Taking a Closer Look at Identities 

Do you know anyone who has had their identity stolen? The chances are that you or someone you know has fallen victim to this rapidly growing crime. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that identity theft was the number one consumer complaint for 2012. Of those complaints, government document/benefits fraud (46 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft. And, it is costing federal, state and local government agencies billions of dollars every year. Why?

Identities are the “people” that government agencies serve – often to enroll in a government program or to receive a government benefit. Federal, state and local government agencies correspond with identities, revenue departments send tax refunds to identities, health care agencies reimburse identities for medical payments and labor departments pay unemployment compensation to identities…just to name a few examples.

But, what is an identity? An identity is often defined as a set of attributes related to an entity. More simply put, it is a combination of data – like a name, a date of birth, an address or a Social Security number (SSN). So, how do agencies know the identity they are corresponding with is truly the person that he or she claims to be?

Here’s the challenge: most organizations begin with self-reported information supplied remotely, either over the phone or via the Internet. There was a time when an individual requesting to enroll in a service would have to visit an agency office in person and present a set of identification documents (including a driver’s license or passport). That time has passed; organizations more commonly rely on non-documentary evidence and never have a face-to-face encounter with their customer. Now, fraudsters hide behind the Internet and create synthetic identities, comprised of personal identification information that is often stolen or fabricated. But, agencies don’t have to rely on self-reported data. Instead, they can leverage identity proofing solutions to quickly and easily verify and authenticate the identity of the user.

So, what should agencies look for in an identity proofing solution?

  1. Identity Resolution Capabilities – Identity resolution is the first step in identity proofing, providing real-time to a data source(s) to confirm whether an identity exists and can be matched only to one person. It should also provide simultaneous, multiple search functionality and powerful data linking technology to filter and connect data into actionable intelligence. It also should alert you to possible errors or red flags, such as a transposed SSN, while attempting to resolve the identity with minimum data inputs and maximum accuracy.
  2. Identity Verification Capabilities – Identity verification is the process of cross-referencing an asserted identity against the identity profile data. Identity verification solutions should leverage millions of data points to return detailed search results to the user in milliseconds. The technology should be able to identify and link disparate pieces of data around a single identity—confirming the data is valid, that the attributes belong together and whether they are associated with multiple identities. It also should provide scoring and risk indicators that return results based on your agency’s business rules.
  3. Identity Authentication Capabilities – Identity authentication is the final step that links a person to the asserted identity, associating ownership of the identity being asserted. Any holistic identity proofing solution needs the capability for strong risk-based authentication, which is integral to striking a balance between protecting your agency from fraudsters. Look for real-time solutions that leverage multiple data sources to dynamically challenge biographical information such as former residences and vehicle history or can incorporate data elements provided by your organization such as prior transaction amounts and the date of last visit. It also offers options for authentication to fit your risk scenario – perhaps sending a unique passcode to a verified phone number or capturing and comparing a biometric print is the best approach for your workflow.

At the end of the day, identity proofing allows agencies to skip asking the question: “Who are you?” – reducing the risks associated with self-reported data – and move directly to asking: “How can I assist you?” Ultimately, allowing organizations to get down to their core business will result in a satisfied agency with more satisfied customers.

Resource: Identity Proofing: Government’s first line of defense against fraud and improper payments

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