The New Standard in Identity: Acuant’s Revolutionary Trusted Identity Platform

The rush toward a digital society is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. “The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” says Sandy Shen, senior director analyst, Gartner. “This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

What does this mean for identity verification? The rise in telehealth, smart city services, distance learning, digital banking and even online grocery retailing is unlikely to reverse course anytime soon. For many organizations, digital transactions begin with establishing a user’s identity. Acuant’s revolutionary platform addresses one of the most difficult challenges we face within our society today: if you truly are who you say you are and delivering the answer with certainty and trust – any time, any place.

Our Trusted Identity Platform now with IdentityMind inside creates a new standard in digital identity verification by allowing for complete identity lifecycle management. Businesses and institutions can now build, proof, monitor and enable re-use of digital identities, all from a single platform while addressing their level of risk. With an unmatched digital identity engine, analyst dashboard, case management and third-party ecosystem, we provide operations ready solutions for every channel.

Identity verification should not be the whack-a-mole game it is today: fix your Knowledge Based Questions (KBA) vulnerabilities with 2-Factor Authentication (2FA), fix 2FA by adding a biometric check, upgrade your spoof-able biometric check and so on. Accessing a platform that solves for more than your current crisis or weakest point is critical. Fraud is only growing and increasingly sophisticated, especially in light of our digital economy. Businesses and institutions must look beyond today’s challenges, identity solutions must allow access to manage identity data points in real time, providing the ability to seamlessly pivot and address fraud head on.

Acuant allows you to establish a trust anchor for an identity from your chosen data point (identity document, biometric, device or email, for example). Once this trust anchor is bound to an identity, you have the ability to build custom data points, rules and alerts to manage the identity and effectively assign it a trust score. The key is making it simple; we do this in one place allowing you to access data (third-party, consortium and ingested business data) via single API integration. Businesses are able to scale and automate more processes to improve onboarding, verification and compliance (KYC, AML, GDPR & more).

Stay ahead of growing fraud challenges, don’t just catch up to them.

Download the White Paper: Graph Intelligence: A Machine Learning Approach to Measure Risk on Digital Identities

Transacting with Trust During COVID-19 & Beyond: Online/Mobile Identity Verification

We are in the midst of a global crisis. Many businesses around the world are closing their offices and instructing employees to work from home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, numerous retailers have begun to close their storefronts, as many people are self-quarantining for the next several weeks. And when people do venture out, health officials are recommending social distancing, which includes keeping a 6-foot buffer zone – making it difficult to perform in-person transactions.

In response, there has been a surge in online transactions as in-person transactions now have the danger of spreading the virus through an exchange of physical IDs and cards. There has also  been an increase in electronic payments as cash is considered a way to spread the virus. On the healthcare front, when U.S. lawmakers waived telehealth restrictions for Medicare, the flood doors opened for remote consultations. Now many doctors and medical facilities are using telemedicine to manage the high volume of patients.

Now that so many daily activities and transactions are being performed online, the need for identity verification is greater than ever to enable all of us to transact with trust. For retailers there’s likely an increase in payment fraud. In telemedicine and mobile medical practice management, there are HIPAA requirements to comply with and insurance coverage payouts to consider. Financial services companies will experience an increase in online banking and a need to comply with KYC/AML.

In every case, businesses should be asking consumers to submit identity verification. No matter your industry or use case, Acuant’s Trusted Identity Platform instantly prevents and reduces fraud making it easy to address risk, comply with regulations and provide an exceptional customer experience. We enable multi-factor Identity Verification in seconds, via any channel, on any device, from any location.

Acuant WebID™ allows users to seamlessly verify their identity across channels utilizing both Acuant AssureID™ and Acuant FaceID™ via HTML and their mobile device. Businesses can onboard consumers and verify identities any way they choose – including via the web, on a smartphone or within an app. For consumers, there is nothing to download, no app to install and an easy-to-follow mobile browser experience.  Businesses can easily integrate this within their system to be up and running quickly rather than spend time and budget on building out the front end.

