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What is driver’s license verification?

Learn about this common way to verify someone’s identity or age.

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⚡ Key takeaways
  • Online driver’s license verification generally involves requesting a picture of a driver's license to verify a person’s identity. 
  • The image and information from the license can be reviewed for authenticity and checked against a user’s profile or what the user submits on an application. 
  • Consider adding additional checks, such as a selfie check or database verification, in high-risk scenarios or if there are red flags. 🚩

For many, getting a driver’s license is a right of passage. You might have practiced and studied for months before taking your driving test. And, once you earn your license, there’s a good chance you’ll carry it in your wallet for decades. (There’s also a good chance you’ll occasionally wonder whether other drivers actually passed their test.)

Although it’s not the only type of government-issued photo ID, driver’s licenses are one of the most widespread. And asking for a driver’s license is one of the most common ways to verify someone’s identity or age.

What is driver’s license verification?

Driver’s license verification is a type of government ID verification that uses a state-issued driver’s license to confirm a person's age or identity. The process can help you determine if the driver’s license is authentic and whether the person is who they claim to be. 

Many organizations use in-person driver’s license checks — think of liquor stores, bars, and other shops that sell age-restricted products. They often have devices to detect fake driver’s licenses or quickly tell employees whether the person is over 21 years old. 

Online businesses don’t get to see or feel a driver’s license, but they can still use driver’s license verification as part of their digital identity verification workflow. The verification can help detect and deter fraud, and it may be an option to comply with required Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations.

At Persona, we use a distinct set of checks for government ID verifications, including driver’s license verification, which is why we separate them from the broad category of document verification. However, other identity providers might consider driver’s license verification a type of document verification. 

How does online driver’s license verification work?

The online driver’s license verification process starts with a user taking and submitting a photo of their driver’s license. Then, image pre-processing checks to see if the image is acceptable. For example, it may make sure the entire driver’s license was captured, the image isn’t blurry, and there isn’t a lot of glare. 

Verification systems then check to confirm the authenticity of the image and driver’s license. For example, they may ensure the image wasn’t Photoshopped, that the ID conforms to the issuing state’s templates, and that it has the correct security features. 

Information such as the person’s name and birthday also gets extracted from the driver’s license and can be compared to what someone shared in their application or their existing profile. You can also extract the driver’s license number, expiration and issue dates, and barcode from the image. 

If the verification can’t be completed, users may be prompted to submit a new photo of their driver’s license. Or, when the verifications flag potential issues, companies might reject an application outright, send it to manual review, or ask the individual to complete additional verification steps.

Adding a selfie check

Some organizations add a selfie check to their driver’s license verification process to help ensure that the license wasn’t stolen and that the person is present when submitting the photo. It’s a standard requirement for some companies in high-risk industries, such as financial services. Other companies might use a selfie check as a step-up verification that’s only triggered when risk signals identify an applicant as a potential bad actor.

A selfie check requires the person to take one selfie, or a series of selfies, using a webcam or mobile phone. Video verifications are also a common alternative. The captured images are compared to the photo from the driver’s license. And liveness detection techniques help confirm the authenticity of the selfie or video and detect attempts to fool the system

Running AAMVA checks

Some identity verification (IDV) solutions, including Persona, offer an additional check that can compare the extracted information from a driver’s license to information from the issuing DMV. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) runs the Driver’s License Data Verification (DLDV) service, which is why we call these AAMVA checks

Available in participating states, an AAMVA check can return a true or false indicator for up to 15 attributes, such as the name, address, state, zip code, eye color, height, and expiration date. The check doesn’t confirm whether the license is real or whether it belongs to the person using it, but it can help you detect bad actors who bought, created, or altered a driver’s license. 

As with selfie checks, the AAMVA check is often a step-up option companies use when there’s a high-risk applicant or high-value transaction. 

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Verifying mobile driver’s licenses 

States are starting to issue and support mobile driver's licenses (mDLs) as a form of electronic identification. They’re also commonly called digital driver’s licenses (dDLs), virtual driver’s licenses (vDLs), electronic driver’s licenses (eDLs), or electronic IDs (eIDs). 

To get an mDL, users go through an IDV process which may include a database verification and selfie check. They can then store their mDL within a state-sponsored app or a mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. The encrypted mDLs include many of the same data points you find on a physical driver’s license, and users need to authenticate their identity with a pin, password, face scan, or fingerprint scan before they can access or use their mDL. 

For businesses, mDL verifications can offer a low-friction alternative to a physical driver’s license verification. You don’t need to request an image and deal with potential extraction issues due to poor image quality, and you can allow users to bypass an additional selfie check if they already used a face scan to submit their mDL. 

Persona now supports mDL verifications for organizations that obtain Apple's entitlement. We can automatically detect when users have a valid mDL on their device and prompt users to use their mDL to verify their age or identity rather than submitting a picture of their driver’s license. 

Benefits and drawbacks of driver’s license verification 

Driver’s license verifications are one of the most popular IDV options — for good reason. Many people have and regularly carry their driver’s license or a similar state-issued photo ID. And they already went through their state’s IDV process to get their license.

However, online verification can be hampered by poor image quality, which can lead to false negatives (when a legitimate user can’t verify their identity) or a poor customer experience that leads to dropoffs. Bad actors also might create or purchase fraudulent driver’s licenses, or use stolen driver’s license information from data breaches to commit identity fraud. 

Incorporating driver’s license verifications 

Depending on your industry and risk tolerance, driver’s license verification might be part of your basic onboarding process or a step-up solution to help deter bad actors. And mDL verifications could be a great option — once they become more common. 

When available and appropriate, adding selfie checks or AAMVA checks can also give you more confidence that you’re dealing with a legitimate user. But there’s always a delicate balance of managing risk without adding too much friction

Persona gives you the tools to build your ideal IDV process, and Persona’s Dynamic Flow can help you do this without adding too much friction to a web or mobile experience. Get started for free or get a demo today.

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