Verifying identity over phone has to go both ways

Tele-fraud is so common nowadays.

At many organisations, customer service officers verify a customer's identity by asking a number of sensitive questions, such as identity card number, name and address.

Very often, when a customer calls, the customer service officers are busy and the customer is prompted to leave his phone number so the call can be returned.

But caller ID numbers can be faked. The customer may not always be able to check online either, as it is easy to create a denial of service attack and intentionally block an online service.

These create conditions for a person to be scammed.

There has to be a change in the standard operating procedures of customer verification from one-way verification to two-way verification.

This can be done easily by having the customer service officer provide a partial answer to the verification question.

For example, the officer can provide the first four characters of the customer's IC number and ask for the last five characters.

Or, in the case of an address, the officer may provide the block number and ask the customer for his unit number.

Perhaps the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority can instruct the banks and telcos to consider such a change.

Tan Keng Boon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Verifying identity over phone has to go both ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe