Tower members rely on government services every day, such as getting tax documents from the IRS, applying for a state-issued driver’s license, or for unemployment services. An identity verification service is used by many of these agencies to ensure that users or customers provide information that is associated with the identity of a real person.
The purpose of this article is to spread awareness of requirements you may need to fulfill regarding identity verification. Online identity verification solutions are gradually becoming the norm to verify someone’s ID without requiring documents to be supplied in person.
Who is ID.me?
McLean VA-based tech company ID.me is a federally-certified identity-check contractor specializing in digital identity verification. It is available 24 hours a day and can be accessed on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The company’s ID.me Authenticator app was designed to simplify how individuals prove and share their identity online.
ID.me claims that its digital identity network has 66 million members with over 145,000 new subscribers joining daily, as well as partnerships with 29 states, multiple federal agencies and over 500 name-brand retailers.
Currently, ID.me identity verification is required by:
- At least 10 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration.
- Numerous state unemployment agencies.
- Many health care agencies to facilitate access to patient portals.
- Business partners such as Apple Yeti, Ford and Lenovo to supply group discounts for students, teachers and first responders.
These entities have contracted with ID.me to reduce fraud by catching scammers, especially those attempting to siphon off benefits such as unemployment insurance and tax refunds using fake or stolen identities.
If you use any of the services above, you will need to establish an ID.me account.
- Have documentation ready—you’ll need to take a photos as identity documents (such as a driver’s license or passport) and upload them to the site. This step has been known to take a while for some users.
- Take a selfie and submit it. ID.me uses facial recognition to compare the picture of the applicant on the ID documents to the selfie. In lieu of a facial selfie, or if the system cannot make a match from the documents you provided, you may need to perform an online video interview with an ID.me representative or an in-person meeting.
- Data extracted from the documents you provided pre-fills the rest of the online application.
- Add your Social Security Number.
- Agree and consent to share your data. This help page provides more information.
Use of ID.me has been a bumpy ride, making headlines ever since its rise to prominence during the pandemic.
- During the COVID pandemic, ID.me’s verification process in several states resulted in lengthy delays that prevented large numbers of legitimately unemployed individuals from accessing unemployment benefits. Some delays lasted up to several months, during which people went without their unemployment checks.
- In 2021, pushback (described by the Washington Post as a “firestorm of criticism”) over ID.me’s facial recognition technology gained national attention. Most of the concerns were over the potential of security breaching or private information being misused. ID.me has collected biometric data on millions of people, with no explanation of who gets to buy or use that very personal data. In February 2022, ID.me announced that it would drop the facial recognition requirement in its identity verification software.
- Angst over wait times during the company’s use of virtual in-person identity proofing through a video call (also known as a Trusted Referee call or Video Chat Agent) is reported on review sites such as The Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and sitejabber, as well as on Twitter.
- In February 2022, technology news website The Verge reports “the company was beset by disorganization and staffing shortages throughout 2021, as shortcomings in the automated systems created tensions among the company’s workforce.” The Verge claims the company is now beset by a “backlog of video verification requests.”
- In April 2022, The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation into the company. In a letter to ID.me CEO Blake Hall, House lawmakers wrote they have serious concerns about the privacy and security of ID.me’s technology being used on millions of Americans.
- In April 2022, the company, which employs about 1,400 people, fired 39 employees—including about half of its fraud review team—for “inappropriate communications.”
What the future may hold
Proponents of ID.me’s system say the tech is highly effective. It’s cheaper for taxpayers. It massively reduced COVID-driven unemployment fraud. According to the Wall Street Journal, “ID.me claims to have nearly doubled the success rate of applicants for IRS verification, from about 40% under IRS legacy system to about 75%, and that five states have credited the company with helping prevent $238 billion in fraud.” The company claims any existing biometric data from taxpayers who previously created an IRS Online Account that has already been collected will also be permanently deleted.
What we see is that governmental bodies have had some success, and are continuing the endeavor of implementing a strong, electronic authentication process that is easy to use. But in the wake of the marred public opinion of the company’s use and collection of biometric authentication data, as well as the recent IRS developments, calls for additional legislative regulation grow.
Resources: ID.me, Techopedia, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Verge, TAXMAXTV