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A better customer verification process: How Persona is paving the way with NFC, mDL, and other new technologies

The verification process has never been more efficient thanks to the deployment of new technologies.

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⚡ Key takeaways
  • New technologies can help you adapt as fraud techniques evolve.
  • Accepting mobile driver’s licenses for verification can dramatically reduce friction and help you increase conversions.
  • NFC e-passport verification can help you reduce instances of passport fraud by making it easier to identify forged or Photoshopped documents.
  • Adding Serpro verification offers you an added layer of protection, empowering you to recognize and catch more fraudulent IDs.

Identity verification is constantly evolving as new technologies are developed, tested, and put into practice. 

These new technologies serve a variety of purposes. Some are updates to existing solutions that address known issues with the goal of making it more difficult for fraudsters and other bad actors to slip through undetected — without sacrificing user experience. Others are designed to be leveraged alongside existing technologies, complementing instead of replacing them. And others yet are meant to fully replace old technologies that are simply no longer capable of performing against modern threats. 

If your business needs to verify users’ identities (for whatever reason), it’s important to stay on top of these new technologies so you can determine what, if any, role they might play in your processes and ensure that you’re adapting as fraud techniques evolve. 

Below, we highlight three such recent developments in the field of identity verification — mobile driver’s license (mDLs) verification, NFC e-passport verification, and Serpro database verification. We also discuss the steps we’re taking to make these new verification types available to our users. 

What is identity verification? A quick refresher

Identity verification is a term used to refer to the different processes a business uses to confirm that a person is really who they say they are. It typically involves a variety of different techniques and strategies, including document verification, government ID verification, database verification, selfie verification, and more.

Identity verification is a required component of anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) laws and regulations, which apply to financial institutions like banks, lenders, insurers, etc. 

But it’s also commonly leveraged by businesses that are not required by law to verify users’ identities. Some examples include online marketplaces, e-learning platforms, online dating sites, and other businesses. That’s because identity verification offers benefits other than regulatory approval. It can also, for example, help you build trust with your users and reduce instances of fraud that exist on your platform.

New options for identity verification

Interested in learning about recent developments in the world of identity verification? Here’s a look at mobile driver’s license verification, NFC e-passport verification, and Serpro verification.

1. Mobile driver’s license (mDLs) verification

A mobile driver’s license (mDL) is a new type of electronic ID that is stored in a digital wallet on somebody’s smartphone. While not all states in the US currently support mDLs, many do, and many more are expected to offer them in the future. A small but growing list of countries also support the technology. 

Functionally, mDLs are meant to complement an individual’s physical driver’s license, and as such store key information including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • License number
  • Issue date
  • Expiration date
  • Issuing jurisdiction
  • Any restrictions 
  • Driving class
  • Biometric data

In some states, individuals can use an mDL anywhere that they would use their traditional driver’s license — for example, if they are purchasing alcohol or are pulled over while driving. But businesses can also use mDLs for identity verification. If your business accepts a driver’s license as proof of identity during the identity verification process, it’s fairly simple to also accept mDLs. 

The primary benefit of doing so? Accepting mobile driver’s licenses for verification can dramatically reduce friction and help you increase conversions.

In the absence of mDL verification, most users who must provide a form of government ID for verification will opt to use their physical driver’s license. But doing so requires the user to complete a number of discrete steps — manually entering in information, removing the license from their wallet, moving to a well-lit area, and photographing the license. While these actions aren’t particularly difficult, each is another opportunity for the user to become frustrated or otherwise reconsider completing the sign-up. 

Mobile driver’s licenses remove much of this friction, automatically extracting necessary data and removing the need for manual entry or photographing of the ID — which can reduce false negatives

Additionally, when a mobile driver’s license is issued, the mobile wallet provider must verify the underlying (physical) ID in accordance with individual state laws. This usually involves some combination of document upload, selfie verification, and database verification — leading to greater assurance against fraudulent or tampered IDs. And because the underlying ID has already been verified, your business can accept the mDL without needing to reverify the user’s physical driver’s license. Ultimately, this can help you to further reduce friction and increase conversions.

Persona makes it easy for organizations that obtain Apple’s entitlement to accept mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) as a form of identification. Learn more about using Persona for mobile driver’s license verification here

2. NFC e-passport verification

Passports are a commonly-accepted form of government ID for identity verification. Unfortunately, they are not the most secure form of ID to verify. 

Why? Because passports lack many of the visual security features commonly found in other forms of ID. Driver’s licenses and passport cards, for example, include barcodes that make them more difficult to forge. The lack of these visual security features means that a particularly skilled bad actor may be able to convincingly forge a passport using tools like Photoshop.

