Article 4 min

Challenges for Verifying Names Around the World

Challenges for Verifying Names Around the World

April 6, 2017  

Challenges for Verifying Names Around the World

What’s in a name? After all, as Shakespeare says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But, we can’t use smell as an easy, universal identifier, as a way we can use to prove who we are. It turns out; we can’t easily use names for this purpose either. As William knew way back then, a name is not real; it’s an artificial convention.

If you live in a traditional western culture, you might be thinking, well a name is unique, a first name, a last name, and, if necessary, a middle name. Unfortunately, for organizations that are required to verify identities, such as banks and government agencies, there are numerous subtleties, edge cases, different formats, naming conventions and expectations. The problem is multiplied, if we’re talking about doing business internationally.

Let’s consider the first name. How about if someone has the given name, Robert. They can call themselves Robert, Rob, Robb, Robbie, Robin, Bob, Bobbie, or Bobby; there are actually 87 variations on the name and that it doesn’t include female variations. A person might change what they go by, either officially and informally.

Or, maybe they have two first names. Or three. Or many, but they use the second as their first name. Or use a hyphen. OR USE ALL CAPS or no caps. Maybe the first letter is no cap, but the next two are.

The same problems occur with last names and middle names; there is no standardization when it comes to names. Of course, when you’re dealing with computers (or forms), standardization is the expectation.

Can you begin to see how verifying an identity with a person’s name gets a little complicated? And this is just one factor. Here’s a partial list of variables to consider:

  • Character length, would you account for: Adolph Blaine Charles Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Senior?
  • ASCII, Unicode, both, neither?
  • Name order
  • Prefixes or suffixes
  • Last name first, or last?
  • Different spellings of name depending on dialect
  • Same spelling but different names
  • Different translations
  • Cultural differences of name standards (Mohammad is written 50+ different ways, depending on the country)

If we take a specific example, China, we can see many of these factors come into play. A major challenge in China, as stated by a foreign bank, is the verification of IDs, because there are so many people in China with the same name.

Language: The Romanization of Chinese Characters, Translating a Chinese character into Latin character

Nicknames: English pseudonyms for Chinese names as well as random English given names

Cultural Relativism: Ordering Scheme – Full Names is written with Family Name First, Surname contains Mothers Maiden Name

Naming Conventions: Names are written differently from country to country (Muslim), Mohammad is written in more than 50 different ways, Malaysians don’t use Surnames, but rather Given Names

Character/Space Limitations: Many Asians end up with truncated names due to the limited character space on forms. This hinders name matching and watchlist checking.

With all these issues, effectively onboarding and monitoring customers is a major issue for companies that need to identify people. Confirming names is a major requirement in keeping compliant with AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) laws

Of course, names are not the only data points that require confirmation. Addresses and date of birth are also mandatory fields to help effectively verify a person. Additional fields can come into play, depending on the jurisdiction or on your particular requirements. An accurate and trustworthy identity verification comes by corroborating all these different data points.

The complexity of address verification is a whole other topic. As with names, there isn’t a global, standard set of rules that guide the use of addresses.

To simplify the process, to speed onboarding and to meet compliance obligations, Trulioo’s Normalized API and web portal enables clients to perform frictionless eIDV for people from around the world in multiple native languages/cultures.

All these naming conventions, all these issues and complexities, are now be a thing of the past. As a global identity verification provider, we know the difficulties and realities of working with name data from around the world. Taking all that expertise of name handling is now built into our GlobalGateway identity platform.

So, if you want to expand into China or any of the 60+ countries that we currently cover, the challenges of verifying names can be overcome with our Normalized API. Trulioo helps make verifying names a sweet thing.