Having an age verification system for some businesses is mandatory. Regulated entities, such as adult-oriented platforms, online gaming sites, or alcohol companies, must check their customers’ age by law. That means they are required to build a customer onboarding flow where users are asked to confirm their age.
We’ll discuss the main methods for verifying age and, later on, get into more details on how to implement an age verification system in practice that both ensures security and a smooth experience for the user.
What is Age Verification?
Age verification is a security measure that is designed to check whether the person trying to access services or products is in the appropriate age range, as required by laws or regulations. Companies can verify the customer’s age in person or electronically.
Depending on the method, organizations can verify the customer’s age using identity document checks, data records, or biometric checks to see if the person isn’t lying about their date of birth. Most importantly, an age verification system ensures that the company is complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements and follows age restrictions on the services or products they offer.
What is an Online Age Verification System?
An online age verification system checks the user’s personal identifying information (PII) against various data records and sources, ensuring that they can legally access the wanted services or products. For an age verification system to be effective, it needs to prioritize two key aspects: providing a seamless user experience and ensuring that minors cannot bypass the security measure.
Age verification systems can take different forms, such as a simple checkbox where users confirm they are over 18 or more thorough methods like video calls where candidates are asked to show their ID during a job interview. In general, all modern-age verification solutions mainly rely on electronic methods that use artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technology.
How is Age Verification Related to Identity Verification?
The age verification process is commonly conducted alongside Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures. KYC is a mandatory procedure followed in industries such as FinTech and other regulated sectors when onboarding new customers. In these cases, confirming a person’s age is just another aspect of the broader identity verification process.
Age verification is a mandatory requirement in industries such as e-commerce, even without KYC compliance. This need arises when businesses sell age-sensitive products and services. While there are situations where identity verification may not be required, it is still the responsibility of companies to ensure that they are interacting with adult customers.
Why Basic Age Verification Measures Don’t Work
Thanks to all the apps and the general zero-hassle policy towards e-commerce platforms, it’s easy as 1-2-3 to buy age-restricted products for minors online. The use of basic age gates on websites, which typically involve a checkbox asking users if they are over 21, has become ineffective.
As a result, the birthdate provided in these age gates is often left unverified. This allows children of any age to easily bypass them by simply lying about their age. Other examples of age gating include:
- Adult entertainment sites that rely on individuals selecting their age from a drop-down menu before proceeding face the same challenge.
- Online liquor stores ask consumers to confirm if they are over 21.
- Social media platforms or dating sites require users to enter their birthdays for access.
The Importance of Facial Recognition in Age Verification
Facial recognition technology is crucial in online age verification systems because it ensures that the person whose age is being verified is real. Typically, an age verification system consists of two stages — an ID document check and a selfie match:
- ID document scanning. The user begins the age verification process by photographing their ID card, driver’s license, or passport. The age verification system then employs advanced image processing technology to verify the validity of the uploaded document.
- Selfie matching. The user is asked to capture a selfie, which serves two purposes of liveness and likeness. The liveness technology ensures that the user taking the selfie is a real person and not a static, photoshopped image. The age verification system then confirms that the person in the selfie matches the face shown on the ID document.
The entire process is automated and typically shows results within seconds after the images are captured. That’s why many e-commerce businesses, particularly those in regulated industries like pharmaceuticals, go for online age verification systems.
In-Person Age Verification vs Online Age Verification
While people were used to getting identified in person, many businesses now face the challenge of checking the person’s age online. Depending on the verification method, the process can look very different.
We explore the main differences between in-person age verification and online age verification below.
In-Person Age Verification
The traditional example of an in-person age verification would be a person purchasing an alcoholic beverage in a liquor store. In this case, the seller asks them to provide a government-issued document that has a photo. This may be a passport or a driver’s license.
Similar to how a staff member at your local bank verifies your identity in person, the seller in the store must also verify your identity and age. They’re required to check if the document is legit by reviewing special security features, such as NFC chips or barcodes.
They also do this by examining the document for any signs of forgery, such as unusual font or holographic foils, which indicate possible tampering. In general, they need to carefully inspect the photo, compare it to your face, and verify the listed date of birth on the document.
💡 Related: How to Spot a Fake ID?
Online Age Verification
The process of confirming a customer’s age online follows a similar principle, but there are key differences. Instead of the physical presence of a seller, an online government ID verification is conducted. Currently, this method is widely regarded as one of the most dependable ways to remotely verify identity documents in the market and confirm a person’s age.
How the online age verification process looks step-by-step:
- Step 1: The user takes a photo of their government-issued document, such as a passport or driver’s license.
- Step 2: The automated online age verification system extracts data and analyzes the user’s photo for authenticity.
- Step 3: The user uploads a series of selfie photos for further verification.
- Step 4: The age verification system compares and matches the selfies against the user’s identity document photo.
