Its Time for The Public Sector to Automate Identity Verification in an Online World

Melissa UK Team | 2022, United Kingdom

The pandemic and evolving technology have put pressure on the public sector to improve engagement online, whilst people have also widely recognised the convenience of interacting online, whether that’s with a retailer or a government department. This is largely because of the experience they have of engaging with businesses which provide fast and secure access to services online. Therefore, when they register online for a service offered by the public sector they expect it to be quick and seamless too.

Then, once they access that service, users don’t want to be bogged down by a number of security questions and passwords to log into their accounts. To meet these expectations it’s vital the public sector provides friction-free interactions.

Increased engagement in the digital world is leading to a growth in online fraud. Cases of online fraud reported to the UK police unit Action Fraud rose by a third in 2020, according to an analysis by consumer rights group Which? The public sector has always had a big issue with fraud, which has been exacerbated by services quickly going online during the health crisis. The Cabinet Office estimates that fraud and error cost the public purse up to £51.8 billion every year, with the Bounce Back Loan Scheme set up during the pandemic alone expected to cost the taxpayer £27 billion in fraud or credit losses.

The high level of fraud requires public bodies to know who they are engaging. 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 simple answer. It’s by far the fastest, 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 automated identity-checking supports cross-checking 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 agencies, credit agencies 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. Additionally, 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.

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) along with PEP checks and other international watch list data. It should also be able to enrich customer records by highlighting and correcting any inaccuracies and adding missing data, where available.

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

You can find out more about what is PEP screening here

Automated biometric verification

It’s not only digital KYC checks that are important for public bodies. They should investigate the automated technology powering biometrics for its role in ID document verification. Based on human, physical and behavioural characteristics, biometrics provides individuals with fast and secure online access to their accounts, without the need for time-consuming security questions and passwords.

Using a device of their choice an applicant for a service or product can scan and provide their ID documents, such as a passport and driving licence with a photo. Biometric technology can then check their validity in real-time.

Once a new user is set up they can provide a selfie to access their account. This selfie is then examined via an algorithm within the biometric 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, head position, makeup, hairstyle and facial hair.

Biometric verification should not stop there. The biometric service should be able to undertake liveness checks as fraudsters increasingly use creative methods like 2D images and video playback to try and trick facial recognition technology to ‘prove’ they are the person they are impersonating. This means the technology must issue 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 essential because it has a wide number of benefits over the physical, time-consuming, and more costly checks that traditionally take place behind the scenes at public bodies. Additional advantages of automation include:

  • Not relying on staff to manually check documents for authenticity. They might not always have specific training in identifying forged or fraudulent documents.
  • Employees can’t be expected to know all the thousands of ID document types worldwide, which can cause review-related delays.
  • Thoroughly examining photographs against the document holders is not easy and can be uncomfortable for staff members to undertake.
  • Everyone is vulnerable to human error, making manual reviews less effective or stringent than they should be.
  • Offline 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.
  • Can those in the public sector justify spending money on more expensive manual ID checks with budgets under extreme pressure, particularly when speed and accuracy are offered via automation?

With more public sector services going online and fraud in the digital world proliferating, automating ID verification is critical. The accuracy, speed and cost benefits delivered 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.

Find out more about the wide range of Identity verification and data quality services Melissa offers to the public sector here.