Verify Someone - A Simple Step Towards Safety in an Unsafe World.

19 December 2016

How often have you employed someone to work in your home? A plumber perhaps, or a handyman that needs to spend time in your house while you are away? We often engage the services of people we don't know based on little more than as single telephone conversation.

How often do we meet up with someone to buy an item they've listed on Gumtree or LetGo? Do we know who we're meeting when the only information we have on them is a mobile number and a made up name they used when crating their classifieds profile?

Surely this exposes us to any number of potential risks and in this day and age, there must be something we can do to add a level of protection to us, our families and our possessions. You may have picked up that I'm firing off a ton of rhetorical questions...

I've spent the last four years in the pursuit of true identity verification solutions and what I've learnt is that there is no silver bullet approach to true verification that will confirm beyond doubt that a person is who they say they are. It's a fine art that few have managed to master. That being said, in South Africa at least, it all begins with an ID number.

We all know our ID numbers by heart and we are constantly asked to hand them over to call centre operators, capture forms on transactional websites and even our local doctors office. But how do these organisations know that the ID numbers we dispense so readily are legitimate?

Truth be told, more often than not, they don't and neither do most of the organisations that ask for them. It is for this very reason that ThisIsMe developed the "Verify Someone" section of their Android and iOS mobile apps. This app allows any South African to verify the identity number of an individual free of charge and in real time, thereby drastically reducing the risk of interacting with someone previously unknown.

The process begins by downloading the free application from either the Google Play Store or the AppStore and going through a standard registration process. Once installed, the user of the app is provided with a free ThisIsMe profile in which to store their identity and general profile-related data. Storage is free of charge and backed by Bank-Level security in order to ensure the user's data is protected from prying eyes at all times.

However, should you wish to "Verify Someone" all you need do is enter their mobile number into the app and hit the "Verify" button. The app then sends a verification request to the person you wish to verify via SMS, which reads something along these lines:

“David Thomas would like you to verify yourself. Please reply to this message with your ID number. Trusted verifications provided by ThisIsMe.”

It's a fairly generic message and we will soon be allowing the requestor to customise this with reference options. When the recipient replies, their ID number is automatically checked for authenticity via the Department of Home Affairs database and the details that would normally be displayed on their ID document are presented to the requestor, allowing them the confidence of knowing that they are dealing with a legitimate person that has identified themselves successfully.

Furthermore, the person in question has voluntarily provided their base identity number in the knowledge that it will be used to provide a positive representation of their details to the requestor. This ‘opt-in’ process provides an audit-able trail and is therefore crucial in ensuring that all parties POPI rights are covered.

It is important to note that the recipient's Identity Number is never exposed to the requestor, but their particulars are, which is no different to the individual presenting a legitimate, government-issued Identity Document such as a Green Barcoded ID or a Driver's License.

Should the recipient refuse to provide their Identity Number via trusted Third-Party verification agency such as ThisIsMe, one should consider walking away from the transaction or seeking another artisan/professional to help with the work you need done. After all, the first step in establishing trust is confirming the identity of the person with which you are engaging.

It is this kind of instantly accessible facility that will add the required level of trust to the process and ensure that people are far more accountable from the outset. Make sure the ThisIsMe Mobile App is part of your suite of go-to applications and ensure you deal only with those individuals that are willing to hold themselves accountable.

The world can be a safer place... and it's free to use.

ThisIsMe is South Africa's premiere Identity Verification and Management platform and the only User-controlled Identity Management facility that offers comprehensive identity assurance to bank level standards. David Thomas is a co-founder of ThisIsMe and the Head of Product at the company. All enquiries can be directed to | +27 21 422 3995. |

Back to Blogs