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From Russia with Love – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity? – Part 2

In part 1 of our series, we remember that the Lektor decoder was so valuable to MI6 that they tried to get their hands on it.  It was in fact part of a trap in which a cipher clerk, Tatiana, and Bond would steal the decoder. After it was stolen, SPECTRE came after them in an assassination attempt to get the Lektor and sell it back to the Soviets.

Just like the Lektor is highly valuable and sought after, so are Russian passports, the physical proof one is who they say they are.  Now let’s look at the importance and requirements for Russians to maintain and prove their identity.

Once a Russian citizen reaches the age of fourteen, the citizen then is required by law to carry an internal passport which is issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Russian Federation. These passports are only issued to Russian citizens. These passports are very similar to travel documents issued to Russian citizens; however, the internal passport will have no Latin lettering anywhere in the passport – it is only meant to be used within the Russian Federation and is not a valid document to travel outside of the country. Inside of the internal passport, Russians have all of the necessary information which follows them through the rest of their lives. Passports are meant to be updated at all important life events.

The first page of the document states the name, sex, date and place of birth of the citizen. Following this, there are pages which document required information about each Russian citizen. Russian citizens are required to register themselves in the place that the live. This registration is maintained within the internal passport. After the age of 18, males are required to serve military service or receive a deferment for study – this information is also included in the internal passport. If a citizen is married, the registration of their marriage is located within the passport. If a citizen has children under the age of fourteen, their identities are registered within their parenrussia-nesting-2ts’ passports. Within the internal passport, citizens also keep their driver’s license and any other documents required within the Russian Federation – these would vary based on the person’s profession, age, or special talents.

On the eighteenth page of the internal passport, information is found about the citizen’s blood type and tax identification number.

Internal passports must be renewed at certain points in the life of a citizen in the Russian Federation. The first required renewal is at age twenty. After that, the passport must be renewed again at age forty-five. After the age of forty-five, the internal passport is good for the rest of the life of the citizen

Citizens of the Russian Federation who serve in the armed forces are given additional information in their passport that register their military service history as well as the place of their service.

Citizens of the Russian Federation who enroll in higher education usually enroll at the age of seventeen or eighteen, after their graduation from secondary school. Upon enrolling in a institute of higher learning, a student is issued another form of identification meant to be used in conjunction with their internal passport – this is called a “Student Ticket” or студенческий билет. This document is meant to be used on campus for student privileges around facilities on campus such as libraries, sports facilities, and cafeterias. Most universities in Russia operate on a closed-campus system; in order to enter the dormitories, students are usually given a separate piece of identification called a “Permission” пропуск which must be displayed with the Stufrom russia with lovedent Ticket in order to enter dormitories or classroom buildings on campus. The Student Ticket is also used by university students around town to receive student discounts on services like public transportation or for discounted entry into museums and movie theatres. Each year of a student’s studies, the Student Ticket is updated to show the year that the student is enrolled. This is done by the leader of the department affixing his or her signature and a stamp from the university on one page of the Student Ticket. The other page of the Student Ticket gives a photo of the person and their name.

Russians who travel outside of the Russian Federation are required to have an international or external passport for travel. This passport is very similar to the internal passport in every sense, except that the internal passport does not use biometric information and the internal passport does not have any Latin lettering. The biometric information in the external passport includes fingerprint, handwriting sample, height, weight, eye color and voice. The international passport includes a firstrussia-map-1 page which states the citizen’s name in Cyrillic and Latin lettering as well as the place and date of birth, sex, and passport number – which is different from the internal passport number. These passports are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are also overseen by the Federal Immigration Service. Russian citizens must renew external passports every ten years. The rest of the passport’s pages are blank for visas to foreign nations. Currently, only twenty-eight percent of Russians have an external passport according to TheVillage.ru.

As you can see from the past two posts, Russian identity is complex, even more complex in the digital age.  Let the Global Data Consortium’s Worldview platform be your Lekto decoder to know your customers.

 

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From Russia with Love – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity? – Part 1

The 1963 James Bond action thriller, “From Russia with Love”, starring Sean Connery, see Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE.  The Lektor decoder, at it was called, was a highLektor decoderly sought after decoding machine, used by Soviet Intelligence to de-compile coded and highly sensitive documents.

Decrypting a Russian name can be highly complex and sought after as well, especially in the electronic identity space.  Let’s examine exactly how and what is in a Russian name – one of the verifiable attributes of a digital identity.

