Blink Once to Guard Against Fraud

by Mike Saucier

Tech_USAAAs millions of Americans fall victim to identity fraud each year, USAA is unveiling its solution to offer its 10.1 million members safety against such theft: biometric recognition. A new USAA app has to recognize a user’s face before allowing access to the individual’s accounts. USAA, which offers banking, investing and insurance services to people and families who serve or have served in the U.S. military, is the first U.S. financial institution to offer the technology.

Users simply look at the screen and blink their eyes when prompted. If they have chosen voice recognition, they must read a short phrase. Arizona is one of several states where members can use this process. About 2.8 percent of the total membership enrolled in biometrics is from Arizona, according to USAA spokeswoman Dana Martinez.

Most people use an easy-to-remember number combination — the familiar PIN — across several platforms, according to Rick Swenson, USAA’s executive for Fraud Operational Excellence and Strategic Initiatives. “Unfortunately, most people recycle their PINs,” Swenson says. Once the bad guys figure out the PIN, it’s that much easier to steal an identity. So it only made sense to remove that from the equation.

Once users download the application and enroll in the new program, USAA takes three pictures of the user, during which they must blink, and records their voice. Once USAA has created the algorithm that defines the attributes of the user’s face and voice, the app is ready to go. Says Swenson, “It is convenient … It takes less than two seconds” to take what he calls a security selfie. “You blink and you’re in.”

USAA, which Swenson says was the first financial institution to offer quick logon (a two-factor identification process), next plans to test the use of fingerprint identification for logging in.

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