Nigeria has long had a rather unsavory reputation when it comes to scams, identity theft, and other related crimes, but new initiatives by the country’s government and central bank are working to resolve the financial fraud that’s often been blamed on a lax system of identification.
Using biometrics, which in Nigeria’s case will involve facial photographs, fingerprints, and the issuance of a unique identification number based on that biometric data, the country hopes to alleviate fraud related to falsely using consumers’ bank accounts.
The reaction in Nigeria has been mixed. While officials have imposed a fall 2015 deadline for all citizens who use the central bank for transactions on any kind of accounts, the reports that citizens will now have one more identification paper to carry have some individuals highly upset. Nigerian citizens are reportedly already required to carry an “international passport, Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), Driver’s license, National Identity card, Tax clearance card, and now, the Bank Verification Number (BVN).” This documentation, which will be required for any transaction involving central bank accounts, is seen as another intrusive and expensive initiative that won’t do anything more than the current forms of ID can do.
Nigeria plans to require the new biometric identification for transactions that include applying for a passport, opening a new bank account or credit card, buying insurance or land, voter registration, health care, pensions, and more. One benefit to this shift to biometric identification, though, is the report from the central banking system that more commercial banks are considering conducting business in Nigeria now that there are stronger safeguards coming. This initiative makes them more confident in things like approving business and home loans, since there’s a stronger measure of proof involved in declaring the borrower to be who he says he is.
Biometrics have already been in use in many industries, including the mobile device industry. Smartphone users around the world already have the option to unlock their phones using a stored and recognized fingerprint; unlocking the phone also helps the individual access any installed mobile wallets, the virtual payment system that lets the consumer pay for goods and services through an integrated app. MasterCard has even announced it will soon begin testing biometric PIN numbers in the form of facial recognition software to approve purchases through its mobile wallet app.
One of the chief concerns in any form of biometric identification process isn’t so much the fraudulent use of it as it is the ability to safeguard that data during storage. Any entity that gathers fingerprints and photos of consumers then ties that information to their identities is obligated to protect that data from hackers. Experts have already warned that hacking this type of data is a major area of concern, as it would then allow cybercriminals and scammers to establish new accounts on unsuspecting individuals.