ID Assurance is not just about verifying physical identities, but digital identities as well. In this day and age, email addresses and phone numbers form digital extensions of our existence — used to create any online accounts, from social media to e-commerce sites.

However, there has been a rise in fake email addresses and phone numbers, which can be detrimental to certain industries, especially those with customer journeys that span years and decades. For instance, banks, financial services and insurance (BFSI) companies require user-submitted information to be reliable long-term for operational purposes.

Thought experiment:

Would you trust any of the following info to be genuine?

Fun fact, all the information above is fake and illegitimate.

 

However, users nowadays can register accounts or services using any submitted information, authentic or otherwise. Later in the article, you will find that confirmation emails and one-time passwords may not be as reliable as you expect, either.

Thankfully, Innov8tif has launched a new feature: Digital Footprint Analysis, which is designed to resolve this exact problem.

The Pain Point

Today, most companies use confirmation emails and one-time-passwords (OTP) to verify user accounts. However, these systems only test the validity of email addresses and phone numbers; Not if they are genuine.

  • Are OTP and confirmation links reliable?

Hence, such systems open up companies to synthetic identity theft. This is where fraudsters create false identities using a combination of real (stolen) and randomly generated data. From the account registration system’s standpoint, the user is perfectly legitimate even when they are not.

Shoddy websites offering temporary email addresses and phone numbers has helped streamline this process, allowing anyone to create synthetic fake accounts with minimal risk.

For some countries, users are required to submit ID documents to apply for SIM cards, even for temporary tourists mobile plans. Fraudsters view this as a liability, linking throwaway phone numbers to their real identities. On the other hand, creating a fake email address repository is tedious work, although providers like Gmail allow account registrations for free. Hence, these temporary email or mobile number websites enable fraudsters to scale up their operations substantially.

A quick visit to these sites show that these services are largely used to register online accounts. Relying on OTP and confirmation emails alone is definitely not the way to ensure that your customer database is complete with high integrity.

  • Digital identities are not static

Businesses should also consider that customers tend to change e-mail addresses and phone numbers frequently.

A 99firms survey showed that the number of new personal email addresses being created is growing rapidly, from 2.5% in 2019 to 7% in 2020. The average user owns an average of 1.86 personal email accounts, and the figure is expected to grow.

It is entirely possible for companies to serve emails to inactive email accounts. This hurts the effectiveness of many paid, highly-targeted, email marketing campaigns.

The Solution

Introduction to DFA

Digital footprints are digital traces users leave behind while browsing the internet. These include webinar registration, forum posts, account registrations — all of which are associated with a unique email address.

 

At Innov8tif, we have added a new feature: Digital Footprint Analysis (DFA), into our OkayDB API component. For reference, OkayDB is an API that allows business clients to tap into specified databases, such as credit score checks and bankruptcy records.

DFA helps businesses answer the question: “How digitally active is an e-mail address based on the number of online accounts associated with it?”

This is useful information because genuine email accounts are likely to have abundant digital footprints, i.e. having plenty of associated accounts. On the other hand, fraudsters are likely to utilize freshly created email with a clear digital record.

  • How does it work?

Stages:

  1. The user first submits their email addresses and mobile phone number during account registration.
  2. Through process automation, OkayDB will cross-check the presence of online accounts with matching particulars via Web API.
  3. The results will then be aggregated, generating a scorecard depicting the user’s online activeness

Our solution can vet through social media sites and e-commerce platforms, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Spotify, Apple, and so on.

For the full list of platforms, feel free to get in touch with our ID Assurance experts at [email protected]!

  • Use cases

DFA is ideal for companies with marketing campaigns that reward successful sign-up attempts with free trials, promotional gifts, etc. This datapoint can also contribute to a user’s legitimacy score during a sign-up attempt, allowing the system to flag any suspicious activities.

Instead of just the initial onboarding, DFA can be activated in regular intervals. Perhaps, the system can send the user an auto-reminder to update their email address and phone number, if there is a decline in the account’s digital footprint.

  • Limitations

Digital footprints are one out of the many data points determining user legitimacy, and should not be used as the sole deciding factor.

For instance, not all consumers are digitally savvy with numerous online account ownership. This includes the underserved communities living in rural groups, or the older generation. Genuine users should not be penalized for not having enough online presence. However, the lack of digital footprint serves as supporting evidence when suspicious activities are detected throughout the customer’s life cycle.

DFA may also not apply to users with multiple personal email accounts and SIM cards. Doing so fragmentises the user’s digital footprint, which negatively contributes to their legitimacy score.

 


 

Interested to learn more about DFA? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

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