Making ID verification affordable

Running a business, large or small, has become fairly complicated in recent times, especially because in so many cases, you have to verify that the person you are dealing with is who they say they are. One of the most difficult, annoying and controversial is dealing with identity theft and hiring documented workers.  Despite popular belief that hiring undocumented workers is rampant, most companies do comply with the law and check submitted documents according to established procedure.

However, that doesn't stop lawsuits from parties fired for submitting false documents, as former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman discovered.  It also doesn't stop people, whose identity may have been stolen by a potential employee, from suing companies that hire the frauds.  While no court has held a company or employer liable for accepting false documents unknowingly, it still creates an undue financial burden to defend themselves.

And in the political climate developing, it appears the burden of proof will soon be switching from the potential employee to the employer.  In the United States, an employer can now face significant jail time plus a fine of up to $250,000 per count for hiring workers without proper documentation.  That is a powerful incentive to thoroughly check identities.

All that makes verifying identity is big business and, so far, most of the investment has been going toward government agencies.  For example, the US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) this month is spending millions of dollars to test technology allowing agents to spot falsified documentation.  In India, the government is working on identity-theft resistant ID cards for the poor to allow them to get aid.

On the corporate level, there are multiple companies that provide that kind of service that can end up costing several thousand dollars a year, which makes it effective for large corporation.

On the private-citizen/local-business level there are several products and services available to verify customer identities, check the authenticity of document formats and do background checks on individuals, but they are most have separate functions.  Some check the validity of passports, some credit cards, some drivers licenses.  Some do only credit checks.  So again, if you purchase all the equipment, it can end up costing several thousand dollars. The problem with a technology-only focus on verification is that it is not always accurate.  False positives and false negatives can occur more than is acceptable, which means the human element cannot be totally eliminated.

A very small number of companies combine expertise and technology to handle multiple applications.  One such company is IDChecker in the Netherlands.  The company offers a cloud-based and hands-on approach to document verification that includes passports, drivers licenses, national identification cards.  Its also looking into the potential of providing personal identification codes that can fast track users through verification processes for e-commerce and and travel. IDChecker also employs identification experts, many hired out of government service to "eyeball" scanned documents.  The services comes at a premium but when absolute accuracy is required, nothing can beat the human eye.  At least not yet.