The importance of the (much neglected) ID check

Imagine it’s mid-summer in the UK. August. It’s Monday, and the weather has been lovely for the past three days. So you decide this next Sunday you’ll go out for a picnic. You start inviting people, gathering friends and family. You pick your spot: Hyde Park, that special corner nobody knows about. And you buy your groceries in advance, lest you miss out on the best stuff. You’re so excited about your picnic, you don’t realise it’s gotten a bit chillier throughout the week.
And then Sunday arrives, and it’s raining. Pouring. All day long. Your friends cancel on you, your family proposes a trip to the mall and a movie. But that’s ok. You’ll have your picnic some other time.

Now imagine that, instead of planning a picnic, you are recruiting and have been considering someone for a job. He registered on the website last week and you liked his profile from the start: he’s the perfect candidate for an upcoming vacancy. He’s experienced, has an impeccable CV, and you think he will perform fantastically. But before offering him a contract, you inform your candidate about the need to carry out a basic background check. Just for compliance reasons. He’s happy to proceed, provides you with all his details and lets you know he looks forward to hearing back from you. You have him checked by an external company, and the report claims there’s nothing to be concerned about; all seems clear, unsuspicious. He starts work.

Some months later you find out you have an illegal worker on your payroll, someone who not only does not have the Right to Work in the UK; he’s also been impersonating someone else and is being prosecuted for identity fraud. This time around, however, there’s no backup plan: a fine could reach 20,000 pounds.

What happened? What went wrong?

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The importance of the ID check

The problem is not what happened; it’s what did not happen. Most background checking companies run accurate background on their applicants, relying on extensive databases and analysing the information they gather. However, a simple ID check is many times excluded from the process. Verifying a candidate’s identity, ensuring that their identity document matches the data from credit reference agencies and examining the document’s legitimacy is crucial, as any further checks will be based on the premise that the candidate’s identity is genuine. By omitting this basic step, you and your background checking company are planning a fantastic picnic, but have forgotten to check the weather forecast.

The Identity Check confirms a person’s identity, which is made up of their name, date of birth and address. This can be done manually by requesting forms of identity documentation to be provided, such as bank statements and utility bills. However, in addition to the process being time-consuming, such documents can be quite easily counterfeited. It is estimated that there are 20 million fake documents circulating in the UK and, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there are in the US over 10 million more SSNs currently in circulation than there are individuals.

The Onfido ID check

  1. Carrying out an identity check on your applicant is an indispensable part of the background checking process. It consists of three parts:

  2. Verifying a person’s identity by cross-referencing their details against a range of confirmed databases. This highlights fraudsters who create a fake identity.
    Verifying that any identity documentation, such as driving licences and passports, are both valid and belong to the individual. This chases away those who try to impersonate someone else in order to commit fraud.

  3. Given that it is easy for a fraudster to impersonate someone else using a lost or stolen document, we also check against the police database of lost, stolen and compromised documents for an added layer of security.

Checking an applicant’s identity is an easy step that could save your day – and your company’s finances. Like getting ready for a picnic without checking the weather forecast in advance, running other checks such as financial or criminal history verifications is futile if you cannot be certain that your applicant is who they claim to be.

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Image credits: Spring Rain, New York , 1912 - John French Sloan

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Irene is the person behind Onfido's social channels and blog. She does marketing stuff and gets to spend time on Twitter. At night, she neglects her own online profiles and reads (paper) books.