A Russian begins to acquire an identity before he or she is ever born. The first element of a Russian’s identity is his or her name – two parts of the name are determined before the Russian is even born. First there is the family name (фамилия) which is taken from the father. At marriage, Russian women take their husband’s last name. The last name, if it is a Russian last name, is changed to show gender. Russian male last names ending in -skij (ский) will change to -skaya (ская) for a woman. Russian last names ending in a consonant for men will add an a or ya (а/я) to show the female version of the name. If a family name is not Russian (Jewish, Estonian, German, Latvian, etc.) then the last name will not changeThe second part of a Russian’s name determined before birth is the middle name or patronymic (отчество) this name is also derived from the father and translates as son of or daughter of. All Russians who share the same father will have the same patronymic, again changed to show gender. This name is derived from the father’s name with the addition of a suffix -ovich/evich (ович/евич) for sons and –ovna/evna (овна/евна) for girls.

The first name that a Russian gets is chosen entirely by the parents or family and can show particular traditions within a family. For example, if a family is very religious, they may choose to name their child after the saint for that day on the Russian Orthodox calendar. Russians may also name the child after significant family members, writers, people of renown in Russian culture, or after favorite russian nesting doll musicians. Some Russians who are more western choose to give their children more European names like Rutger or Margarita. From the first name, many diminutive or nicknames can be formed. These are usually only used within family or friend groups. Male and female names that have the same roots will form the same diminutives. For example, a man named Evgenij (Евгений) and a woman named Evgeniya (Евгения) will both have the same basic diminutive of Zhenya (Женя). This name can then be further diminutivized by adding further suffixes and creating names like Zhenochka (Женочка).

The Global Data Consortium’s Worldview platform has one of the most unique and privileged access solutions to identify Russian individuals.  As with the Lektor decoder, it can be one of the most sought after solutions to help fight fraud in the international digital world.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of our series – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity?

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Singapore: “Chili Crab” or ID?

The island nation of Singapore is known for many things.  Specifically, it is a “melting pot” of sorts including a mixture of cultures, languages, alphabets and nationalities. The city state is known for its cuisine, especially for its famous dish, the “chili crab.” Just like the food, the people are a fusion of all who come to reside there – Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and the list goes on.  One thing is for certain, the needs for identity verification are as dynamic and diverse as the cultures.  For those of you looking for the best places for “chili crab” in Singapore you can look here.

Chili Crab

Chili Crab

First, let’s take the Singapore national ID card.  The ID card represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents individual’s identity attributes.  Document validation, to verify identity, will tell you accurately that the format is correct (but not necessarily verified).  When a National ID/Passport scan or image is sent to the Document Validation provider they perform an automated analysis checking the validity of the information on the document ensuring the information makes sense and goes together, and that none of the images or data is forged. A Document Validation service provider may check the following data points:

  • Full Name
  • Nationality
  • Date of Birth
  • Photo
  • Gender
  • Document Expiration Date
  • Passport MRZ (Machine Readable Zone – two 44 character rows that convey the data on the Passport)
  • In the case of Singapore, the national ID includes elements very like a passport given the nature of the multicultural country.
  • Full Name – English then Native
  • Race – Example Chinese
  • Birth Date
  • Country of Birth – China, Singapore

Document Validation providers may also check characteristics of a document to ensure it has not been forged or altered.   This can include checking the background print, micro text, whether the document photo has been replaced, whether the fonts used are consistent and correct, and other authenticity checks.  These checks generally require manual review and often supplement automatic checks of the document data points.

However, verifying the data associated with a National ID against trusted sources is a different matter. For example, let’s look at one of the elements on the National Registration Identity Card – race. Surprisingly, Singapore allows TWO RACES in accordance with their race diversity disclosures.  

Front

Front

This is called “double-barreling” which applies to all babies born as of January 1st, 2011.  The ID card represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents race.

Here’s how it works.  Your race must be a logical combo of your mom’s and dad’s races. e.g. Malay-German or Malay-Caucasian. The race in front is regarded as the dominant one e.g. in the above example, “Malay” is the dominant race.  All siblings from the same parents must have the same race, if the kid gets married to someone else of mixed parentage, only the dominant race counts for both.

