It’s easy to dismiss the selfie as a trivial pursuit of social-media vanity. However, during this year’s tax season, selfies played an important role in fighting the multibillion-dollar crime wave of online tax return thievery. The state of Alabama is leading this fight with a system that combines selfies with face-recognition technology to thwart tax-return identity thieves, as reported by CNET.
Hackers increasingly are stealing identity information to file tax returns using other people’s names. These criminals profit by pocketing the refunds, which averaged $3,050 per return in fiscal 2016, according to the IRS. Criminals attempted to steal $30 billion using such scams in 2013 alone, the agency said.
To combat this hacking plague, the Alabama Department of Revenue this year launched an app-based electronic ID program for state residents. State residents can register for the program by scanning their drivers’ licenses and taking a selfie. The app takes the barcode on the license and the selfie and uses face-recognition technology to compare the picture to the photo on file in the state’s driver’s license database.
When a user files a tax return, the Alabama Department of Revenue sends a notification on the app asking for confirmation. To confirm, the user simply takes another selfie, which again is matched with the image on file using face-recognition technology.
To ensure accuracy, the face-recognition technology employs a liveness-detection system that can discern an actual selfie from a still photo. When users take the selfie, the system requires them to move, allowing the face-recognition system to determine that it’s actually looking at a real person’s face, rather than a 2-D facsimile.
Alabama launched the app in partnership with MorphoTrust USA, a company that supplies driver’s licenses as well as biometric technology. Beyond verifying taxpayers, MorphoTrust’s eID system can be used to authenticate identity for other activities, such as applying for state benefits online.
In addition to the security advantages, state citizens who use the electronic ID system get priority processing of their tax returns. Alabama described its system as the nation’s first cutting-edge project to use an electronic ID system to secure the process of filing taxes and receiving refunds.
However, MorphoTrust said it also has partnered with the Georgia Department of Revenues to engage in a similar pilot program.
If more states adopt the MorphoTrust system, the selfie could soon be more famous for protecting taxpayers than for taking narcissistic self-portraits on social media.
Nirel Marofsky is project analyst for the cognitive engine and application ecosystem at Veritone. She acts as a liaison to strategic partners, integrating developers and their capabilities into the Veritone Platform. Learn more about our platform and join the Veritone developer ecosystem today.