Imagine a future of making purchases without a debit or credit card and using only what nature gave you to complete all of your banking, communication, shopping and travel needs. Well, the future is now, and the answer is biometrics.

Biometrics, or biometry, is the practice of digitally scanning the physiological or behavioral characteristics of individuals as a means of identification. Each of our bodies is individually distinctive in numerous ways, even if we are identical twins. All of us are born with and possess numerous unique types of biometric identifiers. They can be used in a variety of ways, including:

• Facial recognition: the analysis of facial characteristics.

• Fingerprint scanning: the analysis of individual fingerprints.

• Hand geometry: the analysis of the shape of the hand, finger length.

• Retina scanning: the analysis of the eye’s capillaries.

• Vascular scanning: the analysis of veins in the back of the hand, wrist.

• Voice recognition: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence, frequency of a voice.

Americans believe the daily use of biometrics for routine purchasing and other transactions is far away. But think again, as using our fingerprint in lieu of a computer or phone access code is happening now. For example, with a touch of the home button on the iPhone 5s (along with future iPhones), the touch ID sensor quickly reads your fingerprint and automatically unlocks your phone. In addition, at banks, access to safe-deposit boxes may just require a biometric handprint.

Countries such as Japan, Australia and Mexico and others in South America and Africa are taking advantage of biometric access today, in large part due to regulatory requirements or its popularity with rural consumers who aren’t accustomed to carrying bank cards. Why haven’t more U.S. financial institutions adopted this same biometric technology to combat fraud? The simple answer is cost and privacy concerns.

In the U.S., financial institutions are already set to integrate biometric technology within mass-market banking. However, the cost of replacing approximately 425,000 ATMs is staggering. But I believe that the cost will be more staggering to wait, as the 10 largest banks in the U.S., and some of the largest retailers, including Target and eBay, already have experienced multiple data breaches. Privacy concerns are also impeding biometrics as consumers have shown reluctance about biometric identification. This limits progress for biometric scanning as the primary authentication method for ATM withdrawals.

Of course, no one answer, including biometric prevention, can wipe out ID theft. Biometrics is vulnerable to being “outsmarted” by new technology, false positives, human error or fraud in data entry. But financial institutions, privacy advocates and consumers should take advantage of current technology to employ biometrics as the next generation of security to combat identity theft.

Mark’s most important: Biometric technology goes beyond cards, pin numbers and passcodes to protect against ID theft. Learn more and be open to biometric access because it helps protect you.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft/background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Reach him at

This article was originally published on and republished with the author’s permission.