Trans Union, one of the largest credit information providers in the U.S., this week is expected to launch RocketBridge, a subsidiary that will provide Internet businesses a way to verify peoples identity online through Trans Unions database.
RocketBridges main selling pitch is that its services can dramatically cut online credit card fraud. Fraudulent transactions are considerably higher online than they are offline — estimated to be as high as 12 percent of all transactions, compared with 1 percent or 2 percent for non-Internet businesses, said Jan Davis, president of Chicago-based RocketBridge.
"If we can chop off 4 [percent] or 5 percent [of fraudulent transactions], that is tremendous savings that go right to the bottom line of the e-merchant," Davis said.
RocketBridges service compares consumer-submitted information — such as name, address and date of birth — with Trans Unions credit file, a massive database that represents detailed reports on 220 million people. For example, an online wine seller can verify that purchasers are 21 by cross-checking their information with the Trans Union database. RocketBridge also allows merchants to ask customers more intrusive questions, such as the name of their mortgage lender, for a greater degree of certainty about their identity.
Is this a potential privacy nightmare? No, according to RocketBridge, because it never releases personal information to the merchant — it simply sends back "pass" or "fail" about the information the merchant is trying to verify.
RocketBridge will charge $1.25 to $3 per transaction.
SinglesClick, an online dating site that plans to launch this month, is using RocketBridges services to verify its members identities. Its CheckedMate feature will guarantee, for example, that "Sally Smith" really is a 39-year-old woman from San Francisco, said Rodney Snell, co-founder of SinglesClick. "This gives our members a feeling of assurance that someone is indeed who they say they are," Snell said.
Equifax offers a similar Internet authentication service to businesses called eIDverifier, which launched in 1999. Equifax has 40 customers — including CheckFree and eBay — in various stages of deploying the service. It authenticates about 300,000 consumers each month.