Age Verification: An In-Depth Look
What is Age Verification?
Certain industries are required by law to verify the age of consumers. In brick-and-mortar stores, merchants use physical identification documents (ID) to verify the age of their customers. Digital age verification for online stores, however, requires different verification methods to ensure sellers are not selling age-sensitive goods to minors.
Some online merchants are using an age verification box or ask site visitors to enter their date of birth before making a purchase. This is not really effective in preventing minors from checking the box or entering a date that qualifies them for the purchase.
To truly verify the age of a digital consumer, online sellers need to use age verification mechanisms that do not rely solely on user input. Age verification tools use various techniques to verify the age of would-be consumers. For example, a basic age verification process takes the inputted age of the user and references it with public databases.
In this article, you will learn:
- Electronic Identity Verification (eIDV)
- Document Verification
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
- Biometric Verification
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Age Restricted Industries
The main age restricted industries are: alcohol and tobacco, online gambling, pharmaceuticals, and online gaming.
Alcohol and Tobacco
The tobacco and alcohol industries are strictly regulated across the world. The US, in particular, prohibits the sale of cigarettes to minors and alcohol to individuals under the age of 21. This is regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Online merchants selling tobacco and alcohol must accurately verify the age of their customers before processing the payment and sending the goods.
Online games attract a wide range of players, from different age groups and locations around the world. Children, teenagers, adolescents, young adults, new adults, and senior citizens...are all playing online games. Games can be addictive to all age groups, and when games attract diverse ages the younger crowd can be exposed to scams, offensive language, bullying, and uninhibited gaming behaviors. Age verification can help ensure children can safely play online games in moderation.
To help patients conveniently gain access to medication, pharmaceuticals have digitized their services. Pharmaceuticals are highly regulated, including the records of online pharmacies. However, online purchases of prescriptions may pose a risk to underage users with drug issues. Still, not all online pharmacies verify the age of their consumers.
Online gambling is highly regulated throughout the world. In many countries, minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from participating in online gambling. In the US, online gamblers must be over the age of 21. Studies show that children with access to online gambling may become addicted. To prevent this from happening, online gambling platforms should verify the age of users before letting them into the service.
How Does Age Verification Protect Your Content and Customers?
Age verification provides several mechanisms that help protect content and consumers. Here are five critical risks you can prevent with age verification software:
- Fraud — certain online visitors may use age to commit fraud. For example, an adult lower their age, when asked for a date of birth, to get a discount offered only to children. Age verification can help prevent this type (and other kinds) of eCommerce fraud.
- Identity theft—age verification can prevent identity theft as part of an information security strategy.
- Legal responsibility—each industry is required to uphold certain laws and comply with relevant regulations. Age verification is often critical to maintain legal responsibility.
- Children safeguards—age verification can help ensure children do not gain access to goods, services, and content of any kind that do not suit their age.
Age Verifications Methods
There are several ways to implement age verification. Some methods can be combined to create more robust solutions.
Electronic Identity Verification (eIDV)
To validate the information inputted by users, eIDV processes check the inputted data, like name, address, and date of birth, against various data resources. eIDV is often used in combination with two-factor authentication, which requires users to provide email addresses and phone numbers for verification.
Unlike brick and mortar stores, digital merchants cannot compare the age written on the ID with the physical appearance of the customer in front of them. They can, alternatively, use document verification. This process compares the customer’s photograph with the information in their ID, and provide adequate age verification when combined with eIDV.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OCR technology helps verify and validate the identification documents provided by customers. Typically, a customer is asked to scan the document, using their smartphone, digital camera, or scanner. The software then scans the documents, implementing encryption when processing the data. This ensures the information remains secure and helps achieve compliance with various regulations. Particularly, OCR can help prevent the use of fake IDs.
There are many ways to perform biometric verification. These processes take unique biological traits—like hand or earlobe geometry, fingerprints, voice waves, signatures, retina and iris patterns, and DNA—and use them to authenticate identity. Face-based biometric, in particular, can be useful for age verification.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There are many advantages to introducing AI software and computer vision techniques into the entire verification process. Here are some of the benefits:
- AI software can work very quickly, processing hundreds and thousands of document formats in little time, speeding up the verification process.
- AI software helps solve biometric issues concerning makeup, facial hair, and aging.
- AI software can conduct real-time authentication.
AI can also centralize and leverage various verification methods. For example, AI software can leverage various data sources, like a social media selfie, and compare it with inputted documents, providing enhanced photo-based verification.
Choosing the Right Age Verification Software
If you’ve decided for a strong age verification software, you should start by selecting a partner that can verify individuals quickly, with a high degree of accuracy. There are statistics and credentials that can help distinguish high quality solutions from the rest.
Industry benchmarks, like those compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), allow you to compare the effectiveness of different technologies. You should always ask a potential partner about these benchmark studies so you know what you're getting.
Uses Authoritative Data Sources
Older methods of verification are greatly susceptible to fraud. ID cards can easily be faked or used after they expire. And verification based on an email address, such as relying on an .edu address to verify students, has serious limitations.
Instead, you want age verification software that uses authoritative data sources. These platforms rely on comprehensive, accurate, current information drawn from the source systems, such as a government database or a university’s office of the registrar. Platforms that use multiple data sources further improve the accuracy and reliability of verification.
Age Verification with BlueCheck
Vendors need a solution that reliably and affordably verifies age with as few data points as possible. Age verification platforms that ask the wrong questions or too few questions will result in a substantially greater rate of failed transactions. Platforms that ask too many questions deteriorate the user experience and often drive away users who would otherwise convert to a sale.
BlueCheck achieves this balance by combining a sleek, field-tested user interface with a robust verification engine that connects to a network of authoritative databases and credit bureaus. We partner with companies in a wide range of industries and growth stages to provide affordable, reliable online age verification. Learn more about how BlueCheck can help you solve your age verification challenges!