to access and how they’re trying to access that information. If you’re still unsure which method is best for your requirements, watch our webinar on the subject.

How does user identification affect user experience?

Many businesses are concerned that robust identity verification procedures will damage customer relations. Similarly, we understand that some users have concerns about supplying businesses with their personal data. 

Remember though, most of your customers have already incorporated several security measures into their everyday lives. They show their passports at the airport and input their PIN when they make a large purchase.

By using experts (like us) to manage your identity verification process, you can ensure that the process is not invasive at all. In fact, when managed correctly, the identity verification process should actually facilitate customer conversions, rather than inhibit them. This is because the process can build trust and display security.

Finally, to make the customer experience as simple as possible, we’ve ensured that our identity verification platform is fully customizable. This means that you can modify the color schemes in our end-user flows to align with your branding, as well as add your logo. Full white labeling is also available if you’d like to make the process as seamless as possible.

How does the verification process work?

The process of identifying users might sound scary or complicated in the first instance. However, in reality, the actual process is simple and straightforward.

In a face-to-face setting, a customer can produce a document that shows exactly who they are. This document will contain vital information, such as the customer’s name, age, address, or nationality.

However, the majority of us now complete our transactions online. As a result, website owners have found simple ways to verify identity. In fact, these forms of identity verification can actually be more convenient for customers. This is because these methods don’t involve a person standing and waiting in line, or booking an appointment to see someone.

So, how do we help a customer verify their identity? Well, it’s a simple two-step process.

  1. We ask a customer to take a photo of a government-issued identity document, such as a UK driver’s license, a US passport, or a Dutch identity card (this is done via either a webcam or a smartphone, so the entire process is live)
  2. We then ask the user to submit a selfie using the same device

That’s it!

To make the process as simple as possible, we even offer advice to customers while they’re taking their selfies. This means that the vast majority get it right on the first try. Customers also receive a decision in only six seconds.

What are the risks of not verifying user identity?

The process of verifying user identity is vital for both businesses and customers alike. As we mentioned earlier, this is because the process can build trust. In 2021 alone, nearly 42 million Americans were victims of identity fraud. This level of fraud cost consumers $52 billion in total losses.

By verifying the identity of your customers before you allow them to make a transaction or access your service, you can prevent identity fraud and help your customers keep their information safe.

On top of this, in certain industries (such as financial services), verifying the identity of your customers is a legal requirement under the Bank Secrecy Act. This means that, if you don’t verify the identity of your customers, then you may face huge regulatory sanctions, fines, and reputational damage.

Speak with the identity verification experts at Veriff

If you’re interested in learning more about how to verify user identity, then speak to our identity verification experts today. We’d love to explain exactly how our products and services can help meet your needs.

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