Mobile Commerce

Physical ID Verification Goes Mobile (Digital)

When people talk about “digital identity innovation,” they primarily talk about finding new ways to recognize and authenticate a consumer, and then secure those digital credentials, encryptions, tokens, fingerprints – or even a person’s heartbeat.

In a recent PYMNTS webinar — “Approve Good Customers With Instant ID Verification” — which found MPD CEO Karen Webster joined by Mike Diamond, Chief Revenue Officer of Mitek, and Sarah Clark, VP of Product at Mitek, the host and her guests turned the concept of digital identity innovation on its ear a bit, using a lowly plastic or paper-based product that most everyone has in his or her possession.


The Problems That Photo Verify Solves

“The problem of ‘are you who you say you are’ is becoming a more pervasive challenge for financial institutions, particularly in this mobile world,” says Diamond. “Gone are the days of relying on face-to-face channels and growing a bank organically through a branch network and face-to-face interactions with people who want to open up an account.”

Therefore, in the payments world — as EMV gets introduced, and the inevitable movement of fraud from the physical channels to the eCommerce channels — the movement of ID verification from the physical world to the digital world simply makes sense.

Getting into specifics, Diamond describes “top of funnel problems,” which Mitek refers to as “photo fill” — wherein the image from an ID is quickly extracted and put into digital form. In that regard, the mobile channel “is a blessing and a curse,” says Diamond, with the latter aspect referring to form factor challenges.

While referring to the act of typing information in a phone as “at best … a tedious experience,” Diamond notes that a form enhancing function of mobile is the camera. “By eliminating the need to manually enter personal information from a mobile device and instead use the power of the camera,” he tells Webster, “we are making that process go a lot faster.”

Referring to the traditional methodologies of verifying customers in the payments world — collecting information from credit bureaus, faxing a picture of an ID or providing one in-person in a bank branch, et al — Diamond describes them as being “so fraught with friction that it’s actually a statistical apparition for a person to make their way through [the process].”

Photo Verify eliminates that friction by enabling banks to image a customer’s ID and look for information about the authenticity of the document. It’s all done within the context of a “very user-friendly process,” explains Diamond, while at the same time requiring a very simple process on the part of the financial institution.

Speaking to the security of Photo Verify, Diamond points out that the solution does not transmit an image in the clear. On the contrary, “it all happens in the SDK inside the app,” which keeps the sensitive data from being intercepted.


What Is Photo Verify?

What Mitek – a mobile imaging technology company – has done with its new solution, Photo Verify, is create a way to digitize a physical driver’s license, state ID or passport and securely authenticate an online consumer, all through the camera on a smartphone. It’s an innovation that is opening up all kinds of new use cases for banks and other parties who need an easy and reliable way to authenticate consumers.

Mitek’s “flagship mobile deposit product,” MiSnap, used by over 4,000 banks in the U.S., gives Mitek the chops to understand the complexity of “what works and what doesn’t” in the mobile imaging arena. And that, Diamond says, puts the company in prime position to develop Photo Verify, which applies a similar auto-capture process of checks to physical ID documents.

While Diamond acknowledges that one rarely hears “banking” and “fun” in the same sentence, it’s his belief that “fun” is precisely one of the elements that Photo Verify provides for mobile banking users.


The ‘Secret Sauce’

That ability of Photo Verify to authenticate an ID document is what Webster observes to be “the secret sauce” of the technology. Embedded in the majority of U.S. licenses is an imperceptible security feature (so secret that we can’t tell you what it is – since we don’t know!). Photo Verify possesses the unique capability to detect the presence of said feature and pull encrypted data from it.

To the point that there exist variations from state to state in their ID security features, Clark notes that Mitek is “do[ing] a lot to keep up with them.”

“If we can utilize our built-in capability to scan for the enhanced security feature, we will scan for it,” she goes on to explain. “If it doesn’t have that particular security feature, then we use a waterfall system where the protocol cascades down and scans for a list of other security features.” And that’s how we are able to verify such a large number of different types of international IDs.

That’s also how Photo Verify works with different types of international IDs. The solution is applicable to passports, explains Diamond, because those documents contain biometric data.

“As Apple opens up access to things like NFC detection off of chips and so forth,” Diamond adds, “there might be a way for us to pre-fill data based on a chip being present on the device.”

While nobody has coverage for every type of ID on the planet, acknowledges Diamond, Mitek and Photo Verify cover over 3,500 ID types worldwide — as well as employing the review services of expert document control professionals — so “that should get you started,” he remarks.


Solutions Demo/Use Cases

After Clark provides the webinar audience with a run-through of the Photo Verify and MiSnap user experience, she goes on to explain how the solution is currently working in the wild.

One of the company’s “largest live customers,” says Clark, falls into the high-risk category — which have a lot of different examples of use cases.

The aforementioned customer, Clark goes on to explain, is using Photo Verify to verify the identity of their users who are hitting a certain threshold of activity “such that they’re bumping up against KYC limits whereby they need that extra identity verification.” Clark sees that as being “a big global use case” for the solution.

“I think there are a lot of peer-to-peer networks that are also very vested in ensuring there is trust,” adds Clark. They want to identify end users “who are showing a level of usage where you want to be really sure they are who they say they are.”

Webster raises the process of verifying expensive purchases online as another potential use case, with which Clark agrees, saying that Mitek “absolutely [sees] the need in the market and [is] active in quite a few conversations.”

The technology supports that use case “not only for customer-not-present,” explains Clark, but Mitek also has some live customers “in an assisted type of use case.”

“For high-risk transactions where you’re acquiring something very easy to turn around and sell in the black market,” she adds, “this technology can add a lot of value.”

As the webinar wraps up, Clark offers a long view of Photo Verify and its potential, stating that “We’re creating a bridge between that very secure physical artifact you have that is proof of your identity being authentic and scanning it in so it can be read as so.”

Concludes Diamond, “If we don’t take care of this, customers will find another path. You have to think mobile if you’re going to be in this business.”


To view the webinar in its entirety, click here or see below.



The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.