- Step 5: The online system determines the user’s age, either rejecting them or allowing them to purchase age-restricted goods.
Advanced age verification system remotely analyzes a scanned copy of the user’s ID and verifies the age in seconds. These systems offer several advantages. They can extract details like name, date of birth, and passport number. Most importantly, they can read and verify important security elements such as the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ).
Why Your Age Verification System is Important
If you’re an online platform selling age-restricted products or services, you must verify your customers’ ages to:
- Comply with regulatory requirements.
- Safeguard minors from accessing your services.
- Build a good reputation by maintaining robust security measures.
In the post-pandemic environment, where e-commerce is booming and delivery or takeout services are on the rise, companies must find a way to verify their customers swiftly. That means to outdo the competition, companies must ensure both security and a frictionless age verification experience. Otherwise, they’re risking losing the customer to another platform.
That said, keep in mind that a robust age verification system can be beneficial for a variety of age-restricted products, not just limited to alcohol.
Other Age-Restricted Markets
Any online retailer that facilitates age-restricted activities or provides services that must be backed with adult consent needs to have an age verification system.
This requirement applies to the following markets in the US:
- Adult content and R-rated movies
- Online gaming and gambling
- Lottery tickets
- Aerosol paint
- Social media platforms and dating sites
- Guns (depending on the type)
- Razors (depending on the type)
- Fireworks (depending on the state)
Selling age-restricted items to minors is not only illegal but also generally unethical. It can leave your company exposed to negative media coverage and loss of customer trust. That’s why integrating a reliable hard-to-trick age verification system can help you avoid negative impact.
Check if an Age Verification System is Required at Your Business
While we’ve covered some products and services that are regulated, there are other markets where age verification must be implemented. These include businesses that offer:
Food Delivery Services
Companies providing food delivery services must use age verification on customers who purchase alcohol. Whether alcohol is included as part of a larger order or is purchased independently, delivery drivers ask for a valid ID document before handing over the order.
The success of online gambling also brought stricter regulations, particularly regarding the verification of players’ ages. For example, the legal gambling age varies across states. States such as Oklahoma have a minimum age of 18, whereas the majority of states have opted for a minimum age of 21.
Despite regulations, many of the newly established post-pandemic online gaming platforms didn’t effectively prevent underage individuals from participating. In general, gaming sites comply with the same age requirements as traditional casinos, which are set at either 18 or 21 years old.
Companies providing medical services must verify the ages of their patients. As telemedicine becomes increasingly prevalent, the expectations for both age and identity verification will get more strict in the future. Currently, patients are required to be at least 18 years old to provide informed consent for medical services.
Age verification laws you need to know: The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (AADC), also known as the California Law, is applicable to businesses that are accessible to children. Under this law, such businesses are obligated to establish stronger privacy policies specifically for users under the age of 18. Failure to comply can result in penalties up to $7,500.
Alcohol and Tobacco
When it comes to tobacco, age verification is mandatory for vapes, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, hookah pipes, dissolvable, and nicotine gels. The sale of tobacco products is restricted to individuals over the age of 21. However, the compliance regulations for cannabis differ. Many states allow the use of medical marijuana for individuals aged 18, cannabis is limited to those who are 21 years old.
Age verification laws you need to know: At the federal level, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 mandates that businesses must confirm the age of customers to be at least 21 years old before allowing them to purchase or receive alcohol. Prior to this implementation, each state had the authority to establish its own laws regarding the minimum drinking age, resulting in inconsistencies similar to the current landscape of marijuana regulations.
Companies selling or distributing adult-oriented content online must verify that users who are accessing their platforms are at least 18 years old. Previously, many sites used the mentioned age-gating methods, which left security gaps in the system. However, the state of Louisiana enforced stricter age verification measures. The new regulations mention government ID verification and database verification as more robust age verification solutions.
Age verification laws you need to know: Act 440, known as the Louisiana law, targets companies involved in the online sale or distribution of pornography. This law mandates that businesses must verify that users are at least 18 years old before granting access to adult content.
Why Automated Age Verification is the Best Option in the Market Right Now
To effectively use an age verification system, you should choose a solution that balances speed and security. What you must consider when choosing an age-verification solution provider:
- If your age verification process is arduous and sluggish, users will likely seek alternatives and take their business elsewhere.
- Age-restricted companies that implement both automated age verification and identity verification procedures mitigate the risk of significant fines due to negligence easier. At the same time, they ensure a frictionless process for their customers.
- Liveness detection and biometric verification are crucial for a fool-proof age verification system, especially in light of easily accessible spoofing, deepfakes, and other fraudulent activities.
Good news! iDenfy ensures all of these measures are put in place for an effective age verification system. We can help you build an efficient, fully compliant, and automated age verification process.
Improve user experience, customize your onboarding flow, and depending on the risk level, add or remove age verification checks during your KYC process. Lacking info? We’re here to help. Book a demo, or get started right away.