Remote Work Ups the Ante on Identify Verification

In the good ole days conducting a Social Security Number trace (SSN) was considered to be a sufficient way to verify an applicant’s identity especially if you match it with a Motor Vehicle Record check to match up the records.

The truth is that while a SSN Trace is a great tool in the screening process, it does not actually confirm whether the SSN actually belongs to the candidate—despite whether it matches their address and date of birth. What it really does is produce an address history and aliases tied to an SSN, which is a critical component of a background screen, but should not be confused with identity verification.

In addition, organizations should not rely on the I-9 process as their only identity verification method. Identity information used during the I-9 process may differ from the identity that a background check was conducted against.

A major factor driving the focus on identity verification has been identity theft. According to recent research, data breaches in 2020 exceeded 37 billion, a 141% increase compared to 2019 and was by far the most records exposed in a single year since these data breach records have been reported.  With this explosive growth in exposed records, we can reasonably assume that many, many identities are at risk of exposure and theft. It is likely many are for sale on the dark web.

Another aspect of identity theft that employers must be concerned about is thwarting the efforts of individuals who may be applying for a position with stolen credentials. Hiring a candidate whose credentials are not real could cause major performance and legal liabilities or even place a person in a position where they have access to personal identifiable information that could be stolen for identity theft purposes. These individuals are often part of an organized criminal effort and if they succeed in getting hired can expose your employees to identity theft and expose you to legal risk as well.

And then along came COVID-19.

It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Recent research by the PEW Research Center has reported that nearly 71% of the workforce is working from home because of the ongoing pandemic. It is likely that this switch to remote work is likely not to be a temporary situation, but more so a major way that work is performed in the future.

The forced introduction of working remotely has raised the consciousness of both employers and employees to what is possible. As Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said, “a mind stretched to a new dimension never returns to its original form.” Many employers are already committing to allowing employees to work remotely after the pandemic passes. Likewise, large percentage of employees have made it clear they will resign if they are required to go back to the office.

This new world of working remote has ushered in many changes that have impacted employers. Adapting to a virtual work environment includes remote job applications, hiring, screening, and onboarding processes for candidates and employees. This change in the hiring environment has not changed the need that employers have to remain diligent when it comes to background screening, in general, and identity verification in particular.

Remote screening and virtual hiring increase the risk for employers to be able to actually confirm who they’re hiring.

As mentioned earlier, a SSN Trace is no longer sufficient in being able to definitively identify the identity of an applicant.

However, along with new challenges come new opportunities and tools and processes.

The importance of an identity background check is two-fold:

  1. First, it adds an extra layer of security in confirming the information revealed in the other screenings actually belongs to the candidate.
  2. It also will give you peace of mind that the person you are hiring is who they say they are.

Identity verification is an authentication process that compares the identity a person claims to possess with data that proves it.

In a face-to-face world this has typically been accomplished by an applicant producing a government issued form of identification that the employer can visual match to who the applicant is.

In a remote world identification is increasingly happening in digital format.

Some of the emerging methodologies include the following:

  • Telecom and Device Verification: This process leverages the SIM card in a candidate’s mobile device to confirm the account and device location is associated with that person. It’s typically very fast, easy, and reliable for the majority of candidates.
  • Document Verification: Old school meets new school: A scanned document is reviewed using artificial intelligence to verify the document’s authenticity. Completed with a smartphone, this method is also typically fast and easy.
  • Facial Recognition with Biometric Matching: We’re living in the age of the selfie, so why not make the most of it for identity verification? Advanced machine learning technologies can be used to match a driver’s license photo to a picture supplied by the candidate. Again, fast and easy.
  • Social Security Number Verification: Check a candidate’s SSN and other identifying information against credit bureaus.
  • Live Video Chat ID Proofing: Candidates can complete identity proofing via a live video chat. While rarely needed, this can prove invaluable for ensuring that the small percentage of candidates unable to prove their identity via other methods have a path forward.
  • Contactless Fingerprinting: Uses a camera to take a picture of the fingerprint as opposed to rolling the finger on a pad.

You have likely seen the terms AML (Anti-money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) particularly if you are in the financial industries. These are umbrella terms for identity verification.

We are living in an age of continuous informational technological advances and as working remote continues digital identification is becoming more important. It is also important to note that the challenge is growing steeper to authenticate individual’s identity because fake technologies are growing as well. An example of this is deepfake videos.

Background screening providers and employers must be committed to continuous learning to stay up to speed on the latest developments regarding identity verifications as the need for individual remote identification grows more important. Nothing is more important than ensuring that when you hire a new employee that the person is indeed the person that you intended to hire.