Acuant FaceID™ offers biometric facial recognition match via a selfie and a liveness test. The customer snaps a picture of their government issued ID and then takes a selfie and a liveness test. The selfie image is compared to the identity document (which is authenticated) to verify a match and provide a confidence score in seconds. Acuant now offers NIST tested and iBeta certified Advanced Passive Liveness to further thwart the increasingly sophisticated fraud of deepfakes and video replay. All workflows protect personally identifiable information (PII) providing encryption to and from the cloud with no images or data being stored.

As organizations scramble to adapt to a rapidly changing way of life, it is important to maintain trust as the foundation of our economic and healthcare infrastructure. While many of us are trying to act responsibly in this challenging time, there will be those that seek to exploit this opportunity for their own gain. Identity verification solutions can give businesses a superior way to stop fraud, meet compliance standards, support government health directives and ultimately transact with trust online.

This current crisis begs the question of how far away we are from implementing digital IDs globally. It is evident that all should follow the lead of the EU and other countries when it comes to eIDs and digital identity. As we move towards a new normal, it will be critical for all to do trusted business digitally beyond COVID-19.

Make sure to sign-up for our next Acuant news update to hear about our latest development in digital identity management.

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Fraudsters Thrive During Holiday Season: Learn How You Can Stay Safe

It’s that time of year when our attention turns to family, friends, good cheer and, of course, shopping. eMarketer forecasts that total US retail sales will climb 3.8% to $1.008 trillion during the 2019 holiday season, making it the first ever trillion dollar holiday season. The firm expects US retail ecommerce spending will rise 13.2% to $135.35 billion. Last year on Cyber Monday alone, sales reached nearly $8 billion in the US and beat Black Friday sales.

In 2018, Experian found that nearly half of shoppers (47%) planned to conduct most of their holiday shopping online, either with their computers (32%) or mobile devices (15%). But data also shows that this trend may be putting consumers at risk for identity theft.

While consumers are distracted by the holiday spirit and getting the best deal online, these conditions mark the high season for fraudsters. This year’s Experian survey found that 12% of shoppers said they fell victim to identity theft during a past holiday season. Of those, more than half (52%) said the fraud occurred while they were shopping online and 1 in 5 reported that the theft happened on Cyber Monday.

Retail isn’t the only sector affected. The holidays are also a major travel season with airlines, hotels and home sharing services expecting record numbers in 2019. NerdWallet found that almost half of Americans (45%) plan to spend money on travel this holiday season, nearly $160 billion across the country. Again, most of these transactions will take place online and can be open to fraud.

The IRS shared one reason that identity theft is rampant in the waning months of the year. “The holidays may mean the shopping season to consumers, but it’s the hunting season for online thieves,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Identity thieves are looking for your information to help them file fraudulent tax returns.”

It’s important for consumers to protect their identities during this season to avoid major headaches next year. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help.


Do Business with Trusted Institutions – Preferably Ones that Verify Identity

Don’t chase the best price for the hottest toy or the flight to Grandma’s house this year without checking those links. Scammers can set up sites designed to steal your data without providing the goods or services offered. Consumers should stick with businesses they know, making sure the URL is correct and includes “https” in the address.

Buy from businesses who verify identity not only for existing accounts, but when onboarding new ones. The same goes for in-store purchases. It is in businesses’ best interest to adopt verification solutions that are fast and customer friendly, encouraging loyalty and trustworthy transactions. Passwords and quick ID scans by a store associate aren’t sufficient anymore. The best and most secure retailers will offer ID verification via a quick card scan, biometric matching via a selfie, fingerprint or voice. These solutions are readily available today to all industries.


