Why Identity Verification matters for mobile operators

How can mobile network operators really verify their subscribers’ identities and prevent identity fraud?
Mobile network operators, Identity Verification, MNOs, Fraudsters, Department of Economic Development in Dubai, ID fraud, Digitise workflows


In today’s increasingly connected world, mobile network operators (MNOs) are grappling with the need to add more and more innovative services to meet the growing demands of their customers. Since mobility and convenience are key factors, there is a greater demand for security and trust. One particular challenge they face is subscription fraud which has led many operators to start thinking about solutions to improve how they verify their customers’ identities.

But how can they fight this fraud effectively? The answer lies in the deployment of trusted identity verification services that leverage the latest in digital security technologies and that have the ability to perform checks in real time.

Several people have come forward recently in the UAE reporting lost or stolen Emirates IDs, which have been used by fraudsters to subscribe to post-paid phone numbers, resulting in costly bills for local residents.

In May 2016, local media reported that one UAE resident was being asked to pay AED 14,000 in bills that were a result of six fraudulent phone numbers issued in his name. While an investigation resolved his issue, several other victims have come forward reporting similar claims.

In fact, according to the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai, around one in 10 residents in the UAE have been a victim of online credit card fraud.

The impact of ID fraud includes not only the direct cost related to revenue, staff time and goods - it can also have a devastating impact on a brand’s image. Traditional ID verification methods are subject to manual error and can provide a frustrating customer experience. In contrast, a digital ID verification solution, which leverages on automated and systematic verification methods, can have an immediate impact on fraud reduction and seamless customer enrolment.

Integrating the solution with existing equipment and processes results in a better experience for staff and customers and helps pave the way for adoption of digital ID verification.

It enables MNOs to streamline and digitise workflows, reducing manual entry and paperwork, which could take several days to process while customers get a smoother and faster onboarding experience.

In an effort to avoid identity fraud, Etisalat, one of the UAE’s leading mobile operators, uses biometric fingerprint verification at retail outlets when registering new customers, in addition to requiring valid documentation like an Emirates ID or passport. Customers are also required to lodge a police complaint immediately, should there be fraudulent transactions, and get in touch with Etisalat’s customer care service.

Securing and managing identities is also central to a MNO’s Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy. Mobile operators can improve the value chain by offering Identity-as-a-Service solutions which are more secure and convenient.

These solutions allow MNOs to meet the evolving needs around cloud applications and mobile devices by enabling secure access to online resources and protecting the digital interactions. A powerful digital ID verification brings a new dimension to customer identity management. While there are a number of associated benefits, here we highlight the four key ones for MNOs: ID verification reduces fraud, streamlines customer acquisition, provides better customer support, and enables new digital services for consumers which can be monetised through third parties.

Streamlining customer acquisition

MNOs offer customers different value-added services such as payments, IoT services and peer-to-peer payment solutions, and this list is growing all the time. By deploying an ID verification solution, MNOs could benefit from a consistent and unique Digital Identity that covers all services at the same time. Therefore, when an existing customer decides to buy a new service, or extend the functionality they already have, it can be done seamlessly and without any additional inconvenience by using their digital ID.

Providing better customer support

For any MNO, it’s important to allow staff the time to focus on the tasks which add value to the company, and make things as simple as possible for their employees. Deploying a solution that is user-friendly right from the start offers a real advantage because it can be improved over time by gathering feedback from sales staff.

It allows staff to focus more on consumer care rather than on administrative tasks, helping to build stronger relationships. The reliability of the system was also of great benefit. Staff often experience a huge volume of daily verifications requests, but real-time ID Verification in stores has saved, literally, hundreds of hours.

Fraud reduction

Deploying ID Verification services can help to reduce fraud for MNOs. According to the Technology Research Institute, ‘real-time point-of-sale identity verification services are an invaluable aid to stopping fraudsters from exploiting identity theft’. In fact, some MNOs using Gemalto’s ID Verification tool have reported a reduction in fraud by 100%. Additionally, performing ID verification checks in front of customers was found to have an extremely dissuasive effect on fraudsters and therefore, discouraged many attempts.

New opportunities through digital services

A multi-channel solution for ID verification which also works remotely, provides a great opportunity for MNOs to take the first step towards the creation of a trusted digital identity. Here, MNOs can position themselves as trusted digital identity aggregators by validating the subscriber’s identity. This could then lead to further opportunities in complementary markets that require ID verification – from online gaming to banking to car rental and many opportunities in the public and private sector.

Looking ahead

Solutions that streamline ID verification are hugely valued by both customers and the businesses that need to check their identities. Not only do they benefit customers through greater security, businesses can reduce their costs and improve their cost-to-income ratios. Finding the right balance between accuracy and tolerance for user convenience is critical in this field.

If MNOs can get on board with the technology now, it could generate immediate benefits in terms of efficiency and customer service, while opening up many new opportunities in this digital era.

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