Site Visitor's Geographical Location
An often asked question is...
"Can we use a software to determine the geographical location of a site visitor?"
The answer is a conditional yes.
There are no serious problems involved if you intend to use IP address only as a method of roughly identifying the geographical location. However it is not a good idea to make important decisions based on the IP address of the visitor.
Problems with geographical identification
- Not all IP based identifications are accurate. IP lookups only allow you to locate the address of an organization that owns the block. It doesn't mean that the IP is actually allocated/used in the same country (fortunately in most cases the IP addresses are allocated in the same country).
- People move around. Some one from France could move to Germany during the weekend and then browse from there. If your website uses the IP address to present a site customized to the geographical area, ensure that there is a way for your visitor to change the default selection (like providing a drop-down box for selecting the country). Even now there are sites that simply don't provide such an option.
- Your site visitor may be browsing using a proxy server located in another country or continent. IP based geographical identification will be completely inaccurate in this case. There are a number of companies that offer VPN services for a very low monthly fee. The end users can then select the country they wish to browse from!
Credit Card Fraud Detection
An area where IP address lookup is very useful is for credit card fraud identification. If you are merchant who ships costly products after taking a credit card payment you would want to ensure that the order is is not made using a stolen card.
One common feature of many fake credit card orders is that the orders often originate from a different country.
If John Doe from Maryland, USA orders a product and then you notice that his Internet Service provider is in a totally different country, there is probably some thing wrong. Please note that people travel and the purchase could be genuine. So don't always assume that all such purchases are fraudulent.