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Spark, the order delivery platform of the American multinational Walmart, is facing a problem that threatens the integrity of the service: drivers are using fake identities to maximize their earnings.
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Retail giant Walmart, which operates thousands of stores in 28 countries, launched an order delivery platform in 2018 named Spark. The application functions within the United States like Uber Eats and other delivery apps. Drivers receive orders, collect them from a Walmart center, and deliver them to the customer’s address. Over the past year, an increase in fraud associated with the service has been observed: identity theft, account hacking, or application manipulation.
Some drivers have been picking up and delivering orders under different names, raising serious concerns about the authenticity and reliability of Spark platform drivers. Also, according to a complaint by a group of drivers, many of them make use of tactics to monopolize orders. The first of these techniques is the use of multiple phones that they keep with the order reception application open. The second is the use of bots, GPS modifiers, and other third-party applications that facilitate the mass and automatic entry of orders. This irregular behavior means a small number of drivers benefit from a higher volume of work at the expense of those who use the platform honestly.
Alarms were raised when Spark drivers began receiving confusing messages about canceled orders for no apparent reason or orders that had not been delivered. In some cases, these employees’ accounts were deactivated for allegedly failing to perform their duties in accordance with company policy, resulting in protests to support services.
The fact that some drivers may be working under false identities highlights a serious security breach. According to the complaints filed, Walmart cannot guarantee that Spark drivers are who they say they are. The growth in the number of platform subscribers over the past year has only exacerbated the problem.
New measures to strengthen employee verification
In response to the crisis, Walmart said through a spokesperson that it takes the reliability of its systems very seriously. To combat fraud, they encourage their drivers to report irregular situations. They assure that they continuously work to improve their anti-fraud techniques, adopting new solutions, and maintain a strict policy of warnings and deactivation of accounts with anomalous behavior. The problem is that these protocols were also flawed, disabling legitimate accounts that appeared to be fraudulent when in fact they were drivers that had been hacked.
However, in a recent development, Walmart started implementing an additional identity verification procedure. As part of this process, drivers regularly take photos of themselves using Spark on their mobile phones to ensure that they match the image on their official ID.
This fraud issue not only affects drivers who work according to the rules, but it can also pose a security problem for customers. Walmart requires drivers during the onboarding process as a new member of the company to present a criminal background check certificate. Potentially, delivering goods under false identities could jeopardize customers, who share their data and let drivers into their properties.
Identity theft and creation of fake profiles
In 2021, a similar fraud was recorded, culminating in the arrest of 19 individuals. These suspects, all Brazilian citizens, created fake driver profiles with various transport and delivery companies, using around 2,000 stolen identities. They later marketed these profiles to drivers who would otherwise not meet the requirements to work in those services, including those who did not pass background checks or were not eligible to work in the United States. The plan also included using fraudulent profiles to exploit company bonus programs, as well as using automated bots and GPS spoofing technology to increase earnings obtained through fake driver profiles. This plan was carried out from January 2019 to April 2021, and it affected at least five different companies.
Advanced onboarding processes against fraud
To make it truly difficult for fraudsters, large companies must take the onboarding processes of new employees very seriously. Beyond the economic consequences, they face lost trust and a damaged reputation that can be even more difficult to recover from.
To ensure a solid and reliable onboarding process, it is advisable to have providers implement identity verification measures that prevent duplications and security breaches.
- Advanced Biometrics.
– Facial Recognition: Use facial recognition algorithms to compare the driver’s identification image with their real-time face during the registration process and at regular intervals.
– Fingerprint Scanning: Employ biometric devices to securely capture and store the drivers’ fingerprints, allowing for precise authentication.
– Proof of life: Record the driver’s real-time presence to associate each order with a single person and ensure they are on the other end of the screen at that moment.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Require drivers to go through multiple stages of authentication, such as photo ID verification, followed by facial scanning and entering an OTP (One-Time Password).
- Use of authentication tokens. Provide drivers with a physical or virtual authentication token, like a smart card or mobile authentication app, which must be used alongside their login credentials.
- Integration with official databases. Connect the onboarding system with government databases to verify the drivers’ backgrounds in real-time.
- Behavioral analysis and pattern recognition through artificial intelligence. Utilize machine learning algorithms to analyze drivers’ behavior and detect suspicious or unusual patterns in their activity.
- Immutable identity records. Use blockchain technology to create an immutable record and storage of drivers’ identities, ensuring information cannot be altered or falsified.
Combining these cutting-edge technology solutions in the onboarding process would not only strengthen driver authentication and security, but also send a clear message about the company’s commitment to the integrity and reliability of its delivery platform.