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Verification, Validation and Collection are common terms but are used to mean very different things. Here we clarify how we use them.
There are 3 main terms that are used in the address verification process:
The form or process where you collect the address information from the user.
The services or process where you verify that the address information has a valid structure.
The act of verifying that a user actually stays at their address.
Many service providers will help collect address information. In reality, a simple form can do this. The collection is sometimes enriched with a GPS pin on a map and on occasion with an image or text description as well. This is enough to use for ecommerce and logistics.
There are a few available address validation services that will check that an address is structured correctly. These typically check for a street number and name, suburb, city, province, country and area code. Some check that the cities, countries, and area codes actually exist and are spelt correctly. But they do require a ubiquitous addressing system where every house has a street name and number which is often not the case in rural areas or developing countries.
Many services that are only doing "validation" call themselves "verification" services. This can get quite confusing and requires you to look at the offering in more detail.
There is a very limited set of service providers that actually do address verification to ensure a specific user lives at a specific address. Connecting digital profiles of users to physical locations in the real world is the most valuable activity as this link can help combat fraud by proving that the profile is linked to a person in the real world.
This is primarily done in 3 ways:
- 1.📄 Document upload As it says on the box, there are some services that will allow users to manually upload a document as a proof of address. (Traditionally done by posting you a letter.) This may be a utility bill, invoice, or letter from a landlord no older than 90 days. Due to the high variance in formatting and layout it is often not suitable to be done via API and OCR and is often required that these documents are reviewed by a human to check they are correct. This process is highly susceptible to forgery and fraud, particularly in underdeveloped markets. It also does not work in informal markets or where there isn't adequate address infrastructure.
- 2.🚶🏽♂️ Agent verification In many markets where labour is more affordable and reliability of documents is low, it is often feasible to send an agent to the address to verify that the person actually lives there. This process does significantly decrease fraud but is time consuming and expensive due to real world transport costs. Large providers with many agents can typically deliver this within 2-3 days in urban centres. These providers often claim to be a "digital" solution as you can integrate via an API - but the verification is still very much manual.
- 3.📱 Digital location verification Fully-digital address verification leverages location data connected to a user to verify that the user actually frequents the location. For accuracy, this is tracked over a period of time to provide certainty that the person actually stays there and is not just visiting. The benefits of this are that once a user has provided location permissions it is processed entirely in the background with no further interactions from them. The value of using geofences is that you don't record the user's locations when they're not near the location which helps with data privacy.
OkHi is fully digital
Digital Address verification is the rarest offering and as of 2023 OkHi is the only provider offering this in Africa. We assess the user bahavior over periods of time to calculate patterns of how much time they spend at their location.