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With the widespread availability of age-restricted content and products online, the challenge of verifying age has never been more pressing. Ensuring that individuals accessing age-restricted content or making age-sensitive transactions are of the appropriate age is crucial for protecting minors from harm and complying with legal regulations. Age verification systems have emerged as the solution to this challenge. These systems safeguard minors and help businesses adhere to regulatory requirements, fostering a safer and more responsible digital environment for all.

What is an age verification system?

An age verification system is a multifaceted technological framework designed to confirm the authenticity of an individual’s age before granting access to age-restricted content, services, or products in various digital and physical environments.

Employing a range of methods, including biometric verification, document verification, and database checks, these systems validate an individual’s age by cross-referencing their provided information with authoritative databases or securely stored personal data. The primary purpose of an age verification system is to prevent minors from accessing harmful or age-inappropriate content and ensure legal compliance in sectors such as online gaming, adult entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, and more. This promotes a safer and more responsible digital and physical marketplace.

Why is age verification important?

Age verification is important for numerous reasons, all of which center around legal compliance and the safety of minors.

  • Age restricted online services

Age verification helps protect minors from accessing age-restricted content or engaging in activities that are not suitable for their age. This includes explicit or violent content, gambling websites, and certain online services like gaming and fantasy sports. Age verification is used to confirm the age of purchasers and enable the safe delivery for restricted goods including alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. This is especially vital across the ever-expanding world of app-based delivery, much of which is contactless. An Uber Eats driver may not ask to see an ID, let alone be able to visually distinguish between a fake ID and a real one, so age verification systems provide a vital role in preventing the sale of restricted goods to minors.

Age verification also helps ensure that marketing and advertising efforts are targeted appropriately, preventing the promotion of age-restricted products or services to minors. Implementing effective age verification mechanisms can build trust and reputation for businesses and platforms, demonstrating a commitment to responsible practices.

  • Legal compliance

Many countries have regulations in place that restrict minors from accessing certain types of content or participating in specific activities, such as online gambling, alcohol purchases, and tobacco sales. Age verification helps online regulated industries, businesses, and platforms comply with these laws and prevent underage consumption.

Age verification can also help prevent fraud by ensuring that individuals are accurately representing their age during account creation or transactions. This is important for many industries, including ones you would expect (alcohol, tobacco, gambling and gaming), and others that seem more esoteric, like the rental industry. Age verification also ensures compliance during age-restricted in-person purchases such as micromobility rentals (e-scooters and bikes), car rentals, or house rentals.

What businesses are required to have age verification?

Numerous businesses require age verification, including the following:

  • Tobacco and alcohol sales
  • Cannabis
  • Gambling
  • Gaming
  • Medical services
  • Adult entertainment
  • Social media

Please note that this list may vary by jurisdiction, and rules about age limits vary by location.

How do age verification systems work?

Each type of age verification system works somewhat differently from the others. Three of the most universally accepted are age verification via credit card check, database check, and ID check.

    • Age verification via credit card check

When a user attempts to access age-restricted content or make a purchase, they are required to enter their credit card details. The system then checks the cardholder's birthdate stored within the credit card company's database, against the required age threshold for the specific service or product. This method relies on the assumption that individuals below the legal age would not possess a valid credit card, thereby offering a relatively convenient and efficient means of age verification for online transactions.

    • Age verification via database check

Age verification via a database check entails cross-referencing user-provided information, such as name and birthdate, with authoritative databases that store age-related data. These databases can include government records, social security databases, or other trusted sources of age information. Users typically input their personal details during registration or when attempting to access age-restricted content. The system then verifies the accuracy of this information by comparing it to the data in the authoritative databases.

    • Age verification via ID document

Age verification via an ID document requires users to upload a valid government-issued identification document, such as a driver's license or passport. Users must provide a clear image of the document, and the system utilizes optical character recognition (OCR) and image analysis technology to verify the user's birthdate. It is commonly employed in scenarios where strict age verification is essential, such as accessing age-restricted physical venues or purchasing age-restricted products in online marketplaces.

Explore how Socure’s identity verification solution can protect your organization.