3 Reasons Why Identity Verification Should be Part of Your Background Checks

December 22nd, 2020

The intersection of tools, technology, and social forces

Many organizations are waking up to the fact that identity verification is not automatically happening as part of most commercial background checks. They’re also learning that identity verification often can’t simply be turned on with a flick of a switch. Many background screening vendors don’t offer identity verification at all. Others may not have integrated it as a seamless part of the screening process. Considering that identity is foundational to background checks, we must find ways to verify identity early in the hiring process. As we head into 2021, three key identity verification trends are poised to shape the post pandemic screening and hiring landscape.

Advancements in Available Verification Tools

The process of verifying identity—confirming that someone is, in fact, who they claim to be—is not a novel concept. Most people are familiar with Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA) or electronic Identity Verification (eIV) where individuals are presented with questions, the answers to which only the specific individual should (theoretically) know. Commonly used in the financial services industry, this verification method is far from flawless. KBA/eIV can be a challenge for younger people, or recent immigrants, who haven’t yet built up a deep enough credit history from which to draw a reliable question set. We’ve all also been in situations where we can’t remember aspects of our past, and it’s entirely plausible that a bad actor may be able to figure out enough pieces of our history to successfully pretend to be us.

Identity theft and fraud have been on the rise for years and will continue to be a risk. According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, 58% of data breaches involved personal data, such as names, phone numbers and physical addresses, which is nearly double last year’s percentage. With more personal information available on platforms like social media and the dark web, KBA/eIV grows ever more vulnerable to imposters. Fortunately, more advanced tools are within reach.

Similar to how our phones were once only protected with passwords but are now frequently unlocked with fingerprints or facial recognition, identity verification is also evolving. For example, emerging mobile tools can scan government-issued identity documents and then compare the photo to a selfie image captured by the user. Other methods include verifying the mobile phone handset itself, based on unique hardware identifiers to prove ownership. With such fast and convenient emerging tools, identity can now be verified without having to jog our memory about the make and model of our car from ten years ago.

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 96% of adult Americans own a cell phone, which makes mass adoption of modern identity verification methods a realistic possibility. We can expect mobile identity verification tools to get even better and faster, so incorporating them into the background check process will become a must in 2021.

Improvements to Technology that Powers Verification

So how do identity verification tools work? KBA and government-issued document verification are just the tip of the iceberg. As we dig deeper, we realize identity verification is dynamic and constantly evolving. Identity verification can be conducted with the assistance of artificial intelligence, machine learning, high speed cell towers, facial recognition, and more. This means that going into 2021 organizations will have a variety of options available, to support their identity verification needs. Whether they choose to simply use IMEI to ping high speed cell towers or opt to confirm an individual’s identity through a government-issued document compared to a selfie – the appropriate level of verification will be accessible as we move into 2021.

Although the world is rapidly advancing in the digital space, some individuals may experience challenges with identity verification. These challenges can stem from various factors such as limited credit history, frequent physical address changes, lack of computer experience, or more. To counter this, it’s important to offer a series of identity verification solutions that candidates can pass through – including using simple technology, such as verifying identity via video conference. This allows those with additional challenges to successfully verify their identity and gain employment. Background screening companies like Sterling are incorporating numerous solutions such as these into the background check process to give customers maximum flexibility to meet their needs.

Solutions to Withstand Evolving Workplaces

2020 has been a wild ride. Our world shifted dramatically, and as we head into 2021, we need to look at the hiring landscape through a new lens. Workplaces were already being redefined significantly over the past few years, with rapid increases in gig and remote workers. In 2018, more than 35% of Americans were working in the gig economy – that’s approximately 57 million people! This number is projected to increase to 43% in 2020. These trends point to a crucial need for fast, convenient identity verification solutions.

Enter Covid-19, which sent a shockwave through the traditional workplace and forced many companies to adopt remote work models. This trend is likely to continue into 2021 as many organizations either remain fully remote or transition to a hybrid model. According to research by Gartner, 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to continue to work remotely at least some of the time. Staffing and managing a hybrid workforce presents unique challenges for HR professionals striving to create a smooth hiring process for those onboarding remotely as well as those onboarding in person. As a result, where possible, digitizing the process and integrating identity verification into the background check process becomes foundational.

Identity verification will become a critical aspect of background screening in 2021. Check with your background screening provider today to find out what identity verification solutions they offer, and what underlying technology they employ.

Taylor Liggett is the General Manager of Sterling Identity. Taylor joined Sterling in 2016 as Vice President of Business Development, where he oversaw sales, led numerous strategic growth initiatives, and cultivated key partnerships. With more than a decade of domestic and international experience in background screening, identity, and biometrics, he brings a unique perspective to the emerging and rapidly evolving identity business.

Prior to joining Sterling, Taylor led the global account management operation for ADP’s background screening and I-9 services division.

Taylor studied Business Management at the Colorado State University and Computer Information Systems at the University of Northern Colorado.

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Sterling is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice. Clients are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel about the impacts of any requirements. This, and other important information can be found on the Sterling website at sterlingcheck.com.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.

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