This article covers email verification software benefits while pundits keep predicting the death of email as the number of worldwide email users continues to grow year-on-year. Based on figures from Statista, that number will continue to grow by over half a billion between 2020 and 2025. Despite the rise of all kinds of other communication tools, email remains hugely popular. It’s stubbornly integral to most of the things people do online including almost everything that involves logging on to an online account.
This article discusses how you can make use of the prevalence of email to assist with everything from identity management to fraud protection by using email verification techniques. Email verification is a powerful tool that’s easy to build into everything from a personal daily routine to a complex business process. Read on to find out more.
What IS Email Verification – And Why Do We Need It?
On the most simplistic level, email verification is merely checking that a specific email address is valid. However, it’s possible to take things much further than that, as we will cover in a moment.
There’s a host of reasons why somebody may use a fake email address. Perhaps the most innocuous is an individual making up an address when they wish to sign up to a website or service without providing their real email address. This is one of several reasons why many websites require people to confirm their email address by clicking a link in a verification email.
Making up an email address doesn’t necessarily demonstrate any malicious intent. Some companies are rather aggressive in their methods when it comes to harvesting email addresses. People are increasingly wise to this, and may opt to enter a made-up address in some circumstances.
For example, somebody searching for a house online may not wish to provide their address to every estate agent in the area, purely to look at property details. They will use a fake address to avoid being hounded by the agents.
At the other end of the scale, you have hackers and cybercriminals who do have nefarious reasons to fake an email address or “spoof” a genuine physical address. This is where email verification can become an important part of a company’s fraud prevention processes – and where checks can go far beyond simply confirming an email address exists.
An email address can reveal a surprising amount about an individual. As SEON’s article on identity verification software explains, the right software solution can query freely available data to find out things like:
- Whether the account is running on a free or paid domain.
- How established the account is.
- How many (and which) social media accounts and networking platforms the email address is linked to.
- Whether the email address has been caught up in historical data breaches.
By analyzing the information above – in a manual or automated way – it’s possible to make informed decisions. The data returned may support the legitimacy of a user or customer, allowing them to use a system or make purchases without friction. Conversely, red flags can be raised if things look suspicious.
What are the Email Verification Software Benefits?
As we’ve seen, fake email addresses can represent anything from an inconvenience to a threat of fraudulent activity.
Here are a few examples of email verification software benefits that can assist both businesses and individuals:
Above, we referred to an example of somebody keying in a false email address to register with a service or access some online information.
“Harmless” though this may seem, relatively speaking, it can create major problems for email marketers.
Sending out marketing emails to non-existent email addresses is costly, for starters. Usually, email marketing services charge on a “per-subscriber” basis, so it’s in a company’s interests to only pay for sending emails to real people.
In addition, having a bunch of fake addresses in a system means that lots of emails will bounce. This has a detrimental effect on delivery statistics and open rates. This can then lead to difficulties sending to genuine addresses.
Verifying email addresses can help with fraud prevention on a personal or professional level. Phishing emails are ubiquitous nowadays, and while some savvy users may recognize the most obviously suspicious email handles, more vulnerable people won’t, which is why a simple and economical email verification service can be very beneficial.
Banks like Barclays advise their customers that it’s crucial to check where emails are really from. Taking this step can save people from financial losses and identity theft.
Companies can take this much further by using more advanced email verification solutions. As described above, these can extract additional information from an email address – a process known as OSINT (Open Source INTelligence), which is then assessed via data enrichment.
Using data enrichment to uncover a user’s digital footprint leads to a lot more confidence for companies operating in the ecommerce space. For example, examining a user’s registered email address for its social media associations is an invaluable tool in determining the validity of an online presence. If an email address is associated with multiple social media accounts, it is extremely likely that the user is valid, as most fraudsters operate at scale with stolen data, with no ability to create believable social media profiles for each one.
Likewise, the best way to use these checks in a fraud prevention tool is at speed and scale. For example, a software suite that includes both API integration can combine email verification with a customized screening process, rejecting orders that raise red flags or flagging them for a manual review.
Know Your Customer
Similarly, email verification can form an integral part of onboarding and KYC processes.
On the most basic level, this can mean a simple check of an email’s validity before a new account can be used. Google requires people to verify an email address to create an account.
Taking it further, businesses like financial institutions and digital casinos can use the kind of data enrichment discussed above to probe more deeply into the person behind the email address.
How Does it Work?
The majority of the information that facilitates email verification is out there in the public domain. It’s a form of open source intelligence (OSINT).
For example, anybody can check that an email address is valid by performing an SMTP-MX check. This confirms that an email address is live and able to receive messages. This is what the more basic email verification tools are doing in the background.
More advanced verification solutions reference a far broader selection of data sources which look at databases of historical data breaches, data from social media APIs, and domain registrars. Much of this information could also be accessed with dozens of manual searches, but automated email verification software benefits include scalability and speed.
A fully-integrated tool can check all of these data sources in seconds and feed the results into a single risk score. Based on this, a team member or automated system can decide if a user is genuine, fake or fraudulent, and then judge whether the situation is suspicious enough to warrant further investigation.
Overlaps with Identity and Access Management
The abundance of information that can be uncovered through email addresses means that email verification also crosses into other areas of IT security, such as Identity and Access Management.
Email verification sometimes forms part of multi-factor authentication (MFA) systems. Most people are familiar with some kind of MFA or 2FA process. Attempting to log on to a specific site prompts you to click a link in an email (or enter a unique one-time code) to complete the sign-in process. Sometimes your mobile device might be a part of the process, with the unique code being sent to an associated phone number.
This is slightly beyond the typical email verification gateway. Rather, MFA allows a company to check that they are still granting access to the genuine person. When cyber criminals hijack an identity and gain access to some user credentials, they can bypass initial ID checks, but requesting confirmation via an email link further into the onboarding process can stop them in their tracks.
Email verification is simple to implement and generally inexpensive (or even free). While email remains so central to the way people interact with the online world, it will remain important to do due diligence on the email addresses people use.