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US sees identity theft fraud problem more clearly than biometrics’ role in addressing it

ID.me wins contract in Iowa
US sees identity theft fraud problem more clearly than biometrics’ role in addressing it

Americans recognize the challenge of securing their social safety net, as shown in a GovTech article touting a holistic approach to the problem. What exactly that means appears to remain a source of some confusion.

The article notes the role of facial recognition, and that biometrics can “establish physical proof of a person’s identity.” It also notes the potential of digital IDs like mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs), AI anomaly detection and best practices. It also suggests fingerprints and voice biometrics could be part of the picture, a strange claim given that there is no obvious reference database of Americans’ voice biometrics to compare samples against.

The scope of the problem is clear, however, from the dire statistics around pandemic benefits fraud.

NIST’s Ryan Galluzzo, who leads the digital identity program for the Applied Cybersecurity Division, notes that contrary to some people’s impression, the story of pandemic benefits fraud was mainly not one of ineffective identity verification technologies. “Sometimes that was the case, but a lot of times there was just nothing being put in place at all,” he tells GovTech.

GovTech reviews emerging challenges related to generative AI and spoof attacks like face morphing, and sets out some of the technologies and best practices on offer for heading off public benefits fraud.

Socure VP and Head of Public Sector Strategy Jordan Burris points out in an editorial for NextGov that the fraud landscape may have been altered with the pandemic, but that change has outlasted the benefits programs. The FTC announced in February that American fraud losses in 2023 topped $10 billion.

President Biden announced executive action to reduce identity theft two years ago, and Burris calls for an executive order to encourage the use of AI to fight AI-powered fraud, greater transparency and layered defenses.

A Future Identity blog post, meanwhile, notes the barrier posed to efforts to secure public benefits and prevent ID theft in general by the number of Americans without government-issued IDs. Eleven percent of all Americans and one quarter of those in visible minority groups do not have legal IDs. The post calls for the establishment of digital identity to be made a national priority.

Iowa choses ID.me

Iowa Workforce Development has turned to ID.me to detect and prevent state benefits fraud with remote identity verification.

IWD Executive Director Beth Townsend says that a pilot of ID.me was highly successful, with 96 percent of 21,000 people successfully verifying their identity, usually in less than 5 minutes. Townsend says that ID.me “is used in about 29 other states.”

Applicants can use the ID.me app to perform identity verification with an ID document and selfie biometrics check, or schedule a video chat appointment. Alternatively, they can perform identity verification through an in-person visit to an American Job Center location.

More than 1,200 attempts to fraudulently claim benefits have already been identified since the launch of ID.me for state benefits in January, according to the report.

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