An e-passport is any passport that comes with an NFC (near-field communication) chip — a special kind of computer chip with a built-in antenna, which allows it to communicate with nearby devices — usually embedded in its back cover. This NFC chip stores information about the passport holder, including their name, date of birth, place of birth, date of issuance, expiration date, photo, and more.

Most countries around the world now include NFC chips in their passports as standard practice, as a means of making it more difficult for passport forgeries to go undetected. That’s because, while it’s possible for a skilled bad actor to forge a passport, it’s much more difficult to convincingly forge an NFC chip. In the United States, all passports issued since 2006 include such a chip.

Certain NFC-enabled devices can access the information stored in a passport’s NFC chip after they have gone through the appropriate security processes. In airports, this includes passport scanning terminals. But it also includes most smartphones currently in circulation. 

If your business currently accepts passports as a means of government ID verification, you might want to consider using NFC verification to authenticate user passports during your IDV processes. Doing so can potentially help you reduce instances of passport fraud by making it easier to identify forged or Photoshopped documents.

The key to successfully implementing NFC e-passport verifications is to anticipate and control for user error. To reduce this risk, Persona has designed a user-friendly verification flow that guides the user through the process of scanning the NFC chip from start to finish. Learn more about leveraging Persona for NFC e-passport verifications here.

3. Serpro verification (Brazil)

If your business accepts government IDs (like a driver’s license) as proof of a user’s identity, you probably already know that the work doesn’t end when the user uploads a photo of their ID — rather, the ID itself must then be verified to ensure that it hasn’t been stolen or forged. 

How exactly you go about verifying said ID will depend on a number of factors, including the specific type of ID that has been uploaded. One common and effective way of verifying IDs is to perform what is known as an issuing database verification

Essentially, this involves cross-checking the information provided by the user (or extracted from their ID) against the information stored in the database of whatever authority issued the ID. AAMVA verification, eCBSV verification, and TIN verification are all examples of issuing database verification in action.

Performing issuing database checks like these can be a very effective means of identifying fraudulent IDs, especially compared to manual review, as you can quickly verify information against authoritative databases — like those of the DMV and IRS — without having to ask the user to perform an extra step.

Businesses that accept Brazilian citizens as users can now use Persona to leverage a new type of issuing database verification: Serpro verification.

Serpro is a technology company and database run by the Brazilian federal government. This database contains information found on a Brazilian ID, such as the individual’s name, date of birth, CPF (national ID number), and photo, which can be used to verify the authenticity of Brazilian IDs used for verification purposes.

This is valuable for a number of reasons. First off, government-issued IDs in Brazil are currently made out of paper, which makes it easier for them to be manipulated, duplicated, or forged. Additionally, unlike in many other countries, there is currently no hard-and-fast fraud rule for making sure a Brazilian ID is valid. 

Adding Serpro verification as a form of issuing database verification offers you an added layer of protection, empowering you to recognize and catch more fraudulent IDs.

Serpro verification is a huge step forward for verifying Brazilian passports, especially when paired with other complementary forms of verification. With Persona, for example, you can pair Serpro verification with selfie verification to further detect fraudulent or stolen IDs. Learn more about using Persona for Serpro verifications here. 

Building the verifications toolkit that is right for you

Whether or not any of the new technologies discussed above will make sense to incorporate into your business’s identity verification processes will depend on a number of factors. The industry your business operates within, the processes you currently use, the users you cater to, and the expectations of those users should all influence which solutions you include in your toolkit and why. 

Here at Persona, we understand how important it is to stay on the cutting edge, which is why we are constantly adding new technologies, solutions, and verification types to our toolkit — mobile driver’s license verification, NFC e-passport verification, and Serpro verification included. Choose from one of the industry’s widest range of verification options to build the verification flow that makes the most sense to your business. 

Interested in learning more? Start for free or get a demo today.

Frequently asked questions

What is an NFC chip on a passport?

An NFC (near-field communication) chip is a type of computer chip that comes with a built-in antenna, which allows it to interact with nearby NFC-enabled devices such as smartphones, payment terminals, and other types of scanners. 

NFC chips that are embedded in passports contain a digital copy of the information printed on a passport, including the passport holder’s name, date of birth, place of birth, date of issuance, expiration date, and photo.

Is NFC and RFID the same thing?

NFC and RFID are similar, but different, technologies. Both technologies enable communication with nearby devices, but how they do this differs in key ways.

RFID technology can be used over larger distances than NFC chips. While an NFC chip can usually be scanned when an NFC-enabled device is within 5 centimeters of the chip, some RFID tags can be scanned from up to 100 meters away.

Additionally, RFID technology is only capable of one-way communication: The RFID tag sends information to the reader. NFC chips allow for two-way communication between devices.

What other technologies are easing the customer verification process?

Other potential technologies that you might want to consider incorporating into your identity verification processes include:

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