Ending the nuisance (and risk) of visitors’ books

Visitor records are necessary, but the days of the grubby book-based register at the guard house are numbered, says Ideco.

Filling in the visitors’ register at the entrance to office blocks or residential estates is a pet peeve of most South Africans: to simply enter a site, they must balance a cumbersome visitors’ book on their car steering wheel, etch out their details with a failing pen, and complete endless fields of personal information. This process takes time, may cause a backup of traffic behind the visitor completing the log, and – worst of all – puts their personal information at risk.

“It’s not unheard of for villains to pay security guards a few hundred rand to ‘borrow’ the visitors’ log book for the night,” says Marius Coetzee, CEO of Identity management expert Ideco. “They then copy the information in the book, which usually includes details like car registration, name, phone number and even ID number. This information is a good basis for identity theft and fraud.”

Because of the nuisance factor and fraud risk associated with visitors’ log books, many visitors simply scribble illegibly in the books, or even fill in the fields with false information and made-up names.  This is not the solution, says Coetzee.

“Most people don’t realise that sites are required by law to keep accurate records of visitors on site.  In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, accurate visitor records must be kept to protect both the site owners and the visitors. In high-security environments, such as mining, manufacturing and construction, there are also stringent rules about how these records must be stored, and for how long.”

Authorised visitors are entitled under the act to the same protections as employees. Coetzee notes, for example, that in the event of a health and safety incident, the visitor records are used to carry out a roll call and ensure that everyone on site is accounted for.

“Accurate logs are important, but the old-style visitors’ book is a deterrent to proper record-keeping,” says Coetzee. The good news, says Ideco, is that these paper-based visitors’ books are slowly being phased out, and being replaced by more advanced digital solutions. While these solutions are better than paper-based records, not all digital systems are created equal, however.

“There are still risks associated with many digital solutions on the market,” says Coetzee. “Many scan the car registration and driver’s licence and then store the digital data either on the scanner itself, or on a PC in the guardhouse. Should the scanner or PC be stolen, this aggregated and accurate digitised data will fall into the wrong hands, making fraud easier and presenting risks in terms of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act.”

“The most effective, efficient and secure way to gather accurate visitor data is to input data digitally and store it securely in the cloud, where it can only be accessed by authorised security managers,” says Coetzee.  

The most advanced cloud and mobile-enabled Electronic Visitor Identity Management (EVIM) solutions, pioneered in South Africa by Ideco, use a range of terminals – from smartphones to advanced biometric readers – to support fraud-proof, rapid visitor registration. Ideco’s EVIM system, which has processed over 12 million visitors to date, has now been enhanced to make next-generation visitor management and compliance available to even the smallest sites.  

Ideco, a pioneer in identity management solutions, is leading efforts to introduce advanced new identity management systems to South Africa to reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft.