Identity theft concerns mount

One in 11 Thai consumers suspect their identity was stolen, according to a Fico survey

A mobile screen displays a bank’s digital know-your-customer feature which allows new bank accounts via facial recognition. Most Thais are open to providing their bank with a biometric such as a facial scan, fingerprint or voiceprint to secure their accounts.

Identity theft is a tangible threat for people in Thailand, where 8.5% of people surveyed say they know their identity has been stolen and used by a fraudster to open a bank account, according to the US-based data analytics company Fico.

A further 9% believe identity theft is likely to have happened to them, says the company, which pioneered credit scoring more than 60 years ago.

The acknowledged level of risk from identity theft means there is a good understanding of why identity proofing is an integral part of the banking experience in Thailand.

Just over two-thirds (69%) of the 1,000 Thai respondents recognised that identity proofing happens for their protection. However, some Thai consumers are cynical about the reasons why their identity is being confirmed.

While a large number (64%) recognise there is an element of regulation driving providers to carry out more checks, 27% think this is done to enable financial institutions to sell more products and services to them.

A majority (62%) of Thai respondents see identity proofing as a way for banks to protect themselves, while 44% regard it as a tool to prevent money laundering.

Most Thais are open to providing their bank with a biometric such as a facial scan, fingerprint or voiceprint to secure their accounts. The survey revealed that once they understand why it is necessary, 41% are happy to provide their biometrics. Only 7% say that banks should never capture biometrics, while just 8% are willing but unhappy to provide them.

“In a lot of Asian countries, fingerprinting, identity cards and authentication apps have been commonplace for some time,” said Subhashish Bose, lead for fraud, security and compliance in Asia Pacific with Fico.

“There is less concern around privacy and the survey shows there is broad acceptance of the benefits that biometrics deliver when it comes to securing bank accounts and stopping money laundering.”

In Thailand, 44% of consumers prefer to open bank accounts digitally and 44% prefer branches. However, over the last year, thanks to the Covid pandemic, 66% of Thais say they are more likely to open an account digitally than they were a year ago; those who visit branches often do so for social and technical reasons.

“Digital account opening has been available in Thailand for some time, it just remained unused by some segments of the market who either hadn’t discovered it yet or weren’t willing to trust it,” said Mr Bose.

“This has created a belief that accessing a branch offers a more informed and secure account opening process.”

As attitudes change and more people experience the benefits of digital banking, there will be further opportunity for banks that adopt multichannel strategies and can engender trust in new channels, in his view.

Thais who open an account digitally, prefer to carry out the process entirely in their chosen channel, whether it be a smartphone or website. If customers are asked to move out of the channel to prove their identities, many of them will abandon the application, either giving up on opening an account completely (4-5%) or by going to a competitor (7-9%). Among those who don’t immediately abandon the attempt, up to an additional 21% will delay the process.

The survey found that any disruption matters. Asking people to scan and email documents or use a separate identity portal causes almost as much application abandonment as asking them to visit branches or mail in documents.

The findings were based on a survey of 1,000 Thai adults by an independent research company acting for Fico. It was part of a global survey that also included 13,000 consumers in the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.