Modern technology has allowed for a myriad of amazing changes to the way we live our lives. Perhaps more than any other technology, the internet has allowed trade and conversation to go global in a way inconceivable just a few generations ago. Unfortunately, crime has evolved with the times too. Now more than ever, businesses and government organizations require identity verification before you can make big decisions or spend significant sums of money. Today we’re going to discuss a bit about how this works, why it is the way it is, and how (for the most part) it is probably a good thing.
How Does Identity Verification Work
The term “identity verification” is quite broad, covering any process which is intended to verify your identity. While technically asking your name qualifies, most people discussing this topic mean something more complex.
For identity verification to be effective, the information being sought has to be info that is somewhat difficult for people who aren’t who they say to get. Common physical identity checks include needing to show one’s driver’s license or another government-issued document such as a birth certificate.
Another way some organizations check your identity is through what are called security questions. These are questions that you usually set when you make an online account, that you will then be asked if you ever forget your password or suddenly act in a strange way (such as making a big purchase out of the blue that doesn’t fit with the way you usually spend your money). The idea is the questions would be hard for a random person to guess at but easy for you to answer.
As a rule, the more serious what you’re trying to do is, the more a given organization cares about confirming your identity. Both they and you could land in hot water if they allow someone to fraudulently do something in your name.
Why is Identity Verification Important?
Many people find identity verification inconvenient. It’s more or less indisputable that it makes life more complicated. Things would be faster if you were never asked for info meant to confirm your identity.
The problem is that somewhere between 14 to 17 million people are the victims of identity fraud each year. Moreover, criminals are getting sharper. If an identity verification system is too simple, the odds are good a dedicated criminal will learn how to beat it.
Having your identity stolen can cause a cascade of disasters and inconveniences, depending on a criminal’s goals. Even if you manage to avoid paying for their illegitimate purchases, fraud can hurt your credit score, force you to get all new credit and debit cards, and more.
One common scam is to steal the identities of children. If the child identity theft is successful, the criminal may have well over a decade before the child or their family notice signs something is amiss (usually in the form of wild inconsistencies on the child’s credit score).
Thorough identity verification helps to prevent these issues. People should not be able to easily buy weapons, drive a vehicle, or spend your money (or ruin your credit) if they aren’t you.
Does Modern Identity Verification Work?
The big question then becomes whether modern identity verification solutions are working. The answer seems to be sort of.
One issue is that not all verification processes are made equal. For example, online dating identity verification can sometimes be lax. In the worst-case scenario, this means someone who is dangerous or otherwise masquerading as someone they’re not may be able to lure others on the service to a location that may be dangerous.
Another common issue is regarding weak security questions. If your security questions are too easy, it can make it easier for a criminal to steal account details, not harder. For example, asking when your birthday is may be too easy; those details are somewhat publicly available.
Other parts of everyday life may have no in-built identity verification process at all. For example, there are many romance scammers who target potential marks (most often women) and pretend to be a friendly suitor. Then, when the time is right, they ask for a large sum of money for something like a plane ticket or surgery.
This is where people must perform some identity verification of their own. Oftentimes, some research into what they’re saying can be enough to see the cracks. If you’re still unsure but notice a few red flags, consider hiring private help.
If you need to hire a private investigator or otherwise need to more thoroughly confirm some details you’ve been given, we recommend Flatirons Private Investigations. They can discreetly look into people you are suspicious of and do the identity confirming for you. Online dating can be intimidating enough without worrying someone is who they say they are!
For Better or Worse, We Need Identity Verification
Identity verification isn’t fun. It can be time-consuming and annoying. It’s even worse if you mess up a small detail and wind up needing to call the company in question to unlock your account.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an alternative. It should take more than a few minutes to steal your identity. The real modern issue is lax verification, allowing some to endanger other users under fake or stolen names.
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