A new patent published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office Tuesday offers a look at one way JPMorgan Chase is thinking about decreasing the chance of fraud: capturing a person's image to help confirm he is who he says he is. The invention, co-invented by Brad Lucas, John Hsieh, Ravi Acharya, and Sih Lee, is described as an "image authentication and security system and method."

The patent document describes the method as working like this:

  1. "Capturing an image of the customer engaging in the transaction using an image capturing device integrated with the electronic device and retrieving a stored image of the customer from an authentication database;
  2. Comparing, using a comparison algorithm executed by computer processing components, the stored image with the captured image to authenticate the customer and upon authentication, monitoring the captured image during the transaction for an interruption using the computer processing component; and
  3. The method further includes terminating the transaction if an interruption is detected."

Existing authentication methods (user name and password and/or PIN and physical card) have been widely criticized by bankers, analysts and tech experts for either failing to be secure enough or for offering customers a poor user experience. Chase's idea, as described in the document, is meant to improve both of these pain points.

One specific scenario Chase outlines would work something like this: If a customer is using a bank app and wants to conduct a high-risk transaction like a large wire transfer, the system would identify and authenticate the customer to "ensure that it is the customer in fact who is in possession of the electronic device." The patent also offers an example taking place at a gas pump or grocery checkout. When the system asks a customer whether he wants to do another transaction, the system could monitor the customer with a camera to see whether he remains in front of the machine.

The New York bank filed the patent on Oct. 14, 2010.