Address Verification anywhere in real time

Streamline onboarding and stop fake account creation with Incognia Address Verification.
Request a demo

Main ways to verify addresses

Address verification is part of most digital user identification processes. To identify a user online, companies and platforms collect essential personal data and then confirm the accuracy of the data by using different software. Depending on the business requiring verification, users might be asked to provide their name, email, phone number, and mailing address. Each piece of personal data provided will be checked to verify that the user is whom they say they are. For example, verifying an address means collecting digital or physical proof to ensure the provided address belongs to the user. A verified address is evidence the company can use to confirm the user’s identity.

There are several ways that online platforms today verify user addresses. These include checks to see: 

  • if the provided address exists in postal service digital databases

  • if the user lives (or has lived) at the provided address with DMV data or other public records

  • if the user lives (or has lived) at the provided address by requesting recent utility bills

  • if the user lives (or has lived) at the provided address by doing a reverse lookup of the user's phone number with MNO data

  • if the user is physically located at the provided address with location sensors on the device (GPS, WiFi, cellular network)

  • if the user can access physical mail delivered to the stated address

Companies can select one or more of these methods depending on their security requirements and how much friction they’re willing to add to the user verification process.

Address validation x Address Verification


The difference between address validation and address verification

Address validation and address verification are similar processes to ensure a mailing address's accuracy and validity. Address validation typically involves checking an address against a known list of valid addresses, such as addresses recognized by the postal service. On the other hand, address verification involves verifying an address by sending mail to the address in question and seeing if it is delivered successfully. While both processes are designed to ensure the accuracy of an address, address verification is generally considered a more comprehensive and reliable method as it not only checks that the address exists but also that there is an association between the address and the user.

Verified address and identity verification

Identity verification is essential to protecting users online and ensuring digital trust. Companies use several pieces of personal information to establish a customer’s identity and enhance security for any transactions performed online. A verified address is one piece of personal information that enables businesses to quickly and efficiently identify new customers online, streamlining digital onboarding processes.

A verified address is a vital fraud prevention signal. To create fake accounts online and use them to defraud other users or the company itself, bad actors need to provide information that can bypass the identity and security checks in place. Suppose the bad actor is asked to provide a utility bill for proof of address and demonstrates that they have access to that address by submitting an Address Verification code received in the mail or by providing their real-time location. In that case, there is a much lower chance that they will be successful. Address verification at onboarding is critical in uncovering threats like stolen and synthetic identities.

How does address verification typically fit into a customer onboarding process?

Address verification is a key part of the customer onboarding process for businesses in several industries, including financial services and social commerce. To ensure that new users are whom they claim to be, online platforms establish an onboarding process designed to collect the new user's personal information and verify it.

As a first step, the user may be asked to take a picture of their government-issued photo ID and take a selfie. These technologies check the document's authenticity against a template of the ID and compare the picture to the selfie. Then the user’s name and address are extracted from the document using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and verified using one or more data vendors to ensure its accuracy and the new user's identity.

For industries that are not heavily regulated, address verification can be done before the process outlined above to reduce friction for good users and verification costs for the company.

Challenges with address validation services

Several challenges are associated with the market address validation services currently available. The main one is that most of these services call out third-party databases, which are often incomplete or outdated. Below are a few different types of address validation services and the critical challenges that each faces.

Address Validation Databases

These services were built to verify that the address submitted is a valid mailing address within the national post office database (i.e. the USPS). The main challenges associated with these databases include:

  • Coverage: These databases have good coverage in some countries (such as the US and UK) but may provide incomplete information in other countries without a robust postal address database. That means it can be challenging for global companies to rely exclusively on these services. 

  • Resources: International address validation done in this way may require companies to implement APIs from different vendors in each country, making it both very expensive and incredibly resource-intensive. Customers who only onboard domestic users may succeed with this method, but most platforms will need a more reliable, globally-minded solution.

  • Recency: Even when used in the US and UK, where postal address databases are available, these databases may not be updated frequently enough to deliver the expected coverage rate.

Proof of Residence Databases

These services, including the DMV and other state-by-state databases, try to verify whether the user is currently living or has previously lived at the submitted address. They are limited in scope and often can only verify addresses in a particular region of the US. Additionally, they tend to have low coverage of younger generations, like Z and Alpha, and immigrants who may not own a car or a home. And because these database checks involve multiple governmental agencies, the “cost per verification” is high compared to other solutions. 

Reverse lookup databases

In this scenario, users are verified against phone number directories and Mobile Network Operator (MNO) contract databases. After the user's phone number is collected, it is used to look up the address associated with the number. However, challenges arise when old contracts return outdated address information. The user's personal information is unlikely to be updated when the user moves or changes the carrier network. 