Next, let’s examine the card and how it represents the melding of peoples in the way it represents names. If you are of origin in another country – perhaps China, but have a Latin English name you will see both the English name and the Chinese name listed on the card in the order – English to Chinese. In other cases, the name may only be the traditional Chinese name, and it can vary and exposes a challenge of using only document verification.  

Name and race are two examples of the challenges of validating identity using document checks without electronic identity verification.

 The best solution is to combine document validation/authentication (Doc check) and electronic identity verification (eIDV).  This both checks the characteristics of the document and the accuracy of the data on it.  Combining Doc check with eIDV check for countries like Singapore will allow you to accurately and correctly verify one’s identity.  

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An Update on What We’re Doing at GDC (Hint: lots of global electronic identity verification)

Dear Friends,

You will notice some recent changes to the GDC website, and more are on the way. Let me explain what’s going on.

Two years ago we saw an opportunity to extend the Global Data Consortium model to electronic identity verification. This is where companies use independent reference data to instantly verify the identities of their customers. Think of opening an online bank account. Your bank is required to verify that you are who you say are before you can start moving money around. They want to do this as quickly as possible as you go through the registration process, otherwise you might lose interest and move on. Yes, we live in an instant gratification world!

We had a hypothesis that GDC could take the model we proved with global address hygiene- negotiating over 50 partnerships worldwide and building the technology to access all this distributed data in real-time – and apply it to identity information. And in true agile startup fashion, we started a customer discovery process to validate our assumptions. In talking with dozens of people across a range of industries, this is what we heard:

1. It’s not just banks! FinTech, eCommerce marketplaces, the sharing economy, social networks (I could go on) all want faster ways to verify identities as they move into new country markets.

2. All these companies are generally unhappy with the options available for global electronic identity verification today. This leaves them using document authentication services, which are too slow, create friction with customers, and cost too much.

3. They want a solution that gives them one point of access to as many countries as possible. (Many had tried building a similar technology in-house but failed. It was too hard!)

The feedback was enough for GDC to build a simple solution and put it quickly into beta mode. With just seven countries to offer, we found several early-adopters and two key strategic partners. They each used the product hard and gave us tons of critical feedback. We iterated, working out the kinks and proving out the technology and the economics one step at a time.

GDC is now over a year past that beta launch, and it’s time to show the world what we have to offer. I couldn’t be more excited.

We have already expanded the platform from seven to 19 countries, integrating services from over 45 data partners along the way. And we are only accelerating from here, gearing up to pass 50 countries (135 data partner integrations) by the end of next year. We are serious about becoming the one point for the market to access global electronic identity verification services.

So checkout our revised website. In the coming weeks we are adding more content to describe our services in each country, and we will be adding new countries.

www.globaldataconsortium.com

If you need help with global electronic identity verification, reach out to me and let’s talk about what GDC can do for you.

Also, if you are a data provider in a country we don’t yet offer, we would love to learn more about your services and consider adding you to the GDC platform as a Consortium partner.

Best,

Bill

bill@globaldataconsortium.com

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Spotlight on Brazil and Electronic Identity Verification

Next month the eyes of the world will once again be on Brazil, this time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Despite all its recent turmoil  – the trifecta of political, economic and health issues – I’m optimistic that Brazil will put on a fun and safe show for us all. More importantly, I’m optimistic about the country’s overall prospects.

The turmoil has kept many companies away from Brazil. But over the long run, businesses with ambitions in Latin American will have no choice but invest there. It is, after all, the world’s sixth largest country by population and seventh largest economy by GDP. Ignore it during this short-term instability, and you might lose your chance to participate in the long run.

The big eCommerce marketplaces recognize this. The financial press prints story after story of Alibaba, Rakuten, Amazon, Mercado Libre and others investing heavily in Brazil. Why do this in the face of the country’s current instability? Because competition among them is brutal. If any of them cedes market share today, competitors will be all too happy to take over relationships with their sellers and buyers.

GDC got the chance to see this competition firsthand earlier this year. We launched a Brazil electronic identity verification service to help eCommerce marketplaces onboard sellers quickly.

Verifying the identities of merchants before they can begin selling goods on marketplaces has become common practice in the industry. Without it, bad actors are quick to infiltrate a marketplace with counterfeit goods and other forms of fraud. Using identity verification – asking the seller to provide information proving he is who he says he is – stops fraudsters from registering under false pretenses. They never get access to buyers, so fraud goes down and customer satisfaction goes up.

