Identity verification is one of the most important aspects of Stitch. Ensuring that our membership consists only of real, verified individuals is one of the things that sets Stitch apart from pretty much any other community. Which means getting verified is one of the most important things our members need to do before they start using Stitch.
We wish that we lived in a world where verification like this wasn’t needed, but unfortunately scammers and spammers are all too real. We believe that anything we can do to keep our community safe and secure is worth doing.
Designing the perfect verification system, however, is easier said than done. Some of the considerations the system needs to meet are:
- Getting verified should be extremely easy for real members
- Getting verified should be extremely difficult for online scammers
- It should be totally safe and secure
- It should be cost effective
Some of these requirements pull in opposite directions (e.g. on the one hand making it easy for members but difficult for scammers), so the best solution is the one that strikes the right balance between all the requirements.
We know that we haven’t quite got the perfect solution yet, but we’re definitely working towards it. In this article we thought we should share a few insights to how verification works today, how we plan to improve it in the future, why some forms of verification incur a fee, and some free alternatives you can choose instead.
Current options for getting verified
Stitch currently provides two options for getting verified:
- Photo check which matches your photo against your photo ID
- Personal details which verifies your personal information including the last four digits of Social Security Number (US members only)
We utilize trusted third-party solutions for both of these verification options (and you can read more about the safety and security of these systems here). They work well, although we are very aware that the photo check process is quite cumbersome and we’re going to be making changes to make this much easier in an upcoming version of Stitch. We will also be introducing an additional phone-based verification check for those members who find the photo check difficult.
One thing all these approaches have in common, however, is that they all come at a cost.
Every time a member verifies themselves Stitch incurs a fee. This cost is something that we can absorb for Premium Members, but for our free Guest Members this isn’t something we can do — we would go out of business quite quickly if we did!
That’s why these verification options come with a fee for Guest members, but are free for Premium Members. We’re not trying to build a business out of these verification fees, but we need them to ensure that Stitch is sustainable as the Stitch community grows.
We have to charge for the verification options listed above, but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking for other ways to make verification easier — and cheaper — for our members. Here are a couple of new ideas that we now have introduced to allow members to get verified for free:
- Getting verified in person by Stitch staff at a Stitch event or at the Stitch offices
- Getting verified in person by a Stitch Ambassador at a Stitch event
The first option is obviously only helpful to members in locations where the Stitch team is based (or where we occasionally travel to), but it’s worth highlighting that this is an option for you. If you don’t plan on attending a Stitch event, but would like to drop in to either of the Stitch offices, we’d be more than happy to verify you in person.
The second option is one that will soon be available to members in cities right across the world. A Stitch Ambassador is a Stitch member who has shown themselves to be an active, reliable, and trustworthy member of the Stitch community. We already have Ambassadors in a range of cities around the globe, and will be working on adding more in the coming months. We’ll also be highlighting Ambassadors inside Stitch, so you can easily see if an Ambassador is attending an event with you.
All you need to do is turn up to the event, let the Stitch Ambassador view your ID to verify you are who you say you are, and give them your email address so they can identify you to us. They’ll then let us know that you’ve been verified and we can mark you off in the system.
We think this is a great way to let the community make it easy to let real members get verified, while still making it impossible for online scammers to do so. Nigerian scammers might find it possible to create fake online profiles, but turning up at a wine tasting in the Napa Valley or a movie in North Sydney is an entirely different matter!
If you’re interested in becoming a Stitch Ambassador yourself for your area, please simply contact us and we can talk to you about what’s involved.
Safety & security
The most important thing we’re aiming for with all these options is ensuring the safety and security of all our members. That includes not only enforcing verification in the first place, but also making sure that the use of personal information to verify our members doesn’t in itself create a security risk.
That’s why we don’t store any verification data in the Stitch database at all. Your details can never be seen by other members, or compromised by hackers. All verification data is encrypted and securely by our security providers, and is deleted once it has been used to verify your account. And with our new verification methods — such as phone verification (coming soon) or verification by a Stitch Ambassador — no information is ever even kept, which means there is nothing for a hacker to get hold of at all.
So that’s a summary of some of how verification works and some of the improvements we’re making to make it even easier. We’re always looking for ways to make things better so please let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!