The importance of phone validation in digital identity verification - Ekata

The importance of phone validation in digital identity verification

In today’s digital age, as the need to establish a strong digital identity verification platform grows by the minute, chances are you are already familiar with the process of phone validation. Simply put, it is a phone number identity verification process used to confirm that the phone number provided by a customer is valid and available. Indeed, the act of determining if a customer is who they say are they are through validating their phone number isn’t new; industries across the board rely on phone numbers to deliver crucial information and developments to sell products and services. Furthermore, an invalid phone number isn’t just inconvenient; for those industries discussing or releasing sensitive information, it can be harmful. This is especially the case in the age of sophisticated synthetic identity fraud, bots and cyberattacks.

However, the simple act of determining whether a real number is used in phone number identity verification isn’t enough. Let’s face it. We live in a world where even the most offline individual is hyper-aware of the dangers of handing their personal information over. And we don’t want to hand our phone number out to just anybody! Furthermore, bad actors rarely give out their real contact information. So, how can you tell who is a legitimate customer and who is a fraudster? Moreover, even if the phone number is valid and available, what factors do you need to take into account to best determine the actual risk associated with it.

This is where the right phone number identity verification API isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a necessity.

Ekata’s Phone Intelligence API

Enter Ekata’s Phone Intelligence API, a best-in-class phone validation tool that enables digital identity verification. It does this by seamlessly identifying fake accounts at sign-up, informing risk models and segments and analyzing databases with detailed and authoritative phone validation data. All that is required for true phone validation with our API is the phone number from any customer interaction. In return, you’ll receive the following:

Validity checks

Determining if the phone number is real or not real with a valid area code.

Prepaid status

Determining whether the phone number is a landline, mobile, fixed or non-fixed VoIP, premium, toll-free or voicemail only.

The line type

Confirming if the phone number is part of a prepaid service plan.

The carrier

Indicating who the company is providing the service to the associated phone number (including hard-to-identify carriers).

Network signals

Behavioral data helps you better understand how phone data is being used across merchants.

First-seen and last-seen days

Counting the days since the phone number was first observed in Ekata’s Identity Network and most recently observed.

Country details

Including the international country calling code (for example +1 for US numbers), the country codes (for example US for the United States) and the country name associated with the phone number.

Meanwhile, the network signals you receive include:

Popularity

The number of merchants a phone number has transacted with over the past 90 days.

Volatility

The number of unique identity elements paired with a phone number in Ekata’s Identity Network over the past 90 days.

Velocity

The number of times a phone number has been observed in Ekata’s Identity Network over the past 90 days.

How global is global? Why phone validation needs to cross borders.

Of course, a list of features is good but it’s important to understand just how difficult, in today’s global digital economy, it is to have a global solution. This is because every country is different; the supposedly simple act of just identifying phone number validity and country is actually a major undertaking. For example, do you know how many digits make up a valid phone number in Brazil? Is it 8? 9? Maybe 10? Yes.

At the end of the day, we believe that a phone number is the global de-facto key field for strong digital identity verification. That is why we try to source the most accurate and comprehensive phone data available for phone validation.

In the United States and Canada, Ekata’s focus is on tying a phone number to an identity. We rely on our Identity Graph database, which creates over one million linkages monthly, to give us unique insights into how the data elements in a transaction are tied together; how they link.

Outside of North America, we focus on verifying phone numbers consistently in as many markets as possible. For individual merchants, invalid phone numbers or non-fixed VoIP phone numbers are a significant risk. Looking at the carrier can provide a lot of lift.

Our phone data can be used in a variety of ways. Primarily, your goal (as a merchant/business) is to prevent fraud and quickly identify good customers. Ekata can help during manual review with our intuitive web interface or via an API with one of our fraud platform partners.

Some merchants use our data to avoid social engineering. Occasionally, daring fraudsters will actually reach out to a merchant through the call center when their order gets flagged for review to try to convince a call center agent that the order is legitimate. This is a huge problem for a lot of our customers. Thankfully, our data enables the merchant to easily verify the phone number and make sure that the phone and billing name on the order match. Because ultimately, tying the cardholder to the phone is a best practice.

Meanwhile, other merchants reach out to the customer proactively to verify orders. Again, making sure the credit card and phone number are connected through the billing name is important, but what happens if you can’t validate that the phone number and identity are linked? In that instance, a merchant can find the individual in our database by searching their name and/or address and we will return any landline or fixed VoIP phones associated with the individual.

Phone validation in action – a use case.

Shall we look at a (high-level) use case? Picture a leading dating app. Actually, picture more (because this use-case can be replicated across brands!). Now, their business problem was simple: There were too many bot accounts prospering which didn’t just undermine the platform’s integrity, but also opened the app up to serious legal issues. Furthermore, there was a design conundrum; good users want anonymity, which means investment in robust identity verification just didn’t happen.

The solution? With Ekata’s Phone Intelligence API, bot attacks could be weeded out immediately, including both new accounts and already existing accounts. The questions asked were as simple as:

  • Is the phone carrier in question identified as high-risk?
  • When the user sets the country in their personal profile, does it match their phone’s country details?
  • Is the phone line type non-fixed VoIP?

With fewer bot attacks, the business could grow – legitimately and honestly.

A layered approach to digital identity verification – always.

Even with the most internationally accessible phone validation tool, at Ekata, we believe no tool should work in a silo. Indeed, the process of phone validation in digital identity verification only works with a layered fraud approach, enabling phone validation data to provide actionable signals for transaction and onboarding decisioning. Contact match statuses, including name-to-phone and address-to-phone and metadata points like prepaid status, line type and carrier help merchants build a faceted customer profile and more accurately approve or reject questionable transactions.

At the end of the day, phone validation is only as good as the digital identity verification tools employed and the fraud prevention platform you partner with. With Ekata, businesses can rely on phone validation to improve conversion rates by being able to approve good customers faster. Furthermore, businesses can also mitigate risk and fraud by building better risk models that add friction only to risky user interactions, helping identify fake accounts at sign-up. And, more powerfully still, our Phone Intelligence API supports global programs by receiving detailed and accurate phone validation data regardless of country, enabling decision-making capabilities on a global scale.

Contact us to learn more about our tools and APIs including Phone Intelligence API

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