Don’t Do It in Public – At Least Not on Public WiFi

When shopping online, especially with a smartphone, avoid using a public WiFi connection. This information can be snatched out of the airwaves and used to compromise accounts and commit fraud. Even data stored in the connected device such as a driver’s license number or social security number can be vulnerable on an unsecured network. Often smartphones contain myriad sensitive information so either use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect or wait to access a secure network before checking email or making that purchase.


Do Monitor Accounts

It’s easy to get overwhelmed this time of year with a flurry of activities, travel and a higher volume of transactions. Yet this is exactly why consumers need to be more vigilant in monitoring their accounts for unusual activity. Consumers can also check their credit report – often for free – for mistakes or suspicious accounts.

Many retailers offer even deeper discounts to shoppers who open a store credit card account, but it’s important that consumers use caution throughout the enrollment process. It can be preferable to enter personal details online to avoid having them stolen by store personnel or an over the shoulder spy.

Consumers can also file a fraud alert with the major credit reporting bureaus, which notifies lenders that they need to take extra steps to verify the borrower’s identity. For consumers who don’t plan to open any new credit accounts this season, a security freeze, which blocks access to credit reports, can be a good option for preventing identity fraud.


Don’t Click the Links

Phishing emails will also be on the rise during the holidays, pretending to be banks, retailers, charities and utility companies. Consumers need to make sure that links received via email don’t point back toward an altered link, often with one or two letters missing or changed. These scams are designed to gather personal data such as a credit card number or email and password, which can be used for fraudulent purchases, to open new credit accounts or to create synthetic identities.


Acuant’s Trusted Identity Platform speeds up, simplifies and strengthens processes for in store or digital transactions via cloud, mobile/apps, kiosk & desktop scanners. Retailers can catch fraud via instant ID verification and facial recognition, all in seconds.


To learn more about Acuant solutions, schedule a demo now.

What it Takes to Create Trusted Identities in a Digital Economy

Acuant CEO, Yossi Zekri, was interviewed in this exclusive with The Paypers. You can read the original here. Acuant was also a featured solutions provider in The Paypers Fraud Prevention and Online Authentication Report 2019/2020.


If we look at the current challenges faced in the identity-based transactions ecosystem, what risk issues are the most prevalent and why?

We all see the steady headlines regarding major data breaches and hackings that have penetrated leading corporations, which has yielded significant fake identities. Additionally, the rapid pace at which we have become a mobile-first world is now presenting new fraud challenges that businesses must quickly address.

AI-based identity fraud, including deepfakes and video replay, is also growing. Elementary identity proofing including passwords, social security numbers, and knowledge-based authentication are no longer viable for businesses who want to meet compliance regulations such as KYC and AML.

Synthetic identity fraud is another one to watch, and according to McKinsey, it is the fastest growing type of financial crime in the US, accounting for 80% of all credit card fraud losses. With synthetic ID fraud, there is no person to trace or collect from, so banks and lenders must take steps to prevent it. Financial institutions should look beyond a credit score and bring in third-party data such as social media accounts, cell phone records, previous addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers, while seeking a high degree of consistency for those attributes and ensure they are tied to a proven identity.

What must companies keep in mind when employing identity verification solutions?

There are no global standards today in identity verification, but there are solutions that offer a level of certainty for every level of risk. It is up to institutions to decide the amount of security they are requiring, and up to consumers to decide how much friction they are willing to bear. Consumers are more willing to bear it for things like opening a bank account as opposed to making a low value purchase on an app.

Establishing a trusted identity is the base for the digital identity of the future — and this is at the heart of what Acuant does. We believe you must start with document authentication to establish a trust anchor to set a level of trust associated with the initial identity/person. Afterwards, you can layer on specific solutions to further perform additional identity proofing (e.g. biometrics, device fingerprints, behavioural, data points etc.).

What role does the remote identity verification play in improving customer experience? Moreover, what are the best methods for verifying an identity remotely?

Being able to transact from anywhere at any time in today’s ‘On Demand’ culture has led to opportunities that can increase revenue, but also led to increased fraud attempts.

