The Role of the Postal Service in Identity Verification
- Verifying identity credentials that individuals provide online, such as name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN), is increasingly important as government experiences higher identity fraud levels.
- Several potential roles exist for the Postal Service to contribute to government efforts to create and implement more secure identity verification systems.
The emergency disbursement of trillions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds exacerbated existing vulnerabilities in government online identity verification systems. Identity fraud and improper payments have reached unprecedented levels. To prevent fraudsters from using stolen identities, federal and state agencies are taking steps to increase the security of these systems.
The OIG conducted research to identify opportunities for the Postal Service to support these efforts. Leveraging its vast retail network, databases of the nation’s addresses, and experience with identity verification, USPS could fulfill three potential roles:
- Provider of in-person identity proofing at post offices. The service would increase convenience for government customers and employees that need high levels of identity assurance. It would also provide a fallback option for customers who have failed remote identity verification, prefer in-person interaction, and for vulnerable citizens.
- Validator of identity attributes. Subject to user’s prior consent, USPS would calculate the level of confidence that a person lives at the address provided. The service would help increase government agencies’ confidence that a user creating an online account is who they claim to be.
- Provider of digital identities. The Postal Service would explore whether and how its Informed Delivery subscribers could use their verified postal credentials to prove their identity to securely create and access other government accounts.
The Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 has recently expanded the Postal Service’s ability to provide identity verification to all levels of government. A window of opportunity is currently open for USPS to contribute to closing gaps in government identity verification processes.