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January 23, 2018

What’s your sign?

Filed under: Identification For Being Notarized — admin @ 10:54 am

As a Notary, there are various aspects to our job. The most important according to Carmen is identifying people. But, most Notaries just look at the name, and photo, and if it is close enough, that is good enough. If the name is missing a middle initial on the ID that exists on the document that is bad news. But, most Notaries just say, “close enough.” If you say “close enough” too many times, you might end up in court on an identity fraud case which could end you up in court for weeks with no salary, and you might lose a lot of your regular customers as well.

So, how can Notaries make identifying people more reliable? Here are some quick points.

1. If the name don’t match, you must not attach.
Most Notaries say you can oversign but not undersign. This is a Lender preference not a law. If the ID says John Smith and the document says John W Smith you are taking your commission in your hands if you Notarize the signature.The Lender might not mind, but you might end up in court over this if fraud is involved and once in a blue moon it will be.

Most states make sure that middle initials are in ID’s, but not all people are from one of those states. There are out of state people, foreigners, and people who changed their names due to marriage or some other reason, not to mention people with name variations. People from Mexico culturally have two surnames on a regular basis.

So, you have to be prepared for this type of situation even though it only happens 1-6% of the time. If you are going to notarize anyway, what can you do?

(a) Ask the signer what sign he is while holding the ID. If the fake ID has a fake birthday the signer will not know his fake sign. He might be a Leo that is pretending to be an Aquarius. On the other hand, the fake ID might have a real birthday but a fake name.

(b) Get a thumbprint from the signer in your journal. That way the investigators can catch him after the fact if there is any funny business. Thumbprints also deter frauds as they often would prefer not to be notarized than risk being thumbprinted.

(c) Ask their height or birthdate.

(d) Ask for a birth certificate if they have one. That doesn’t have a photo, but does have the DOB which is something you can use to cross-check information.

(e) If they have a Social Security card, that is not an acceptable ID, but the first three numbers are part of the zip code where they were born. You can cross check check the info by asking them where they were born.

(f) A gas bill is NOT generally an acceptable form of ID for notarization. However, if you want to verify a middle initial, it is better than nothing.

What you can’t do.
Do NOT accept a signature affidavit AKA statement as a form of identification. That is a document for the LENDER and the source of the information is unknown and not official. Sources for government ID’s are official which is why you can normally trust government issued photo ID’s.

You need to know your state laws on identifying signers. Many states do not require the name on the ID to exactly match the signature on the document or even for the complete name on the document to be provable based on the ID. Many states leave it up to your judgement. Just because you are following the law does not mean you won’t end up in court as a witness or conspirator to identity theft which is why you as a Notary must take as many precautions as possible.

If you are notarizing for a long term customer and want to take liberties to ensure that your business relationship does not end prematurely, then you might use the above techniques. If the customer means nothing to you, I would strongly consider JUST SAYING NO to any request that is at all questionable, especially those involving ID’s that have names shorter than that on the document.

But, the fastest way to verify if an ID is fake is simply to ask — what’s your sign?


January 16, 2018

Credible Witnesses, the ins and the outs.

Filed under: Identification For Being Notarized — admin @ 10:52 am

Not all states allow credible witnesses, and some states like California have odd rules for credible witnesses. I also have opinions about credible witnesses as I used them frequently.

Some states that allow credible witnesses require only one witness. One that knows both the signer and the Notary.

Some states don’t allow credible witnesses at all

While other states allow the use of two credible witnesses who both know the signer but do not know the Notary. Or one credible witness who knows both.

The problem is how credible witnesses are used. Credible witnesses are normally used when the Notary gets to a Notary appointment and the signer has no ID. Or sometimes the ID has the wrong name. Hurry, get a credible witness or the notarization is over! So, you grab a neighbor, or coworker who swears they know you well.

The problem is that knowing you as a neighbor is very different than knowing you well enough to have your middle name(s) memorized.

You could test a credible witness out and ask, “What is this man’s middle name?” If they don’t know it, I would not think of them as a credible or reliable source of information. The law might allow you to use them but does it really make sense. They are just going along with whatever middle name the signer claims to be.