Verifying identities remotely creates additional challenges for businesses. They must be able to establish genuine presence, taking into account users’ risk appetite, and offer a diversity of solutions based on the type of transaction and the problem being solved. Once a trusted digital identity has been established, it paves the way for it to be re-used with less friction and increasing trust.

We recommend the use of multi-factor authentication, which can be quite swift and seamless today. The best methods start with capturing and authenticating a quality image of an identity document and then binding it to the person using the document with some form of biometric such as facial recognition with strong liveness test. For remote transactions this can be done via desktop or mobile device. Image capture features such as auto-cropping and glare detection can not only boost user experience, but also significanlty improve results 100%. Solutions must also be in real time, to decrease abandonment rates.

What is an identity corroboration hub?

An identity corroboration hub is the ability to build and a true digital identity. This means that you have established a verified identity via a trust anchor, tied it to a person, and now have access to a trusted identity platform that continuously authenticates this identity/person through real-time monitoring. Gartner has stated that by 2023, identity corroboration hubs will displace existing authentication platforms in more than 50% of large and global enterprises. They also state that there is a growing trend toward orchestrating identity proofing, fraud detection and orthodox credential-based methods that are traditionally used to provide confidence in the identity of returning customers.

The corroboration hub offers tracking and analysis of true identities linking their connections and their activities in real time, while protecting their privacy. This allows for true identity verification at any point in time, giving the ability to pinpoint fraud and also decide when and how you want to verify an identity (with what data points), expanding the scope of identity proofing.

Identity corroboration hubs prevent new account and transaction fraud, account takeovers, identifying the use of stolen or synthetic identities, and enable compliance with regulations such as KYC and AML.

How do AI and machine learning power up the current strategies of customer verification?

Is there any room left for manual checks in the future? Computer software can independently process millions of transactions at a rate unachievable by human experts and is necessary to scale. However, humans can apply their expertise and teach the computer how to spot the issues in the future. Human-assisted machine learning allows the model to improve through constant input and refinement of data with the oversight of a trusted identity expert.

This marriage of AI and human experts passes more good IDs/ customers, while catching sophisticated fakes, and providing a seamless customer experience. The key is to start with an automated solution that uses a strong algorithm, have a relevant data set, then add human oversight. And for cases where 100% certainty is needed or automated review was not able to provide an adequate answer for transaction, there is still manual review of documents by trained forensic experts.


Synthetic Identity Fraud Is The Fastest Growing Financial Crime — What Can Banks Do To Fight It?

Glenn Larson is the Vice President of Engineering at Acuant and is a member of Forbes Technology Council,  an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Read his article for the Forbes Tech Council below, or you can read the original here.


Synthetic identity fraud is a relatively recent phenomenon that is on the rise. McKinsey claims synthetic ID fraud is the fastest-growing type of financial crime in the U.S. LexisNexis Risk Solutions (via Yahoo Finance) found that “61% of fraud losses for [large] banks stem from identity fraud [and] 20% of the identity fraud incurred by these larger banks is synthetic identity fraud.”

Synthetic fraud differs from traditional identity fraud in that instead of assuming the identity of a real person using their credit, it creates a new identity using a real social security number with a fictitious name, driver’s license and address. How is this possible?

Traditional identity fraud is usually detected and reported relatively quickly because there is a real victim who is being affected. To create a synthetic identity, a scammer simply needs an unused social security number, often from a child. With this fresh social security number, they can establish a new identity with the credit bureaus.

The fraudster starts by applying for a loan with the synthetic identity. Because there is no credit history on file for this person, the loan will be declined. However, the fact the request was made will create a new credit profile in the database, and now they “officially” exist. Then the perpetrator continues to apply for credit at various institutions until they finally get approved — often for a secured credit card or some other product from a lender willing to work with high-risk borrowers.