One of the big eCommerce marketplaces recently started using the Brazil electronic identity verification service. Previously, they had a clunky seller onboarding process. It leaned heavily on a manual workflow, used multiple data reference sources, and required new merchants to provide a lot of personal information. For example, applicants had to scan and submit photo ID’s to a document verification service as part of the process. The whole thing was time-consuming, inconvenient for sellers, and expensive for the client to maintain. Worst yet, they were losing sellers. The friction of onboarding had legitimate merchants abandoning their registrations before they could be approved.

GDC was glad to help. Our Brazil electronic identity verification service consolidated their entire process into a single registration form. When a seller submitted his name, address and national tax ID, a single API call to our platform queried multiple sources of credit, government, commercial and consumer identity reference data from our in-country Brazilian partners. The various sources cover over 95 percent of Brazil’s addressable adult population, and we were able to help our client match and approve nearly 75 percent of all applications within seconds.

We streamlined their process, limited the need for manual intervention in the workflow, and reduced their dependence on document verification and multiple data services. Most importantly, we got rid of the friction that had so many sellers abandon the registration process.

This is what GDC does both in Brazil and in the many other countries integrated into our global electronic identity verification platform. We give you one point of access to instantly verify the identities of customers, partners or counterparties no matter their country of origin. We help you bring in the good customers quickly while weeding out the bad ones.

If your business is expanding into Brazil, and you need help with verifying the identities of your customers, let’s talk. In the meantime, enjoy the Olympic show Brazil has prepared for the world.

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Paul

Paul Dryden
Global Data Consortium
paul@globaldataconsortium.com

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The Patagonian Express- Connecting Latin America Then & Now

I recently reread Paul Theroux’s book The Old Patagonian Express. His book details his journey by train from the suburbs of Boston to the tip end of Argentina by rail. Yes, one can truly travel the length of North, Central and South America by relatively contiguous passenger rail service. The first time I read this book was over 30 years ago when I was in high school. Now rereading it after having traveled extensively and establishing partnerships with companies throughout Latin America I have a greater appreciation for Theroux’s experiences captured in this body of work.

The Americas are full of rich and diverse cultures. In the age of the Internet these cultures have become more connected and accessible. eCommerce platforms such as Linio and Mercado Libre are thriving on the continued growth of consumer access to the Internet. At our company we have seen an intense interest in helping many companies validate and verify consumers and businesses in Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Argentina. Age Verification to restrict minors from making inappropriate purchases online, Seller Verification to help ecommerce marketplaces ensure the quality of products offered on their platforms and Customer Identity checks for Fintech companies needing to complete AML/Compliance checks. All of these are services needed on a country by country basis.

An example of the robust nature of some of our data is in Mexico where GDC is able to offer coverage for about 96% of the population. What this means is that we cover the people in most of the major cities and population centers. We do not likely have significant coverage in Papaloapan or Tapachula which is located in the southern border region of Mexico. Those regions are slowly but steadily joining the rest of their brothers and sisters with access to the Internet but it will take more time to see them fully represented.

As I read about Theroux’s journey through the jungles of Mexico and the pampas plains of Argentina I marveled at where our paths crossed in the major cities of the Americas. I haven’t traveled by train in Latin America but I have experienced some of the same cultures as he did during his journey. Engaging with business owners in each country served to broaden my understanding of what the challenges are to produce a good ID Check and why the same data inputs captured in the US or Germany would not be the same type of needed data input in Columbia or Ecuador. Understanding that diversity in cultures is what makes my company unique in our community of vendors. More importantly our network of in country data providers understand the diversity of cultures that are resident in their respective countries and regions.

In Identity Verification, one size does not fit all. Different countries allow for the verification of different elements of a consumer and a business’s key details. Knowing the required data inputs to create a good match for a desired output ID is a key function of what we help provide at GDC. Whether it is producing a NAP (Name, Address, Phone) match or doing a CURP or other National ID verification, GDC can help. Helping an eCommerce or Fintech company reduce the amount of paper documentation needed to conduct seller verification is something the GDC Worldview platform can do in a real-time or batch-based process.

Now is Carnival season in the South. Celebrations are being had and people are visiting their lineage homes to celebrate with family and friends. I imagine Theroux’s trains are crowded with passengers taking the journey North and South on the Patagonian Express. I also imagine many of them are using mobile phones to connect with friends and family and to conduct commerce transactions as they roll through the night.