Utility bill 

A digital copy of a recent utility bill is also used as proof of address. However, asking a new user to submit a document scan introduces friction in the onboarding process. The user must locate the physical document, scan it clearly, and finally upload and submit it. These multiple steps contribute to high drop-off rates. Additionally, while OCR can extract information from these forms, these technologies are not always reliable when dealing with various billing formats. For this reason, documents may require a manual review, raising costs and significantly slowing down the process. Due to technological advances, utility bills are considered a “last resort” address verification service.

Real-time address verification

This novel address verification approach leverages real-time signals from a user's mobile phone, including GPS and WiFi, to determine if the user is currently at the stated address. To gain access to these signals, the company must first obtain location permissions from the user, which introduces an additional step. These solutions provide several advantages: 

  • it checks the real physical presence of the user at the provided address and not the presence of the address in a database.
  • It works globally in every country: it does not depend on the existence or completeness of different address databases in each country
  • It can detect fraudsters that can fool the address database services. For example, if a hacker in Russia steals the PII of a US consumer and tries to impersonate him/her, he will use and submit his/her US address. Since it’s the correct address for that specific consumer, this address will be verified by the database service but will be flagged as fraud by the real-time address verification. This service will see a mismatch between the physical user location (Russia) and the stated user location (US).

Mail a physical postcard 

Though it may seem archaic, companies today verify addresses by sending a physical piece of mail containing a code that the user is asked to provide during the online onboarding flow. This can take between three and five business days to reach domestic addresses and over a week for addresses overseas. This delay causes drop-off and is one of the more expensive address verification options. 

Given that no solution is a silver bullet, companies typically structure a vendor waterfall to ensure that they successfully onboard as many new users are possible. The most efficient way to structure this waterfall is to first place the service with the highest success rate and lowest friction, ensuring that it verifies the possible users. While the last position is reserved for the highest friction and most expensive solution, guaranteeing that all other options are exhausted before turning to the last resort. Using this waterfall strategy, companies optimize for coverage and cost.

Benefits of real-time address verification


There are three core benefits of real-time address verification:

  • The address information is always current and never outdated. The address is collected in real-time using device sensors, such as GPS, WiFi, and cellular networks), so it is the most recent data available.

  • It works equally well in any country since it is not dependent on third-party databases.

  • It can verify any user, regardless of age, credit history, or availability of public information. 

How do companies verify international addresses?

Usually, companies verify international addresses using the address databases available in each country of operation. For some countries, such as the US, Canada, and the UK, these address databases have existed for a long time and are somewhat reliable (even if static and could be outdated). For countries with less available data, address databases are either non-existent or incomplete. This inconsistency makes verifying international addresses challenging.


An innovative method spearheaded by Incognia uses real-time location signals from the user's mobile phone to verify international addresses. These solutions try to match the address provided by the user with the device's real-time location. Based on Incognia’s data, more than 85% of users' mobile transactions happen from a trusted location, such as their home. The benefit of this solution is that it works globally. Customers do not depend on multiple database vendors (one for each country) who may provide incomplete databases. Using real-time location also allows a high precision and high verification rate.


In some cases, real-time address verification can be used in waterfall with a database approach to increase the verification rates. Based on Incognia's experience, customers that originally had a 70% verification rate using international databases have exceeded a 90% verification rate when this new real-time address verification has been used in conjunction with the older database approach.

Watch the below video about how one of Incognia's customers has been using location for real-time international address verification.


How much do address verification solutions cost?

The cost of address verification varies based on the type of verification and the country where the verification is completed. Generally, services that only verify mailing addresses via API can cost as low as a fraction of a cent per request.

Some of the address verification solutions mentioned above, such as Address Validation Databases, Reverse Phone Lookup, and Real-Time Address Verification, may cost a fraction of a cent to a few cents per API call.

Other solutions, such as Proof of Residence Databases, Utility Bills, and Physical Postcard mailing, may cost up to several tens of cents for each address verification and may also require expensive setup fees.

Watch the effect that location has on the address verification process of a customer:

Address verification is table stakes for online businesses and mobile apps today. It plays a crucial role not only in ensuring smooth, efficient deliveries but also in preventing fraud and securing customer trust. While traditional methods of address verification offer varying degrees of success, the advent of real-time address verification using mobile phone devices and location signals brings an innovative, cost-effective, and globally viable solution to the table. Moreover, it ensures high verification rates and a high level of precision with lower false positives, making it a powerful tool for a variety of different verticals. 

Where customers are is a part of who they are. To learn more about how Incognia’s real-time address verification solutions can help your business, access our case studies here or schedule a demo with a member of our team today.

Schedule a Demo

One of our specialists will be glad to meet you and go over Incognia's capabilities.

To help us personalize our conversation for your business, please fill out the following form.