Scanning vs. Validating

Scanning vs. Validating


People often ask: “What’s the difference between scanning and validating an ID?” It’s actually a pretty big difference, so, I thought I’d write this post to explain it.


Scanning is just reading a barcode. You may scan a QR code that takes you to a restaurant website so you can see the menu. You might scan barcodes while using self-service checkout. You might use it in a library when you are checking out a book. In all these cases, the scanner, whether a phone or a dedicated device, is converting a bar code/ QR code from black and white lines or blocks into text or data. In other words, it is like a translation tool that is converting from one language to another. The tool doesn’t really care what is in the barcode, just that it can accurately extract whatever information is encoded in the barcode and returns it in the desired format.


This is a problem when scanning the barcode of a driver’s license. The fraudsters who produce fakes add a fake birthdate into the barcode. The scanning app will just report the fake data. Because fakes are so good today, you can’t visually inspect them and confirm their authenticity.


That is where validating an ID comes into play.


A tool that validates cares about what’s in the barcode, and it cares whether the format of the barcode is valid. Where this might be most important is where you want to validate an ID like a driver’s license so that you can determine if someone is the right age to make a purchase or is who they say they are. Here, you care not just about the information that describes the person who presented the ID, but also that the barcode matches an officially issued format and is real. Each issuer of an ID includes information within their barcodes that serves as a sort of security watermark. This helps you know if it’s real. After all, any phone or app can read a barcode, and any fraudster can take information and create their own barcode and the ID that goes with it. However, reading the security information lets you know if it’s real and ultimately whether the person who presented it should be trusted.



The big difference is that if you use scanning software for a business’ critical activity like verifying an ID, you open yourself up to fakes, fraud and fines. Scanning just tells you what’s encoded in the barcode on the fake ID or real ID you’re looking at. On the other hand, using ID Validation software from Intellicheck protects you from fakes and the bad things that come with them.

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