Identity network and fraud prevention company Civic offers a service that helps consumers confirm the use of their identity in real time. Today the company beta-launched its free consumer-facing app, marking the public availability of its identity network.
Civic debuted at FinovateSpring 2016 to help solve the person-not-present (PNP) problem (yes, CEO Vinny Lingham coined that phrase). “We’ve created a real-time identity-alerts service,” Lingham said at the start of his demo. He went on to explain how the company seeks to help consumers manage their identities by having more control over the use of their Social Security number.
Civic users receive a $1 million identity-theft-protection policy, plus access to a free identity-theft consultant-hotline. Both services are good for the life of their membership. Users receive a push notification or email each time their Social Security number is used with one of Civic’s partners. Civic’s partners currently include background checking services GoodHire and Onfido. The company is working to add more.
For more advanced security, users can request to approve or deny a transaction using a two-way authentication process on the mobile app. Banks that pay Civic a small fee receive an alert when the consumer denies a transaction, notifying them of potentially fraudulent purchases.
- Headquartered in Palo Alto, California
- Founded in 2015
- $2.75 million in funding raised
Civic CEO Vinny Lingham and CTO Jonathan Smith demonstrated Civic’s Identity Verification app at FinovateSpring 2016.
We interviewed Civic’s CEO Vinny Lingham, an entrepreneur who has founded three startups, including digital gift-card platform Gyft. Prior to founding Civic, Lingham was senior vice president of product development at First Data.
Finovate: What problem does Civic solve?
Lingham: There are a few problems with how Americans currently use identity numbers:
The Social Security number system was not built for identifying people uniquely, it was built to track Social Security benefits. Over the course of time, it has become the standard for identifying someone, which has evolved into a situation in which people can easily impersonate someone else remotely. There are no barriers for someone to use your Social Security number online or provide your Social Security number over the phone.
If your Social Security number has been used by someone else, then you have no way of knowing. If you have signed up and pay for services to protect your identity, you are alerted [only after] the fraud has taken place, not as it’s happening. Civic’s vision is to give control back to the user by allowing them to confirm the use of their Social Security number. We see a world where your Social Security number will not need to be a number you hide; you could print it on your business cards if you like, but if anyone tries to use it, you would have the ability to verify and stop the transaction before it happens.
Finovate: Who are your primary customers?
Lingham: Civic appeals to anyone with a Social Security number who is seeking control over their personal data. Our service is ideal for individuals looking for a fresh and free alternative to traditional identity-theft-protection companies. Our mission is to provide members with real-time identity alerts and protection so that they can stop identity fraud before it happens.
Finovate: How does Civic solve the problem better?
Lingham: While there are many services that offer various types of identity protection, Civic is the only company that gives the user control over their own identity AND provides the service for free—making our overall approach to identity theft unique within the industry.
Finovate: Tell us about your favorite implementation of your solution.
Lingham: We have partnered with background checking companies such as Onfido and GoodHire, which allow consumers to be notified when background checks are conducted on them.
Finovate: What in your background gave you the confidence to tackle this challenge?
Lingham: The previous company that I founded, Gyft, is one of the leaders in mobile and digital gift cards. Gift cards happen to be one of the biggest categories for online fraud, and we had to build robust systems to deal with it. After witnessing the challenges of online fraud, I realized that identity theft is a major problem, which is why we have so much fraud online. I set out to solve this problem.
Finovate: What are some upcoming initiatives from Civic that we can look forward to over the next few months?
Lingham: We have some really exciting technology developments in the pipeline that will give members a greater level of privacy and identity protection that has not been previously possible. We are excited to roll out these developments later this year.
Finovate: Where do you see Civic a year or two from now?
Lingham: Although we have a long-term vision for the company, right now, we want to ensure members trust us to help secure their personal information and monitor the use of their identities. Once we can win in that space, we believe that we can build a multitude of products that will change the way that society functions.