What is Header Data?

Matt Wiley

Identity Resolution is at the Core

In today’s digital world, identity resolution is more critical than ever. Whether consumers want to buy a new insurance policy or make a transaction from a new location, insurers need to confirm an identity or raise a red flag with minimal consumer friction. 

Header data is at the core of all these transactions. We sat down with Megan Strub, Identity Data Solution Consultant at Equifax, to discuss what insurers should understand about header data and how they can use it.

Let’s start with the basics. What is header data?

Megan: In our world, header data is PII, personally identifiable information. When you think about our credit file, it’s really the PII that sits atop of the record. So, where my credit file might have all my trade lines and my performance information, the header is name, address, date of birth, social security number. We have phone numbers, email and driver’s licenses now, too. It’s that information tied to me that can be used to verify, authenticate and resolve an identity.

Header data is governed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the GLB, as opposed to where credit is FCRA. It’s underwriting; it’s risk. 

“This is the data above the line that speaks specifically to a consumer that can be used for the identity permissible-use cases.”

Who do you have header data for? 

Megan: From a U.S. perspective, our coverage is nearly 100%. And that’s because we have different sources. We have the credit file. We have information from telecom, utility and energy companies.. We have information consumers self-report when they’re applying for credit, a job, etc. So, we’re collecting it from various places and that’s what gives us the breadth and depth of full national coverage.

We don’t have every consumer though, because it depends on their behavior, such as what products they may have and their personal life. For instance, if someone does not have any core credit products, they may not be present on our core credit database. But that’s where we’d look to perhaps our telecommunications’ file. 

The cumulative effect of all the data we collect really gives us that broad, comprehensive view, but we may not have the same level of information in every file. 

“We are constantly looking to make sure we have complete and consistent coverage so we can corroborate good things and call out the anomalies or red flags that don’t seem to make sense.”

Who collects header data?

Megan: In the case of our files, 90% of all the data we have is coming directly to Equifax. We’re collecting it. And that’s actually one of the benefits; we’re receiving it and cleansing it. We have a deep history of doing that, so we have high confidence in the data we’re receiving.

There are places and times that we supplement with third party data, but it’s minimal.

Who uses header data? Is this something that companies buy separately? Or is it part of other solutions?

Megan: It’s both. It’s the ingredients that power our identity and fraud compliance solutions across the board. It powers our internal proprietary keying and linking algorithms that enable us to take a real-time application, go out and find information about a policyholder and return a risk score, a credit file or some type of identity and fraud product solution. 

We also have insurers who consume it in its raw format, in this kind of “header file” bulk data. The power of that approach is that our partners can embed it in their own solutions. So just like it’s powering our products, they can use that data to power the solutions they have across the marketplace.

Let’s talk about the buyers of header data. Who is interested in header data or the solutions that use it?

Megan: We have multiple verticals and industries that we’re serving. That said, there has been a lot of growth this year in the insurance segment. We’re helping insurers who are tackling challenges like premium leakage. Specifically, we’re identifying where a policyholder’s information may not be correct or there’s an instance of a “no hit” – that is there’s no information in the existing credit file.  For example, if someone is applying for an auto insurance policy and no information about them comes up, many states require insurance carriers to provide a quote that treats the applicant as an average risk versus being able to more accurately evaluate the risk of the policyholder. 

Our data can help connect those dots behind the scenes to ensure insurers have the most accurate information to make the best decisions for their policyholders.

Some other uses include leveraging our data to power platforms that assist our federal, state and local law enforcement when they need to access quick, immediate information in a very critical moment. We also work with companies that are focused on the fraud space. They’re building solutions and leveraging the power of our data to detect, prevent and mitigate potential fraudulent activity across verticals and transacations.

In summary, why do insurers need to know what header data is?

Megan: Identity resolution is literally the core of every kind of business that’s happening today. As we become increasingly digital, insurers need foundational identity that connects across channels. It should be accurate, up-to-date, and come from credible, high-confidence, clean data. 

Whether it’s making the right decisions when you’re acquiring a customer or making sure you have the right information when you’re writing a policy, we help facilitate that seamless process and experience for the policyholder, as well as protect insurers from fraud. 

Contact us to learn more about Equifax’s header data and how you can help prevent fraud.

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