From Face-to-Face to Digital-First: Navigating Proof of Occupancy

Honor Donnie  |  April 17, 2020   |  ID Verification  


In our unprecedented new reality, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we work and live. Governments across the country continue to implement social distancing and safety standards to flatten the curve, while businesses are working hard to minimize disruptions, implement remote working, and maintain as much normalcy in their operations as possible. 

But what does that mean for financial services that require proof of occupancy or proof of identity to meet Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), or other regulatory requirements? With the majority of interactions shifting away from face-to-face during the global pandemic, digital transformation in financial services has shifted from a nice-to-have to business-critical. 

COVID-19 introduces a new digital reality

Businesses must take extra precautions to ensure that their operations and customers remain safe from outside threats as they utilize online platforms. For instance, while companies are now dependent on video conferencing to carry out their usual operations, it’s also created new security threats. In the last month, major platforms like Zoom have suffered security breaches, causing companies to double down on security measures.

Telemedicine has also been affected by the pandemic. Doctors and patients are now meeting over the phone and video to minimize in-person visits and reduce the spread of the virus. With this shift, the need for secure connections is vital. Companies like Veriff and Authenteq have seen a steady increase in identity verification demand as telemedicine usage surges.

Digital fraud has affected 22% of Americans since the start of the pandemic.

The beginning of March saw increases in contactless and mobile wallet usage at the point-of-sale, as retailers and consumers alike try to minimize physical contact. In Australia alone, digital wallet payments saw an increase of 17 percent in March to surge past $1 billion. The shift to cashless payments is promising, but comes with increased fraud risks – digital fraud has affected 22 percent of Americans since the start of the pandemic. 

KYC/AML and risk implications for lenders

Within the first quarter of 2020, the number of bank account openings occurring through digital channels has increased by 68 percent. As banks, credit unions, and fintechs see an increase in loan applications from small business owners, reliable sources for digital proof of identity are critical to minimize risk and meet KYC and AML requirements. This is especially true as lenders try to address the demand for the Small Business Administration‘s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and quickly qualify loans for consumers and businesses in need. 

In the midst of an unprecedented volume of loan applications, lenders can no longer utilize face-to-face interactions to verify physical documentation or meet KYC/AML and internal risk requirements. This shift from face-to-face to digital-first requires a complete rethinking of practices to obtain proof of identity in several processes, including:

  • Document verification – New sources are needed to obtain secure, authentic digital documents including utility bills and proof of income. 
  • Virtual meetings and site visits – High usage of video conferencing requires new standards for security and data privacy. 
  • Enhanced monitoring – Through credit bureau data combined with non-traditional data sources, lenders can streamline risk reviews and ongoing credit monitoring.


Obtaining authenticated proof of occupancy 

For mortgage lenders and insurers, obtaining trustworthy proof of occupancy is especially challenging in the absence of face-to-face interactions. Many of the loans that are in highest demand today also have stringent requirements to verify proof of identity and address, such as:  

  • FHA loans and refinancing – the FHA requires borrowers to occupy the property they’re buying and use it as their primary residence, with documentation to prove it
  • Request for Mortgage Assistance (RMA)several documents required, including mortgage statements, pay stubs, bank statements, and a utility bill
  • FEMA disaster relief – applicants may need to submit documentation on proof of insurance, proof of ownership, and proof of identity
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) loans – borrowers must provide proof of occupancy via a signed certificate, utility bills, or other records that demonstrate the home was not vacant 


Services that require proof of occupancy typically require high-touch interactions with consumers throughout the application process. With COVID-19 shifting interactions from face-to-face to online, getting verified documentation is more challenging. The Urjanet Utility Data Platform helps to solve this problem, providing digital access to utility bills for proof of occupancy directly from utility, cable, and telecom providers.  

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a leading national mortgage lender needed to digitize its proof of occupancy process to deliver a fully online experience to customers. Using Urjanet’s API and UI toolkit, the lender seamlessly added digital proof of occupancy directly into its application process. 

Digital verification of utility bills has enabled the lender to accelerate approval processes and minimize the risk of fraud, even in the midst of social distancing.

In this new flow, the consumer no longer needs to leave their home: they simply visit the lender’s website and link their utility account as part of the mortgage application process, then Urjanet returns their most recent name and address information directly from the utility, cable or telecom provider. This has enabled the lender to accelerate approval processes and minimize the risk of fraud, even in the midst of social distancing.

Navigating digital proof of identity

As black swan events like the COVID-19 pandemic drive a fundamental shift in how people interact with businesses, digital transformation needs to be a top priority. Industries varying from telemedicine to financial services have been deeply impacted by the new digital normal.  

This is especially true in regulated industries like financial services, where risk mitigation and compliance requirements like proof of identity and proof of occupancy need to be balanced with fast delivery of funds to consumers and businesses.

Need some help verifying proof of occupancy or proof of identity in this digital age? We can help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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About Honor Donnie

Honor Donnie is a Marketing Coordinator at Urjanet, with a passion for content creation. When she’s not at Urjanet, she can be found reading, cooking, and listening to great music.

Tags   Identity & Fraud   |   Identity Verification   |   Lending   |   Regulation   |   Urjanet   |   Utility Bills   |