Do you truly know you client?

Establishing that your client is who they say they are, is important for many reasons, not just Anti-Money Laundering. Identifying a client can deter identity fraudsters as well as criminals and protect your business from a fine or your people from imprisonment.

When you are given the client’s original identification (ID) to certify, what should you be looking for and how do you know if it is genuine? Compliance & Risk Manager, John Grace discusses the main points to look out for.

On government documents such as passports or driving licenses then the main thing to note is quality. They use state of the art printing to ensure a far higher standard than any commercial printing. Lines will be sharp and clear, particularly as the printed patterns on a passport are intended to be complex.

Passports & Driving Licences

Passports and driving licences have smooth surfaces and you should not be able to feel either the printing or the photograph above the surface as though it was stuck on.

Look at the picture on the ID and compare it to your client – check face shape, particularly the ears as they are unique to each person. Look at the date of birth of the client and whether it reflects how they now look.

Passports will have the following features:

  • A digitally printed photograph with holographic overlay.
  • A 9-digit number on page 1.
  • A perforated serial number throughout the pages.
  • The holder’s signature.
  • A passport chip.

Passports are made of sheets of paper which are then stitched together and cut to size. The pages should therefore all be in perfect alignment.  A forged document is often an original one taken apart and reassembled with fake pages or an ID picture added.  It is difficult for them to then be as flush as the original.

A driving licence will have the following features:

  • A hologram of a steering wheel over the person’s photograph which ‘turns’ as you move the card.
  • Further holographic images on the front.
  • Pictograms on the reverse.
  • A green/gold steering wheel image on the reverse.

A driving license must have a signature on the front, so compare that to any other documents that the client has signed for you.

Bank Statements

If you are looking at a bank statement, then make sure that it has the account and sort codes on it and that the account name is the clients. Check that you have all the pages for the statement and not just the front page and you MUST look at the account entries to ensure that everything is consistent with what you know about this client. If you do accept copies printed off the internet then that is normally fine, unless you have other concerns about the client’s ID or their documentation or the client is a high risk one.

When you have more than one document, check that the client’s details are consistent across all of them. For example, is the client William Wyldbore-Smith on one document but say William-Wildbore Smith on another or do they perhaps have different dates of birth?

Only by conducting thorough due diligence will you be better able to identify potential criminals and deny them the access to what they need to launder illicit funds.

If you would like some advice and guidance on ensuring you have the correct procedures in place to ensure you ‘know your client’ please get in touch with John today on 01749 342 323 or email

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