No ID: Keeping Online Marketplaces Safe in the Digital World

My fiancée recently watched a viral video of a young woman dancing on roller skates. As you can imagine, the next two months were full of not so subtle hints that I should procure a pair of pink roller skates for her birthday, matching knee socks optional. I scoured the depths of the internet, and much to my chagrin, my fiancée’s dream was not an uncommon one. Seemingly every woman in the world had seen this video and flooded online stores to find a pair of skates so they too could go viral on social media.


Fortunately for me, I was able to turn to an online marketplace where buyers and sellers exchange goods directly with each other. I contacted someone in Australia who sent a Size 4 roller skates from Brisbane all the way to my home in Marina del Rey, California. It was a perfect experience, save for the fact that the fiancée is a size 5.


My ignorance aside, I found myself thinking a lot about identity during the process. I purchased an item from a private citizen 7,000 miles away. But how many things had to go right for that to happen? I was trusting that somehow that package would arrive at my doorstep. I had to believe that the seller was real; I, myself had to be a genuine buyer. The seller needed to trust I was using a valid payment method, not some stolen credit card or hacked account credentials. Any number of ways, the whole transaction could have gone sideways. The truth is no platform relies on verification and digital identity solutions more heavily than a marketplace. Fortunately, TeleSign provides tools that make these transactions run smoothly every day.




Verification is paramount to all digital ecosystems, but specifically in a marketplace. When building a user’s digital footprint at onboarding, a trust anchor is established, and a de facto contract is signed. It says I am a real person; this is a real account, and my intentions on this platform are legitimate. This authentication puts sellers and buyers at ease. There are dozens of ways to defraud an eCommerce or marketplace platform. They are susceptible to everything from chargeback fraud to brute force account takeover. By verifying an account with a legitimate phone number at onboarding, the exposure for platforms is severely limited.


Identifying Good Users


There are ways to circumvent verification by providing a dubious phone number that is technically valid. These are burner phones, VoIP numbers, even SIM cards that come directly from a SIM farm. This approach may seem like a lot of effort for a fraudster… but imagine you are trying to sell your barely used, two-month-old, 80-inch flat screen TV. That’s quite a high-ticket item. Could you imagine a fraudster registering on a marketplace with a VoIP number that they procured online for free because they fully intend to issue a chargeback when the merchandise arrives? Of course, you can, that’s five minutes of effort for a new TV!


Situations like this are why TeleSign uses digital identity on top of verification. Platforms may not want to admit these risky phone numbers or even phone numbers associated with risky regions onto the marketplace without receiving additional assurances.


Providing Updates


When I ordered those lovely ill-fitting roller skates from Brisbane, I didn’t expect they would arrive in 48 hours, but I did want the opportunity to provide my fiancée with timely updates (as I took off on my brand new inline skates that had arrived weeks prior). Fortunately, when the platform collected my phone number to verify that I was a real person, they also gained the ability to contact me for alerts, reminders, and notifications. If something were wrong with the order or shipping process, they could even call me. If the seller or I wanted to keep some privacy for any reason, they could have opted for a number masking feature. If this seller has more roller skates in stock, they can inform me with future marketing.


The marketplace is a life saver for people like me, though we must admit that digital identity is critical to its success to decrease the likelihood of fraud and increase overall safety. No one wants to become the subject of a made-for-TV movie while purchasing funky roller skates.


TeleSign has been connecting and protecting online experiences for over 15 years. We support the largest web properties in the world and we’re prepared to help you. Contact TeleSign now and for all of your security needs. As the pioneers of phone-based security, we are a one-stop-shop for all of your digital identity and programmable communications needs.

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