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What’s the Difference Between ID Authentication and ID Verification?

The terms “ID authentication” and “ID verification” are often used interchangeably. However, in industries where Knowing Your Customer (KYC) is important–including gaming, retail, and hospitality–it is crucial to draw a clear distinction between the two. The difference between the ID verification and ID authentication is a matter of thoroughness, and while both methods of ID checks are better than nothing at all, only ID authentication gives users the highest level of certainty.

Defining ID Verification

In Veridocs’ classification, we refer to ID verification as either:

  • Visually inspecting an ID, or
  • Using software to scan the barcode on the ID and perform optical character recognition (OCR) to confirm that the barcode data matches the printed information.

As mentioned above, performing ID verification gives establishments a basic level of security and is better than no ID check at all. However, it still leaves room for errors and fraud, meaning that organizations that only perform ID verification are leaving themselves vulnerable.

Defining ID Authentication

True ID authentication goes beyond ID verification. Rigorous ID authentication software performs the same comparison of barcode data and printed information as ID verification does, but then goes further – utilizing multiple light sources (including visible, near-infrared, and ultraviolet) to confirm the presence of security features specific to each type of ID document. When connected to a frequently updated global document library, ID authentication software can help deliver certainty that a document is genuine.

Of course, time is of the essence in ID authentication, as both the patron and the establishment don’t have time to waste when completing the transaction. Fortunately, ID authentication can be performed in 10 seconds or less, meaning that this higher level of security doesn’t have to slow down operations. In fact, the software can be integrated into other systems such as hotel check-in software or a point-of-sale system to automatically populate data from the ID, meaning it can often speed up processes while adding extra security.

Why does it matter?

ID verification can feel ubiquitous; most of the time, when a patron is asked to present their ID, it is for verification purposes (typically to confirm a patron is of age). Of course, visual verification alone is one of the weakest methods of checking IDs and relies on employees being on their toes while inspecting documents they are not familiar with, often in suboptimal environments – with poor lighting, background noise, and busy crowds.

Scanning the barcode doesn’t provide full assurance either, as a barcode is one of the easiest parts of a security document to forge. Some patrons or staff members may believe that the barcode scan performs a check of an external database, but this is a misconception in the vast majority of cases. Typically, when an ID barcode is scanned, verification software only ensures that the barcode data matches the printed data on the ID, or worse yet, just extracts the data with no check whatsoever.

Therefore, even when an establishment goes beyond a visual inspection of the ID and scans the barcode, this provides no guarantee the document is authentic. This issue comes up repeatedly in establishments that deal with many drivers’ licenses and passports from outside the immediate area, such as bars near college campuses and in popular travel destinations. These establishments may think that implementing barcode scanning is enough to screen out underage patrons, but the latest counterfeit documents can easily defeat this level of screening.

Aside from skirting age-restricted products and services, fraudulent ID holders can cause issues in settings like casinos or hotels that use regulatory watch lists to keep out problem patrons who may be associated with money laundering or other criminal activity. If a fraudulent ID is “verified” at a casino, a person on a watch list can gain entry, making the property subject to a fine for allowing a banned person to gamble.

ID Authentication adds certainty

In any of the scenarios described above, performing ID authentication instead of verification can better fight fraud and protect the establishment. It is far more difficult to forge a document with the proper security features from various light sources in addition to the barcode and printed text. Fraudulent ID holders are counting on establishments that do not vet documents that carefully, so performing full ID authentication with the right technology helps deter unwanted patrons and confirm that an ID document possesses all the security features it should. Users of sophisticated ID authentication technology can be more confident that they are being diligent in their ID checks. If they verify that the ID presenter is the rightful holder of the document, and the document is fully authenticated, they can be certain that they know who they are transacting with.