/Preventing online crime through address verification system
Fintech sector is reaping from COVID-19, By Rarzack Olaegbe

Preventing online crime through address verification system

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RARZACK OLAEGBE writes on how to prevent crime through address verification system

Nigerian banks, lendtech and other institutions in the financial ecosystem have created measures to get intimate with their customers. One of such instruments is Know Your Customer or KYC. The banks, lendtech and paytech organisations do this in order to understand their customers better. Knowing the customers is also an important part of the banks’ anti-money laundering [AML] processes. Verifying the identity of each customer is crucial not only because it helps to build mutual trust between the parties. It works to prevent online crime and customers assets.

There are the two important aspects in software quality management. These are verification and validation. While verification clears the doubt whether the software is done in the correct way; validation tests if the right software is being produced. In other words, verification signifies accuracy. Validation specifies the value of the final product. This is not limited to the financial institutions and software industries only. Other industries have ways of verifying and validating processes in order to ascertain quality and fidelity. One of such industries is the courier industry through the post office.

Through the process of validation, the Nigeria Postal Office [NIPOST] is implementing address verification system [AVS] to solve Nigeria’s unique address challenges.  The address verification system would, among other benefits, prevent the perpetration of online crime and promote the patronage of electronic commerce, as it will make it less cumbersome to deliver goods bought online to any physical address in Nigeria at any time.

Besides, the address verification system solution under the management of NIPOST will also, create a centralised and up-to-date database of physical addresses as well as the details of occupants in order to bridge the gap in data verification. The management of NIPOST has built on a highly secure and reliable platform powered by YouVerify, the Village Capital PayPal Fintech Accelerator.

Overall, the AVS platform will be instrumental in the improvement of the national security infrastructure by creating a centralised and up-to-date database of physical addresses and details of their occupants.

The solution won the seventh annual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) prizes contest 2018. The new initiative from NIPOST is available at https://verify.nipost.gov.ng. To use it, you can register as an on-field verification or business partner. An account will be provided for you and you can logon at https://avs.nipost.gov.ng portal. According to information from the Post Master General of NIPOST, user can upload details such as name, address, picture etc and these will be sent to a field agent closest to the point of verification, using the Uber model.

Once the assigned agent is contacted, the house address will be visited. The goal is to verify and validate that the address exists. The agent will speak with neighbours in the street for authentication. The agent will then fill the feedback notes on the app. To avoid false reports, Geotagging has been integrated into the app. With this feature, the agent is required to tag the verified location within a distance of at least 20 metres. If this is not done, the report will be red-flagged. Aside from this, the agent is required to take a picture of the location, sign it electronically before uploading it.

Knowing that agent may have to visit areas with poor internet network service, the app has been designed to work offline. It is designed to allow the agents to sign in, Geo-tag and take pictures off-line. It will then synchronise as soon as it is connected to an internet network.

Overall, the AVS platform will be instrumental in the improvement of the national security infrastructure by creating a centralised and up-to-date database of physical addresses and details of their occupants. It also has the capacity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a commercially sustainable manner, as field agents.

Validating addresses at the beginning of the process is a major benefit to both e-commerce providers and financial institutions.

All over the world, address verification system faces the same challenge. For instance, roads and street change their names. For instance, Kingsway Road in Ikoyi has been changed to Alfred Rewane Road as well as Matori Road in Mushin which is now Fatai Atere Road. This may lead to varying designations. The numbers may not run logically, as it is the case in Lagos and other states in Nigeria.

According to research, errors are possible when entering information. Wrong numbers, spelling mistakes will lead to verification issues. In rural Ireland, 35% of premises have non-unique addresses. In Hong Kong, there are no official address systems. There are no postal codes or street names, instead, they have building names, floors and levels to describe where they live.

For many people, the concept of street and addresses don’t really apply. Many roads do not have set names, let alone numbers. This is problematic for online commerce and identification. For shipping, while locals might know how to get a package to the person, e-commerce providers are working in the dark.

Validating addresses at the beginning of the process is a major benefit to both e-commerce providers and financial institutions. The NIPOST project will save the e-commerce sites expenses of reshipping or slow delivery. For the banks and lendtech, address validation offers another powerful data point to fight fraud and improve KYC information.

*Olaegbe (psalmsonolaegbe@gmail.com)