What Is an Age Verification System?

An age verification system is used to confirm the age of an individual for the purpose of age-sensitive transactions. This can either occur online, as in an eCommerce transaction, or in person, as in a retail store checkout. Age verification solutions are typically applied for verifying that customers are old enough to acquire an age-restricted product or service—such as alcohol, cigarettes, weapons, gambling services or adult content.

An age verification system verifies the age of an individual using official documents, ID cards, phone checks, public records, and biometrics databases.

Age verification differs from identity verification, although the software used can be similar. Age verification systems attempt to verify only the age of a person, while identity verification solutions attempt to verify the person’s identity using government-provided certificates or other measures. 

In this article, you will learn:

Why is Age Verification Software Important?

Here are several important benefits you can achieve with age verification software.

Avoid KYC Compliance Issues

In most countries across the world, regulatory authorities now legally require vendors selling age-restricted services and products to know the age of consumers. This is audited and enforced in both physical stores and online commerce. The legal requirement to verify age and identity is collectively known as Know Your Customer (KYC). 

Here are three examples of regulations that enforce KYC requirements on businesses:

  • In the UK—the Children and Young Persons (Protection From Tobacco) Act 1991 regulates the sale of nicotine.  
  • In the US—the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) act requires online traders to use age verification technology for all age-sensitive content.
  • In Australia—the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 restricts selling tobacco to minors. 

Analysts predict that other countries will soon also introduce legislation that protects minors against adult-only content. Age verification software can help eCommerce businesses enforce these restrictions. Otherwise, businesses may face fines, legal exposure, and reputation damage.

Provide a Better User Experience

Advanced age verification software can provide a seamless verification process, which translates into positive user experience. Instead of requiring a buyer to submit documents using a cumbersome manual process, and waiting for verification of those documents before they can make a purchase, customers can perform a quick operation online and verify their age in seconds. This also saves time for your employees, freeing them up for more important tasks.

Filter Real Customers

Age verification solutions can help online merchants filter legitimate customers. The software enables organizations to restrict access only to visitors who are legally allowed to purchase their products, and customize retention strategies accordingly. 

Which Businesses Need to Verify The Age of Their Customers?

Online Gaming and Gambling Websites

Gambling websites and online gaming must comply with strict regulations. For example, they are required to run in-depth KYC checks on gamers before onboarding them. Age verification is an integral part of this regulation. The goal of this requirement is to reduce gaming addiction among young people. Additionally, the majority of these sites are not suitable for minors. 

Sellers of Age-Restricted Products

Companies selling nicotine and vaping products, alcohol, weapons, adult entertainment, Cannabis products, and other products or services which are only suitable for adults, are commonly required by law to verify the age of customers. Failure to verify age, or selling these products to underage individuals, can result in major fines or legal consequences. 

Pharmacies and Hospitals

Hospitals and drug stores can legally sell drugs, some of which may be prescription medication that can have adverse consequences if taken without proper supervision. When selling prescription drugs, hospitals and drug stores are required to check age and verify identity. If there are no adequate verification processes, minors can use their parents' prescriptions to buy medication.

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and Pension Funds

In the USA, NGOs and government organizations offer a wide range of beneficiary programs dedicated for senior citizens, including food tokens, health benefits, pensions, and tax deductions. Criminals can use the identity cards of senior citizens to steal these benefits. To ensure benefits are only granted to those eligible, organizations need to run KYC checks.

Legal Sector

KYC regulations often have requirements related to anti money laundering (AML). To comply with AML, those working within the legal sector must run screening on their customers. In situations when legal rights are granted only after a person reaches a certain age, customers might use a fake ID to falsely represent themselves to legal representatives. KYC checks can prevent this from happening.

Age Verification Challenges

Here are several ways minors can bypass traditional age verification mechanisms.

Minors Using their Parents ID Documents 

Identity verification typically involves government-issued proof of identity, and minors can use the identity of their parents or another older person to illicitly gain access. One way to combat this problem is to compare ID documents with a live photo or video of the user.

False Age

In the past, age verification systems relied on a date of birth dialog checkbox or a captcha mechanism. Minors would simply gain access by lying about their age, or solving the captcha puzzle. A study found that nearly half of surveyed teenagers lied about their age to access restricted online platforms. This is why modern age verification systems rely on ID documents and other objective proof of the user’s age. 

Not Safe For Work 

Some websites, most prominently YouTube, hide age restricted content behind a “Not Safe For Work” (NSFW) mechanism. However, it is easy to bypass this mechanism by modifying URLs. Minors can find instructions online how to bypass age restrictions, apply the relevant URL trick, and gain access to restricted content. Age verification systems can prevent this manipulation and ensure that restricted content is only shown to verified adults.

4 Modern, Reliable Age Verification Methods

Let’s review four technical methods commonly used to remotely verify a customer’s age. These methods are often combined for higher reliability, and some age verification solutions provide all four.

Electronic Identity Verification

Electronic identity verification (eIDV) checks personal data such as a buyer’s name, date of birth, and address to verify that the buyer is legitimate. Two-factor authentication can help strengthen eIDVs, for instance by requiring the user to provide both phone number and email data and verifying it against public data sources.

Related content: read our guide to age verification online 

Document Verification

Document verification involves comparing the customer's photo and ID. This can be an additional step within the eIDV process. This is an important layer of information for sellers of age-restricted products, and is explicitly required by some regulations.

Sellers of age-restricted products may also ask customers to provide credit card information. Given that minors can pose as adults by using cards owned by parents or others, this approach has lower reliability.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

OCR technology scans documents submitted by customers, identifies alphanumeric data within images of scanned documents, and verifies they are legitimate. This allows you to collect information through customer devices such as scanners, smartphones, and digital cameras. This gives customers a number of convenient ways to verify their identity.

Biometric-Based Verification

Face-based biometric technology has provided a strong deterrent to underage customers and potential scammers, who use false identities to access age-restricted products. It promises to provide legitimate users with higher accuracy, higher security and greater convenience.

Facial recognition and verification is a highly reliable way to protect your business from identity fraud risks, prevent minors from accessing restricted services, and ensure compliance with know your customer (KYC) regulations.

Related content: read our guide to biometric verification 

Age Verification with BlueCheck

BlueCheck’s industry leading identity verification infrastructure enables merchants to grow their business faster. Serving a wide variety of industries, our solutions are custom tailored to the unique needs of our customers, including PACT Act and eCommerce compliant offerings. 

Schedule a call with a BlueCheck specialist to learn more about our Age & ID Verification solutions. Ask about price savings when bundled with Payment Processing services.