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During his 2023 State of the Union address, President Biden made halting identity theft and fraud one of the nation’s top priorities.

We believe implementing data-driven digital identity verification is one of the most effective ways to fulfill this mission. At all levels of government, public benefits programs have come under constant attack from cybercriminals, nation-state attackers, and fraudsters. Meanwhile, people that legitimately need benefits struggle to gain access to the benefits they need to survive. 

President Biden made it clear the system needs change: 

“Now, let’s triple our anti-fraud strike forces going after these criminals, double the statute of limitations on these crimes, and crack down on identity fraud by criminal syndicates stealing billions of dollars from the American people. ”

Current and future government responses need to help all Americans without losing billions to theft. Right now, the status quo identity verification process is both cumbersome to use, which reduces access, and not capable of stopping fraud. This benefits no one. As the government improves user experience by offering online services, it will need digital identity verification solutions to increase access and protect programs from bad actors. 

We need to create a digital identity infrastructure so the United States can end its reliance on “pay and chase”, where the government pays someone and then tries to catch bad actors after. That is an old, antiquated practice – we have the opportunity to turn the page and shift to a focus on preventing identity fraud.

2023 is the time to act. There is bipartisan interest around halting identity theft in government benefits – the Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Accountability echoed this sentiment in a hearing which brought to light $191 billion in improper payments that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration has already signed legislation empowering watchdogs to fight pandemic fraud. 

With this momentum, it’s on public servants and technology providers to meet the moment. As the president noted in his speech, “for every dollar we put into fighting fraud, taxpayers get back at least ten times as much.” Policymakers, enforcement agencies, and solution providers need to build a whole-of-government approach to digital identity verification. 

Where to start with identity verification 

Any digital identity verification solution must tackle three key issues: fraud prevention, equity, and scalability to address some of the systemic issues associated with gaps in the U.S. identity infrastructure. 

Fraud prevention

Ending identity theft and fraud has a huge return on investment, as President Biden noted in his speech. It’s more important than ever to add an identity verification layer that can automatically stop fraud at the door – while simultaneously enabling larger swaths of the population to access services. Legacy providers claim success rates in the 50-80% range and do little to halt identity fraud outside of blocking users on a semi-arbitrary basis or claiming that compliance with a government standard is sufficient to address the challenges at hand. As we learned in the COVID-19 pandemic, legacy provider failures lead to poor success rates and unequal access for a wide array of groups, including minorities, immigrants, young people, seniors, and more. Meanwhile, legacy providers do not keep programs safe from synthetic identity fraud, nation-state actors, and fraudsters. 

Through fully-automated solutions that are trained to analyze fraud, government agencies can improve efficiency and deliver benefits and services to people that need them. By using a machine learning-powered system with maximal identity coverage, multiple data sources, and identity risk intelligence, government agencies can eliminate identity theft and fraud. 

Delivering equitable and unbiased service

Identity verification for government programs must remain equitable and accessible for all Americans. There is a real and painful human cost when an American is delayed or denied from accessing services. Equity is more than funneling Americans into other time-consuming paths like call centers or in-person verification; all Americans should be able to engage the government on their preferred channel without any barriers. A data-driven approach that uses machine learning systems can eliminate biases from socioeconomic background, race, language, or age. 

Thus far, governments have used data brokers, credit-based solutions, and those that orchestrate individual point solutions to verify identities, which cuts out millions of Americans that are young, new-to-country, or in a marginalized population. By using a modern solution that leverages multiple data sources, incorporates machine learning, and analyzes and correlates every facet of a digital identity, government agencies can achieve their goal to accurately verify all Americans. 

Scalable and automated identity verification

Any government identity verification system needs to operate at a vast scale. For example, the IRS processed 261 million tax returns and other forms and enabled taxpayers to download more than 461 million files. Even during record-low unemployment, the Department of Labor reports around 1.6 million Americans on insured unemployment benefits with hundreds of thousands of claimants coming in and out of the program each week. 

Without automated and frictionless identity verification systems, government agencies cannot work quickly enough to process returns while halting fraud. Time-consuming steps like creating an entirely different user account with a third-party vendor or being forced to manually call an agency cost Americans time they can’t afford. 

During the speech, President Biden encouraged Americans to “finish the job” and create a future that works. I believe in enacting this vision, the administration has an opportunity to create a turning point in identity management and fraud prevention – one that creates greater equality in the delivery of online services while simultaneously protecting the American people.

Socure provides our public sector customers with innovative identity verification capabilities that enable higher approval rates, capture more fraud, and provide a better user experience. Schedule a meeting with one of our experts to learn more.

Jordan Burris
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Jordan Burris

Jordan Burris

Jordan Burris is the Vice President of Strategy - Public Sector at Socure. In this role, he partners with government leaders to develop and scale Socure's public sector offerings for identity verification and fraud detection. This includes leading efforts to promote and evangelize industry leading concepts in digital identity inclusion and fairness.