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GDC Integrates New Russia Address Partner into Worldview

This week GDC announces the newest member of the consortium, a Moscow-based data business that specializes as Russia’s best in-country source for address data.

 

Let’s call a spade a spade: This one was tough. It was tough to identify the right Russian partner. It was tough to “lean in” to a Russian solution during a time of uncertainty when so many eCommerce businesses are avoiding that market. And it was tough to work through the technical aspects of making the best in-country Russian solution work for a client base that knows very little about Cyrillic-based alphabets.

 

After a few months of working through these challenges, we now see why other global address services have struggled so much to offer a quality Russian solution!

 

But that’s what makes this Russian address solution such a valuable addition to the consortium. Through rigorous analysis and testing, the GDC team has verified that this new partner offers true benefits. Its combination of wide geographic coverage, extensive data records, and sophisticated business logic provides a superior source of “lift” over what you can get from any of the global generic address solutions.

 

In the end, the “tough” is worth it. We can provide our Worldview customers with address information they simply haven’t been able to access before. In the process, we are helping open up Russia to eCommerce merchants, platform companies and delivery services that previously saw these same obstacles and couldn’t find a way around them.

 

With Russia fully integrated into Worldview, we now offer best available address services with localized intelligence for 35 countries (see the list here) in addition to the full global service from our postal-based generic address partners. We continue expanding with up to three new local providers each month.

 

Let’s consider briefly what that Russian opportunity represents for eCommerce, then we’ll highlight the specific challenges of transliteration, and finally we’ll share a little more about this partner and why we chose them.

 

The Russia Opportunity for eCommerce

 

There’s something about companies that lean in to promising growth opportunities even when the headwinds are strong. They take on some risks, sure, but if everyone else goes away than they also stand to make all the gains.

 

We’ve been seeing elements of this in Russia over the past year. There’s no question the country has promising growth prospects for cross-border commerce. According the The Paypers, Russians buy over US$16.5 billion in eCommerce goods each year, and that amount is compounding at nearly 20 percent year over year 1. Yet with all the uncertainty there (slide in oil prices, rampant inflation, military action in Ukraine and pockets of civil unrest), many Western companies have pulled back investments. They haven’t had the appetite for all the near-term risk.

 

But other companies have taken the lean-in approach, doubling down in Russia because they believe the opportunities there trump today’s risk. A recent report by China Securities Journal says that eCommerce firms like Alibaba and Taobao have taken advantage of Western firms pulling back to grab 70% of Russia’s annual US$3.5 billion cross-border spend. 2
As Russia stabilizes, will it be too late to win back market share from the Chinese eCommerce giants? For the companies now pulling back, the long-term risk seems to be missing out on the chance to build deep relationships with Russian consumers. One you concede that, it can be very hard to get it back.

 

The company OZON.ru gets the lean-in mentality better than most. Under the guidance of its French CEO, Maelle Gavet, OZON has been relentless about grabbing market share in Russia. Guided by her belief that the country will ultimately have one hegemonic eCommerce platform (like Amazon in the US, Alibaba in China or Mercado Libre in Latin America), Gavet has consistently invested for aggressive growth irrespective of Russia’s economic climate. While Amazon and eBay have dabbled a bit when the business cycle was at its best (but retrenched as the economy soured), OZON keeps plowing capital into inventory, warehouses, payment systems and its own courier service for distribution. 3

 

For Western eCommerce businesses to have a chance in Russia – be they platforms, individual merchants or all players in between – they have to find ways to invest now. Even as conditions seem so volatile for cross-border trade.

 

GDC has taken a lean-in approach to Russia. To help our clients gain a toehold in this important market, we’ve invested both in this address partner and in the technology necessary to support complex transliteration from Latin script alphabets to Cyrillic. We’ll turn now to a brief overview of that challenge and how it allows us to fill the gaps in Russian coverage left by the major global generic address systems.

 

The Challenge of Cyrillic

 

The transliteration and transcription challenges are tough, and that’s a dirty secret global address solutions don’t like to talk about.

 

It’s hard enough to move among all the languages that use the Latin script alphabets, but at least the letters stay the same. The bulk of the work is in creating ways to cross-walk, for example, the English word “street” to the German word “strasse.” You create the transcription elements, you program rules to cover the occasional diacritics issue, and then you fine-tune the logic to make sure the output presents in the ways locals expect to see it. That’s oversimplifying, of course, but it captures the basic idea. When you run into problems, it’s pretty easy to find solutions.

