Reasonable steps and conducting verification of identity (VOI) remotely
Over the past few years, state governments have been implementing more stringent rules when it comes to verifying the identity of parties in conveyancing transactions. These rules have been put into place to help keep property fraud and identity theft at bay, and while practitioners support this effort there are still a lot of misconceptions around these rules especially when it comes to remote verification.
What is required?
Conveyancing rules require is that practitioners take reasonable steps to verify the identity of their clients. What constitutes reasonable steps is dependent on the circumstances of each individual case. However, in Schedule 8 of its Model Participation Rules, ARNECC sets out a Verification of Identity Standard, which if followed is deemed to constitute reasonable steps (Rule 6.5.6).
The VOI Standard requires:
- VOI to be conducted during a face-to-face in-person interview;
- that the verifier be satisfied that the person being identified is a reasonable likeness to the person depicted in photos on the identity documents; and
- that the identity documents provided meet one of the set out categories.
It is a common misconception that if you stray from the VOI Standard you are not taking ‘reasonable steps’. Of course, it is advised to follow the VOI standard whenever possible as it can provide safe harbor, however it’s important to note that the VOI standard is not mandatory as it is understood that there are some situations in which it is not possible to follow.
Conducting VOI remotely
There are some circumstances in which a face-to-face in-person interview is not possible due to remoteness, and in those cases you may have to conduct VOI by taking other reasonable steps. ARNECC explicitly acknowledges this type of situation in a list of examples of further steps that can be taken, citing one example as “where the verification is unable to be conducted face-to-face due to remoteness conducting the verification by electronic means with further steps to satisfy yourself of the person’s identity." ARNECC Model Participation Rules Guidance Note 2 [page 5, 5.5 Further Steps]
Obviously, it is ideal to follow the VOI standard when you can, but circumstances do not always allow it and there are other options available to you. In cases where verification is unable to be conducted face-to-face due to remoteness, IDfy’s ‘remote’ option allows you to complete the verification by electronic means on your iPhone or iPad. Using IDfy, your client can securely send you photos of the required identity documents so you can assess whether they appear genuine. Once you’ve received sufficient identity documents, you arrange a video call with your client during which you take a photo of them and can compare it to the documents to confirm likeness. Finally, you and your client sign client and verifier declarations and IDfy creates a VOI report that is securely stored in our cloud server for 9 years so you have proof of the steps you’ve taken to verify identity.
When to make further enquiries
It is important to remember that in all cases, including when the VOI Standard is followed, you must undertake further enquiries to verify where doubt arises, or should reasonably have arisen, in relation to a transaction and a person’s identity (Rule 6.5.3). In Guidance Note 2, ARNECC states that the Participation Rules require further steps to be taken where:
- an identity document does not appear to be genuine;
- a photograph on an identity document is not a reasonable likeness;
- the person being identified does not appear to be the person to which the identity documents relate; or
- it is otherwise reasonable to take further steps.
Overall, follow the VOI standard whenever you can and in situations where it’s not possible use your best judgment and ensure you conduct due diligence in taking reasonable steps to verify identity.