Physical versus digital document verification

25 years ago, if you’d asked someone to verify a document via an image alone, they’d have laughed. Or told you it can’t be done. But today, this is fast becoming the norm.

As the world has shifted online, this has presented unique challenges when it comes to document verification. Let’s put this in perspective.

Businesses are doing more online verification than ever 

Pre-pandemic, the total number of airline passengers hit 4.5 billion in 2019 according to the ICAO. Each one of those 4.5 billion people would have passed through border control at an airport, which equals 4.5 billion verifications.

In comparison, there are around 4.6 billion internet users. Around 2 billion people are ‘unbanked’, or are ‘thin file’ customers. Without their credentials on record, businesses need to verify these users’ identities each time they access a service, which could be up to three times a year. This could equate to 8.6 billion verifications a year (2 billion x 3… + 2.6 billion).

So we’ve got 4.5 billion people going through border security where trained border guards examine their identity documents in a 3D environment. Versus up to 4.6 billion internet users who need their identity verified remotely, at least once a year. 

The fraud landscape in 2021

This shift to online has only accelerated as a result of Covid-19. Banks and other financial institutions are closing more branches than ever. As a result, more interactions are taking place online. 

In the US, over 13,000 bank branches closed between 2008 and 2020, representing 14% of all branches. Nationally, 81,586 branches were in operation as of June 2020, a 1,253 (1.51%) drop in branches from 2019’s numbers and a 4,407 (5.13%) drop from 2017’s numbers. 

It's a similar story in the UK, Accenture have found that there's been a 12.5% in the number of bank branches since 2014 — from 10,960 branches in 2014 to 6,549 in 2019. Their analysis finds there will be fewer than 3,000 branches left by 2025 or an average of fewer than 300 branches per financial institution. Combined with the impact of COVID-19, Accenture expects there to be even fewer branches left in the UK, with scenarios ranging from approximately 800 to 2,000 by 2025.

And as people spend an increased amount of time online, and access more services online, we’ll see an increase in surface area for attacks. With various devices and platforms involved, your business has more areas of vulnerability.

This has led to an increase in fraud from 2019, to 2020.

For more insights like these, take a look at our Identity Fraud Report.

And while fraudsters used to see their job as 9-5 on weekdays, with peak productivity on Tuesday. Now fraudsters are peaking in activity on Thursday and Friday, with limited drop off over the weekends. 

So not only do we have an increase in the number of remote verifications businesses need to manage, but fraud continues to grow in volume and frequency. All of this adds to the challenges.

The challenges of remote identity document verification

When you have a document in front of you, there are lots of indicators and features to assess. You can tell a lot about its authenticity. And the identity document industry has had hundreds of years to create robust IDs, with strong security features. 

As a result, you get more sophisticated forgeries in a physical environment. But while the level of sophistication is higher, the percentage of fraudulent documents you see is much lower. 

When you compare that to a digital environment, you don’t have access to the physical document, rather a single image. When you’ve got this 2D image, as opposed to a 3D physical document, you have to refine the techniques you use to assess its authenticity. 

You’ll also see a higher number of counterfeits and manipulated documents in a digital environment. It’s much easier for fraudsters to sit behind a keyboard and scale their attacks on mass. 

So with all these challenges, how do you assess a 2D image of a document for its authenticity, and protect your business from fraudulent attacks?

To find out, take a look at our blog: How to spot fraudulent documents in a digital environment.

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