It’s no mystery that more and more of our everyday lives are moving online. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay, buying groceries, or finding a date, it’s hard to overstate how integral online platforms have become to enable these types of common interactions. And the speed of this transition has accelerated over the last two years as businesses have gone digital to cope with an unprecedented pandemic.
While the last several years have been pivotal years in the digital transformation, it’s also come with unintended consequences. Peer-to-peer fraud, such as catfishing, increased to record breaking proportions in the last two years, and financial losses due to romance scams increased 50% year-over-year in 2020. Documentaries like the Tinder Swindler demonstrated how easily scammers can leverage online services to expand their footprint and increase the damage they can perform. As our lives continue to move online, we grow more vulnerable to potential scammers.
Scammers rely on their ability to hide their identity and assume the identity of others. Online platforms are anonymous by default, and that anonymity makes this process relatively simple for scammers. Whether they're claiming to be a down-on-his-luck prince who just needs a few extra dollars to access his inheritance or a German heiress who is deserving of substantial investment, the key to a successful scam is ensuring that the person on the other side of the screen doesn't know the truth about their actual identity.
Businesses have an incredible suite of tools at their disposal to gain a better understanding of a person’s legitimate identity. Tools like phone verification, credit checks, SSN traces or ID checks are often used by companies to reduce anonymity. Tools like Berbix’s ID check software are leveraged by businesses to increase the trustworthiness of their users and create walled gardens of safety, to great effect.
While these tools exist and are available for the purposes of protecting users, they’re inconsistently applied across online services. There may be many reasons that a company might not introduce these measures, like misalignment of incentives, lack of prioritization, or fear of damaging growth. But the people who pay the price of an unprotected service are often the users who are exposed to potential fraudsters, and historically there are limited tools available for consumers to protect themselves. The act of researching a person’s digital footprint ahead of an offline meeting, or “Facebook stalking,” is unfortunately a common and expected requirement for the use of platforms that have failed to properly protect their users.
Our mission at Berbix is to make the world safer by making identity part of the infrastructure of the internet. But until today, our impact was limited by the willingness of platforms to integrate our technology into their product. To help all individuals have more confidence when moving online interactions to real life, we’re launching BerbixMe.
Starting today, BerbixMe is available to all consumers in the United States for free. This new tool allows users to create a profile and instantly confirm their identity through a seamless verification process. An individual's profile can be securely shared between two users, giving those meeting potential roommates, an online date, and more the peace of mind that the person they're meeting offline is who they said they were online. By default, users can only see someone's profile data once both parties have accepted the connection request. We believe that these connections are key to feeling secure when meeting new people offline.
Each BerbixMe user is in control of the data that their connections can view, and are able to hide specific information like age or last name. Users can also specify how long their data is stored in Berbix, so you won't have to compromise your identity to increase trust. And Berbix will never share your data without your explicit consent.
Here's how to get started:
- Navigate to BerbixMe to get started
- Verify your phone number
- If we’ve never seen you before, tell us how long you want us to store your data
- Verify your ID with a scan of the front and back of your ID
- Verify that you’re using your own ID by taking a selfie
- Tell us what information you’re comfortable sharing with your connections
- Create and share links with people you’d like to connect with
This new approach to securely exchanging identity information will allow consumers to take control of their own experiences online to increase trust in offline interactions.