 

But when you’re dealing in different alphabets, the challenges are compounded. You can’t even transcribe until you’ve transliterated. For example, when someone inputs the Latin version of “Moscow,” you have to transcribe it to “Moskva” and then transliterate it from Latin to the Cyrillic script. The same is true for all elements of the address like the country names in the Russian Federation, the region names, the cities and villages, and all the streets. Now add to that abbreviations, short-hand and common misspellings.

 

There’s a lot to account for going from Latin to Cyrillic and back again, and it’s anything but a precise science. But if you’re creating an address intelligence service for clients looking to expand their business into Russia, you must invest in doing this.

 

Again, it’s tough. But Russia is an important trade lane and presents a lot of growth opportunity for eCommerce. Our Worldview clients have told us they want it, and so we’ve leaned in, making the investment both in finding the right Russian in-country partner and in developing a transliteration engine to move the addresses smoothly between Latin and Cyrillic.

 

About Our Russian Partner

 

Finally, a little about our Russian partner. While we provide our clients with access to generic global address verification through our Worldview API, we recognize the significant gaps in these generic services. So our model is to go into key countries, identify companies that provide best available address intelligence for those markets, and test the in-country providers against the generics. If the in-country providers demonstrate significant “lift” over the generics, we start the process of making them available through Worldview.

 

Country by country, we are filling in the gaps left by generic services. As we mentioned before, we have 35 best in-country partners now, and are expanding that number by integrating three new countries a month.

 

We found our Russian partner after a lot of searching. The company has spent over 10 years building and refining their data sets and business logic, and they has earned the trust of Russia’s largest companies in banking, insurance and retail. When they need to send parcels or critical documents to Russian businesses or homes, they first verify their addresses through this service.

 

They offer wider coverage of Russia than the generics, both in terms of geography and population. They pull data from a wide range of sources, spreading beyond postal and mapping data used by most generics. They offer sophisticated business logic for verifying and enriching Russian addresses. And they refresh the data frequently to ensure it’s as up to date as possible.

 

Most importantly, they offer that “lift” over generic services when it comes to Russian addresses, qualifying them to be part of Worldview.

 

So, we welcome our new Russian partner into the Global Data Consortium. We’re excited to open up access to Russia for Worldview customers. And if you’re looking for help in Russia, or any other country in our global platform, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Accessing the World’s Best Identity Data through One Source

Next week I’ll be at MRC Vegas, the big annual meeting for Merchant Risk Council. It’s a trade group for eCommerce payment and risk professionals, and everyone will be talking about how to grow their international business while minimizing the impact of fraud.

Fraud prevention and global identity verification data go hand-in-hand. But that debate has long been defined by this “either-or” mindset. EITHER you choose the best data to power your fraud prevention efforts (but you have to find all these specialized providers, do the hard work of integration, spend a bunch of money, etc.) OR you choose a single point of access that rolls a bunch of data together and gives you a single vendor to manage (but you get poorer data and it’s not updated very often).

“Either-or” has been the only option for a long time. But now there’s the option to have the best data from many different sources AND access it through one system. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

More on that in a moment.

Talk With a Global Identity Data Expert at MRC Vegas 2015

First things first. It’s easier than ever to integrate with local sources for identity information and to use it to improve your fraud mitigation efforts. If this subject interests you, and you’re going to be in Vegas next week for the conference, let’s talk.

Shoot a quick note to bill@globaldataconsortium.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Now, here are some of my thoughts on ways every eCommerce business should be considering locally-sourced identity data to help with fraud.

Fear of Fraud is Slowing Your Growth

Fraud is no small problem for eCommerce. Cross-border trade represents all this growth potential. Countries like Mexico, Brazil and Turkey and regions like Eastern Europe have this tremendous appetite for online buying (each fueled by an exploding middle-class with newfound disposable income). But shipping across borders presents real risks that start with this very fundamental question…

Is that person trying to buy your merchandise really a customer, or is he a thief?

The growth opportunity is exciting, but when you don’t see the actual credit card (CNP or Card Not Present) the problem of fraud is very real.

There are a lot of tools out there to help merchants figure out this question. Silicon Valley seems to launch bigger-better-faster fraud prevention startups every day. But it all must start with determining whether that customer on the other end of a computer (or, as is more often the case, tablet or smartphone) is a legitimate person or not.

Solving the problem of fraud in cross-border eCommerce starts with identity verification.