These scammers are playing the long game: They can take months, even years, to build up good credit with small purchases that they promptly pay off, continuing to legitimize the identity. They use false identification documents, social media and P.O. boxes to make the identity appear real. Over time, they increase their available credit with new cards and higher limits.

Once there is the opportunity for a high payout, the synthetic identity “busts out” by maxing out all credit and disappearing. The Federal Reserve reported that the largest synthetic ID ring detected to date caused $200 million (or more) in losses from 7,000 synthetic IDs and 25,000 credit cards. Synthetic fraud costs lenders more than $6 billion annually, and the average loss is estimated at $10,000 per account.

There are some cracks in the system that have allowed synthetic identities to proliferate. The United States relies on social security numbers as identifiers, yet data breaches have exposed those numbers to those that would do harm. A report from security firm Flashpoint (via PCMag) shows how inexpensive it can be to purchase a social security number on the dark web.

For better or worse, credit bureaus assume the first person to apply for a loan with a social security number is legitimate, and there is no way to validate a number with the Social Security Administration. Also, in 2011, the SSA switched to random numbers, eliminating the geographical distinctions that would help identify fraudulent numbers or users.

Finally, because the number is often assigned to a child, they are less likely to access credit information and uncover the fraud, so it goes unreported for years.

But often the real victim is the financial institution. Synthetic ID fraud accounts for 80% of all credit card fraud losses, and there is no person to trace or collect from. But banks and lenders can take steps to reduce synthetic ID fraud. Early and faster fraud detection is key.

Banks are getting better at looking for suspicious behavior and adding more verification and authentication steps, particularly for digital onboarding and transactions. Financial institutions should look beyond a credit score and bring in third-party data such as social media accounts, cell phone records, previous addresses, email addresses and phone numbers while looking for a high degree of consistency for those attributes and ensure they are tied to a proven identity.

In order to prove an identity, banks can also utilize document verification and biometric screening — tools that can’t be fooled by deep fakes and image spoofing.

These threats are not only continuing to proliferate, but they could be a veritable ticking time bomb. There is an unknown number of synthetic identities currently lurking in the financial system. Until the United States weans itself from the use of social security numbers as identity verifiers, financial institutions will need to take necessary measures to protect themselves from synthetic identity fraud using all the tools at their disposal.

To learn more about Acuant’s identity solutions, schedule a demo now:

The Rise of Self-Service Retail: How to Keep Shoppers Happy While Avoiding Fraud

Last week privately-held retailer Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy. Once a beloved and well trafficked store for the teenage set, the chain is the latest retailer to fall victim to consumers’ changing shopping habits, even as spending remains strong. According to the U.S. Census, retail sales hit a record of $6 trillion in 2018. But shifts in consumer behavior, including an increasing reliance on technology and greater focus being put on convenience, has left retailers on shaky ground.

Shifting Shoppers: Why Savvy Retailers are Driving Customer In-store

While shoppers will never wholly abandon brick and mortar stores, they expect retailers to offer an online/remote alternative. After all, with the convenience of online shopping at the click of a button, it takes a lot to convince customers to make the trek to a retailer to pick out their merchandise. Savvy retailers are investing in self-service models that provide a more convenient and personalized experience alternative to today’s shoppers.

One solution is the introduction of the “buy online, pick-up in store” (BOPUS) channel. A consumer orders online like normal and then, many times, gets free shipping and/or a quicker turnaround picking it up from the storefront. When the consumer comes into the store, they either interact with a self-service kiosk, like the huge Bell & Howell tower at Walmart, or with a store associate. Similarly, this is exploding in the grocery vertical with Kroger and Walmart both being heavy players.

Retail Fraud is on the Rise

Wading into these new offerings with eCommerce highlights a need for identity verification. In the US, fraud attempts have doubled year over year (from 2018) and have tripled since 2017, according to LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud study. Increased mobile transactions, sophisticated synthetic identity fraud, and more digital goods and services sold are driving this fraud increase. Retailers continue to struggle with verifying customer identity.

