Former Youth Worker, Louise Bruder was browsing her phone one evening after work when she was prompted to take an online quiz to test how good she was at recognising people. Never one to forget a face, she gave the 1:1 matching test a go and aced it. Cue a few more tests and Louise was offered a brand new career as a Super Recogniser at digital identity firm, Yoti, where she now trains a large team on how to spot fraudulent IDs.

With artificial intelligence as a first line of defence, Super Recognisers (only 1-2% of the global population who take the tests can achieve the required pass rate) come into play when the automated checks require further scrutiny, a second layer of protection to provide optimal results and checks.

Never heard of the role? Read on……

How does one become a Super Recogniser?

Quite by accident in my case! I’ve always been good at remembering faces – like the ones who attend the youth organisations I worked at and then later bumping into them by accident at the supermarket several years on. It’s an innate memory skill that you either have or don’t. You also need to be able to trust your gut reaction, it’s something that is instinctive.

I started with an online test that’s available to anyone publicly to try and then progressed from there. I had to do a few tests before passing the threshold to work at Yoti – it was a robust process! This enabled me to do 1:1 face-matching work with the confidence that I was higher than average for this kind of skill.

Then after a couple of years, I attended a dedicated course run by Super Recognisers International (with support from Greenwich University). We had all sorts of tests during that week; long-term memory, short-term memory, picking out people from grainy CCTV footage, as well as a live deployment in London looking for ‘suspects’- some of whom we only had an image of from 20 years prior! That was a lot of fun. It was a combination of all these test results that led to me being categorised as a Super Recogniser and becoming a Licentiate.

I can honestly say that in the beginning, I thought I was being secretly recruited by MI5, such was the level of ability I had to display.

What does the typical day of a Super Recogniser look like?

I don’t really have a ‘typical’ day within my role at Yoti. I can be checking documents one minute, and delivering training modules the next. The only thing that is consistent is my first-morning cup of tea!

On a serious note, we view up to approx 150 images and documents a day, taking regular breaks to retain accuracy levels and partaking in other activities that use different parts of the brain. Our job demands a high level of visual acuity, stamina, and attention to detail. It may not be a ‘physical’ job but it is very demanding mentally.

As well as verifying ID documents and completing face matches, our team regularly partakes in training activities, research projects and fraud analysis. It helps to broaden the scope of what we do, as well as improve our skills.

I am lucky to work closely with teams from across the world, so this also provides me the opportunity to learn about the diverse approaches to identity and fraud globally.

What role does AI play in document checking?

As I mentioned earlier, AI is the first line of defence we use to check identity documents, but no technology will ever be right 100% of the time. There will always be the odd glitch or the image uploaded will be too grainy or have bad lighting. In some cases, some documents might have a photo which is over 10 years old and that person’s appearance will have changed considerably since the ID photo was taken, so it can be hard for the tech to match the two.

Given Super Recognisers look at people’s ID documents, how do you reassure people that they’re trustworthy?

Our operative staff go through security and vetting checks before commencing employment. In addition to this, our systems are designed with really strict security measures. We operate in a ‘Clean Room’ environment, which means that we only view ID documents in a room that has restricted access (no wider Yoti personnel can enter, only authorised persons). We can’t bring any phones, devices or writing materials into the room and are observed by CCTV 24/7. Documents are allocated at random and then once processed we no longer view them. It’s a good system, but we also have great people.

How do we keep up to date with fake documents, especially as the quality improves?

We have a dedicated Counter Fraud Team (they hold professional certificates in Fraud Prevention), who not only analyse any fraud submissions we have received, but also complete robust research into fraud trends globally.

Our Super Recognisers (we have around 15 in the company) pride themselves on their accuracy so they, and the wider team, are re-tested every year to ensure they retain their skills and ensure Yoti can continue to have a consistent and high-quality standard.

Can you share an example of what you look for when reviewing digital identities for fakes?

I can normally spot most fake IDs quickly, but others require closer scrutiny. There are a number of tells such as the physical appearance of the document, but also how the document looks to be made or constructed can sometimes give us big clues, and people will often try to use props to try and throw the technology and our checks off. Our automated checks also contribute to identifying fraudulent submissions, so it’s a combined effort of technology and human ability.

The quality of fakes is getting more sophisticated but so too is the technology and our analysing skills. The volume of fakes being submitted is also on the increase, especially from overseas documents.

And finally… you have any interesting career stories you can tell?

I can’t really share ‘interesting’ stories from Yoti, as that would breach our privacy rules!

But my abilities have come in useful in other areas…When I first started at Yoti I continued to work a couple of shifts at a local pub. I remember one Saturday a group of young lads walked in, so my boss asked them for ID (which they all dutifully and politely handed over). He looked at the first one and then proceeded to take his order.

Not convinced, I asked if I could take a quick look and collect the ID’s, one by one. I went through them like a conveyor belt…

“This one is fake, sorry pal”
“And this one is not, but it isn’t you- is this your older brother? Ahh, he looks nice”
“This one is fake”
“This one is fake – and a bad one at that”
“Listen, folks, you all seem lovely but we can’t serve any of you using these. Come ​back in a couple of years and we’ll be happy to serve you a pint”

They were very sweet and polite as they left somewhat dejected. But they’d been busted, and my manager was a little red-faced….

Take the test and see if you could be a Super Recogniser. Visit: Super recogniser test – you never know, it could lead to a new career!