The Best Sources for Identity Data are Local Providers

The best sources for identity data are local providers, experts in their own markets who know the nuances of their home countries better than anyone else and who are committed to keeping data constantly up-to-date.

Take Mexico, for example, where the combination of paternal and maternal last names are used in the performance of an identity check. And where there are multiple identity numbers in use (RFC, IMSS and CURP). The Global Data Consortium partners in Mexico supply 361 million unique records that provide identity verification (some combination of name, national identity number, address, date of birth and more) for 110 million individuals.

It’s an enormous amount of identity data, maintained by businesses that use it for identity verification purposes within Mexico, and that invest in it by adding new data and continuously refreshing what they have.

Mexico is only one example to highlight these points: Local sources have more complete data to share, they update it more frequently and they bring to bear their local expertise to help you understand important nuances like the differences in RFC versus IMSS versus CURP.

The Problem with Accessing Local Data

The problem with accessing local data is that jurisdictional issues around privacy laws mean each country tends to put strict controls over who can do what with identity data. So the best sources are almost never global services where the data is shipped across borders and aggregated onto a big server. Most governments don’t like this data leaving their countries.

So what you want to do integrate with the in-country data of local providers via the cloud where an API call accesses the data on the local source’s servers. This gives end users exposure to more data because governments and IP owners feel more comfortable when the data never leaves the country of origin.

Of course this sort of cloud-based integration isn’t easy to do. For most eCommerce businesses, there are simply too many complexities based on communicating in different languages, surmounting legal issues, development costs to build and maintain access to various systems, and all sorts of payment headaches.

And so the “either-or” mindset kicks in. Many of the eCommerce companies decide instead to rely on aggregators of global identity data, services that bring together a lot of information but require their clients to sacrifice quality for convenience. They provide one point of access for a lot of data, but they fall far short of the standards set by in-country local sources.

Going Beyond the “Either-Or” Mindset

So here’s the question I’m testing next week at MRC Vegas…

What if you could have both?

What if you could have the best available local identity data and get it through one point of access?

That’s what we’ve done with our Worldview system. It provides:

API Management. With one point of integration –to Worldview – you get full access to the world’s best local identity providers without the development costs or headaches.

Legal + Compliance. GDC complies with the EU-US Safe Harbor Framework to protect personal data. We vet our data partners through rigorous legal and compliance checks so you don’t have to.

One Language. There are 6,500 spoken languages in the world. GDC talks with identity data partners in many of them. But you only need to know one to access their data through Worldview.

One Place to Pay. Vendor management is complex when dealing across languages, borders and currencies. GDC simplifies that for you: one payment in one currency when using Worldview.

When you go global, going local can help you reduce fraud and improve your view on who your real customers are. Get a local view on your global transactions. Try Worldview.

Is this important to your business? If so, let’s connect next week in Vegas.

Manual Fraud Review and International Transactions

From the casual eBay seller to the largest ecommerce vendor, the threat of fraud is real. When certain transactions raise flags, online sellers want to verify the identity or address of a customer before shipping their goods. This process is often referred to as a “Manual Review.”

The objective of a manual review is to verify the identity of a customer that has placed an order. Seems easy right? Plug an address into Google Maps. Search the name and find social media accounts, and address records. Although critical, without the proper tools these reviews can be tedious and uncertain.

The process quickly becomes even more complicated when shipping international or if you are operating in a country where the data to perform a verification is difficult to acquire. Did your customer service representative spell their name correctly? Was a deliverable address provided? Does the name provided match the address, sales tax ID number, phone, and email records?

In order to scale today’s omnichannel retailer, needs more than employees and a search engine for manual review. What most teams push for is an international reverse look-up that can operate as a real-time web service to check and score transactions as they occur, the ability to submit batches of records for verification, and the ability to do one-off look-ups.

Identity and address verification platforms with access to international reference data from in-country providers such as Worldview, offer manual review teams a compliment to existing processes and tools where simplicity or global coverage is desired. Having confidence in the reliability of an address of ID check can be the difference between sending expensive merchandise to a fraudster with an online profile and PO Box or catching the fraud before it happens.

Fraud cost retailers an estimated $9 Billion last year. The average fraudulent transaction was worth $219. On average, retailers incur costs of $2.70 per $1 in fraud. For a fraction of the cost, manual review teams leveraging platforms like Worldview, can help open new international markets, prevent fraud, and boost bottom lines.