Specifically, retailers are seeing high losses in “return fraud.” Bad actors are finding or stealing receipts, coming into the store, taking the item off the shelves, and going to the return area to do a fake return. Folks like Home Depot and Walmart are prime targets because their stores are physically so big fraudsters can’t be monitored closely by store associates.

Balancing Shopper Experience with Security

Privacy, security and improved customer service can co-exist in the digital economy with digital identities. Improved customer service can be enabled by technology. There are certain, low risk functions (for example offering kiosks or applications to help shoppers find or purchase items) that can and should be completely automated. This enables employees more free time to be more attentive and provide personal attention to high priority shoppers and tasks. The level of assurance needs to match the level of risk.

Acuant’s Trusted Identity Platform speeds up, simplifies and strengthens processes for in store or digital transactions via cloud, mobile/apps, kiosk & desktop scanners. Retailers can catch fraud and verify age for regulated services and products via instant ID verification and facial recognition, all in seconds.

Want more information on how retailers can prevent fraud and create happy customers ahead of holiday shopping season? Visit us here to learn more.

Verifying Identity In Today’s Digital Economy: A Look At Regulated Retail

Glenn Larson is the Vice President of Engineering at Acuant and is a member of Forbes Technology Council,  an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Read his article for the Forbes Tech Council below, or you can read the original here.

Digital adoption has changed the very nature of business and customer interactions. Just 20 years ago, business was always conducted in person — whether applying for a retail credit card or purchasing alcohol. The rise of mobile phones has changed that dynamic. Now customers can be located anywhere, with very little to no interpersonal communication throughout the transaction.

While customers are thrilled with the flexibility this provides — no need to travel to a physical location and no transaction restrictions during traditional business hours — retailers are left to determine how best to verify customer identity virtually, a challenge that only increases in scope. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, “92% of companies surveyed had been a victim of organized retail crime (ORC) in the past year.” Even further, “71% said ORC incidents were increasing.”

Retailers are left struggling to balance security with user experience. Research shows that the onboarding process is often the key indicator of the customer relationship. A laborious ID verification process during onboarding often results in an abandoned cart or — worse — a visit to the competition.

Regulated Industries Face Strict ID Verification Legislation 

Regulated industries — like alcohol, gaming, tobacco, vaping and cannabis — require more stringent compliance for verifying customer identity. New federal regulations require that retailers prove they are not selling “age-restricted” products online to customers who are “under the minimum legal age.” Failure to comply can result in steep fines or, in more severe cases, jail time.

The rise in popularity of “vaping” — especially amongst minors — has brought increased focus and legislation on the e-cigarette industry. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “approximately 3 million U.S. adolescents currently use e-cigarettes. This includes those who never smoked cigarettes.”

The FDA weighed in on this growing public health concern during a March 2019 address. Scott Gottlieb, outgoing Food and Drug Administration commissioner, shared new age-restriction-related policy for the purchase of flavored e-cigarettes. The purchase of flavored nicotine pods will be limited to retailers and websites that impose age restrictions.

Individual states and counties have taken steps to fight this epidemic on their own. For example, California’s recently enacted Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, or STAKE Act. Meant to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, the STAKE ACT mandates that distributors and retailers post a notice at each point of purchase, and it requires online retailers to verify the age of prospective consumers.

Adapting To An Era Of  ‘Customer Not Present’

It’s no secret that mobile commerce has exploded. Forrester estimates that “sales made via smartphones is expected to reach $209 billion by 2022 and in 2018 accounted for approximately 23% of all online sales.”

Rising mobile and e-commerce transactions present challenges in verifying customer identity; however, there are steps retailers can take to minimize risk and add benefits:

• Require Customer Accounts: Taking this step ensures that customers provide adequate, verifiable information about themselves during the initial purchase process only (onboarding), making ongoing purchases much faster and easier, providing the ability to personalize targeted advertisements and marketing campaigns in subsequent client engagements.

• Use Identity-Verification Software: Savvy retailers are adopting online fraud-detection tools like risk-based authentication and new account fraud prevention. Especially pertinent for retailers in highly-regulated industries, identity verification software ensures compliance with mandates and legislation.

• Get to Know Your Customer: Retailers that properly manage customer data — whether it be purchase history or personal preferences — are streamlining the process for future business and creating a “stickier” relationship with their customer base

• Meet Customers Where They Shop: The growing number of global transactions means that it’s more important than ever to provide solutions to identify and protect users on the move. Be mobile! Look for solutions that can streamline the onboarding and information gathering process (eliminate unnecessary typing where possible) on all channels — especially on smartphones — while accurately identifying each customer.

As retailers struggle with the hurdles imposed in identity verification — especially for those in highly-regulated industries — it’s important to keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, your solutions and practices need to provide a streamlined, balanced and customer-centric approach. How you go about doing that is up to your business and what works best for your customers.


To learn more about Acuant’s identity solutions, schedule a demo now:

Digital Identity Is The Key To CX

Glenn Larson is the Vice President of Engineering at Acuant and is a member of Forbes Technology Council,  an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Read his first article for the Forbes Tech Council below, or you can read the original here.

Digital Identity Is The Key To CX

It’s no secret that today’s consumer is experience-centric. Not only have organizations realized the tie between customer experience and revenue, but 88% of businesses view customer experience as a competitive differentiator. Data shows that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, and often experience trumps both price and product.

Companies like Apple, Uber and Venmo have set the bar for what customers now expect from brands. Not only should the service be fast and intuitive, but personalization has become the expectation of mobile-first users. The first customer touch point is incredibly important as well; a clunky or time-consuming onboarding process can result in frustration or — even worse — abandonment.

Then consider the more than 70 million digitally-savvy millennials who have grown up with internet access and who expect near-immediate response times. Having grown up with access to services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, they value speed and efficiency. These individuals use smartphones to conduct their business, whether for shopping, services or banking. Over the past several years, we’ve seen a steady rise in what’s been dubbed the “experience economy” — attributed, almost certainly, to the buying power of millennials.

A Balancing Act: User Experience Versus Risk

The challenge comes in providing a smooth experience that still adequately protects both the user and the company. There is significant risk associated with exposing personally identifiable information (PII) and the answers to knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions, which can easily be bought and sold on the dark web. In fact, nearly 15 billion identity records circulated in underground communities in 2018.

Establishing identity in a digital world is fraught with challenges and questions around how to collect, process and manage PII data. With hackers looming large, it’s on merchants to find more secure methods of establishing identity. For businesses, providing the customer experience that clients demand while ensuring security is all about balancing an acceptable level of risk with the smallest possible amount of friction. Here’s how to go about it.

Digitize And Automate Onboarding

That first touch point — customer onboarding — truly sets the tone for the relationship. Today’s customer turns a nose up at a lengthy, arduous onboarding process. No one wants to deal with manual paperwork. You can streamline the process while still keeping risk in check by using technology that captures ID images, data and identity verification in one process.

Omnichannel Is Imperative

Consider the banking industry. According to research from the American Bankers Association, 72% of Americans most often access their bank accounts online. Millennials, in particular, are exploring banks that offer mobile account enrollment and access, as they prefer to avoid visiting bricks-and-mortar branches.

Savvy businesses will empower their customers to transact whenever and however they wish. There are many ID verification solutions available to enable easy onboarding but still enforce stringent security protections. These methods can capture and digitize PII to quickly verify that the person is who they claim to be.

Loyalty Programs + Personalization = Return Customers

Today’s shoppers expect a targeted user experience based on previous behaviors, purchases, likes and even dislikes. Collecting customer data that provides insights into customer preference is one key to achieving customer loyalty. In particular, companies in the hospitality, gaming or retail industries should keep track of customer demographics to offer more targeted experiences. For example, retailers can offer specific product recommendations based on what the customer previously purchased or offer targeted savings/promotions for favorite items.

Enabling quick, automated signup for loyalty programs is also key. Customers are generating and sharing more data than ever, and with machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, companies can take this opportunity one step further by allowing for personalization at the regional and individual level. It’s true that some may find this technology unsettling, and there should always be a prominent option in place to allow customers to opt out. But at the end of the day, we know that millennials, by and large, are all-in on highly-personalized experiences.

Vaping and Cannabis Industries are Booming: Learn how to Easily Comply with Age Verification for Sales of Regulated Goods Online, Mobile and On Premise

Mobile commerce, by any measure, is booming. Forrester estimates that sales made via smartphones is expected to reach $209 billion by 2022 and in 2018 accounted for approximately 23% of all online sales. For businesses selling age-restricted products such as tobacco, e-cigarettes and cannabis, selling online is more challenging. Retailers must verify a customer’s age to meet federal regulations. In fact, it is the responsibility of retailers to ensure they do not sell age-restricted products online to people who are under the minimum legal age, and failure to set up reasonable measures to confirm the age of potential purchasers can result in fines and even possible jail time.

New laws that permit the sale of cannabis in certain states have started a whole new industry for online sales and distribution – including home delivery via “Uber” like apps. At the same time, e-cigarettes and vaping are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among teens. In 2018, more than 20% of high school students reported having used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days.

Access to these products is easily available via online sources and online retailers often rely on the purchasers to confirm that they meet the minimum age requirements by simply checking a box or providing a date of birth.  Requiring a credit or debit card isn’t enough for proof of age either, as minors can obtain these cards as well. For today’s boundary-testing and technology-savvy teens, these techniques are not adequate and fail to limit access to age-restricted products. In one study, underage buyers were able to use their real ID and a prepaid Visa card to order alcohol online and have it delivered to their home without anyone verifying their age.

As a result of online and mobile sales of restricted products and the proliferation of these products among minors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in November 2018 that new steps to restrict illegal underage use of e-cigarettes would be coming. One proposed measure would require that online stores implement better age-verification measures – far stricter than the self-verifying measures that are common.

California has already enacted the STAKE Act, which prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 and imposes mandatory steps for online retailers to verify the age of prospective buyers. These steps include matching the customer information to a database of verified individuals and if they cannot be verified requiring the purchaser to submit an age-verification kit with valid government identification.

To better comply with current and potential future legislation while still providing a positive customer experience to of age purchasers, retailers should implement improved online and mobile identity verification solutions, as well as in store when applicable. This will protect them from legal implications and guard their reputations in the communities they serve.

There are now technologies that can help merchants accurately verify a customer’s age using their mobile device or desktop camera in seconds. The customer can simply submit a photo of their government-issued ID for forensic authentication to ensure it is a genuine, unaltered ID. The speed of verification means that legal buyers can be assured of a quick, painless experience. On premise, this can be accomplished with either a mobile device or a scanner connected to a desktop or even a self-service kiosk solution.

For an extra layer of protection with remote transactions or for initial sign up to make recurring transactions easier, merchants can employ facial recognition technology to confirm that the person making the purchase is the same person in the ID. The buyer can take a selfie and compare it to the extracted biometric data from the ID. Again, results are given in seconds. In addition to these offerings, Acuant provides liveness detection which confirms that there is a live person in front of the camera – not a static image. Retailers can also use that information for future transactions (using only facial recognition to verify and transact), as well as for records management and marketing to age-appropriate customers.

While age-restricted products like e-cigarettes should not end up in the hands of children, legitimate buyers should be able to purchase products with ease. At the same time, retailers must protect themselves from fraud and fines due to increasing regulation. Acuant’s ID verification solutions allow merchants can take advantage of the boom in mobile commerce while staying on the right side of the law and delivering a superior customer experience.


free download KYC: ID & Age Verification in the Digital Economy