Or, you could use your judgement while picking credible witnesses. Personally, I feel that a family member or spouse is a quality choice for a credible witness as family members will know the other family members middle names. But, my friends who I’ve known for 30 years I do not know their middle names — sorry to say.

Additionally, in California, the credible witness has to swear that the signer cannot easily obtain an identification acceptable to the state of California such as a driver license, passport, etc. So, if the signer has an ID, but the names do not match, it would be bending the law to use a credible witness in that situation. If you don’t believe me, read page 12 of the 2017 California Notary Handbook.

All in all, I would say that using credible witnesses as a way to get out of a bind is something that should only be done if the credible witness really knows the person intimately and knows their middle names intimately off the top of their head. Otherwise you are just finding loopholes. And God forbid if you don’t take journal thumbprints you are asking for a court case and an FBI investigation! Be cautious as a Notary. It is easy to get in trouble and big trouble!


May 11, 2017

Notarize App turns your iPhone into a medium to get notarized!

Filed under: Identification For Being Notarized,Public Interest — admin @ 10:24 pm

On the road? Need to get notarized in a hurry? Well now you can! If you have an iPhone and the notarize app, you can just get notarized over the phone. Eliminate the hassle of trying to find a Notary at the last minute. This has been legal in Virginia since 2011. Just go to your App store and get the notarize app today! You can be notarized using your phone in any of the 50 states plus Washington DC.

Virginia is trying to be modern which is probably why they allow this. However, the lack of personal appearance ruins the whole point of requiring a notary!

Just upload your document using email, cloud or dropbox, or other app with similar capabilities and then prove your identity by taking a photo of your ID. Never mind that 100 signing companies also have a photo of your ID and can claim to be you! Then, you can be connected on video “face to face” (or non-face to non-face) and then the notarization will take place. There is a $25 fee per notarization and the app is FREE.

Next year they will probably come out with the Marriage App, where you can marry a nice Russian girl (no questions asked), the app will process immigration paperwork and even find a flight for your new honey to board to come to the United States. If you don’t like her, just use the new app called SwapWyfe and get a new Russian beauty (who looks good without make up).

You might also like:

See the original Notarize App article

New Notary Apps that you really need!

FASS has a brand new app

See our string on apps


November 15, 2016

How to spot fake ID at a notarization

Most Notaries study Notary law. But, do we keep handbooks that are up to date about spotting fake ID’s? Perhaps we should . Our primary task as a Notary is not to make people feel good, and is not to get the job done either. It is to identify signers and make sure that fraud doesn’t take place. It is better to say “no” rather than to get a Notary job done wrong — hence the name “no”–tary. Otherwise we would be yestaries and the world would go down the tubes.

ID Handbooks
The NNA and other vendors have books going over every state’s identification documents. They can tell you about distinguishing features, new watermarks, and other telltale signs that the ID is genuine.

Jeremy’s Solution — an online ID database
Personally, I think there should be a computer system to let the Notary look you up on a Federal or state database — but, that’s just me.


Things to look for one the ID

(1) Physical Description
Sometimes the physical description doesn’t match the signer. With ladies changing their hairstyle frequently, it is hard to tell their identity.

(2) Mispellings
Then, there could be misspellings in the name or a wrong name variation.

(3) Tampering
Obvious signs of tampering are almost a guarantee of a fake ID. I saw one of those once and only once.

(4) Watermarks
Finally watermarks are used in identification documents and currency to prove authenticity. It is possible, but hard for a fraud to replicate an authentic watermark. In China I’m sure they’ll figure it out as faking things is their specialty. But, for the rest of us it would not be so easy.

(5) Lack of raised lettering
Many of the newer ID’s have raised lettering. However, without a guidebook, you won’t know which states and which identification years of issue have raised letters.

(6) What’s your sign?
Ask the signer their sign. If they are using a fake ID with wrong DOB it will be very difficult for them to immediately recite their sign. You can also ask for their zip code to spot a fraud.


Most Notaries do not inspect ID’s carefully. They just record the information in their journal. Unless something fake is jumping out at them, they will not notice that something is wrong. It pays to get a handbook and become and expert. After all, the whole point of being a Notary is to deter fraud. In my opinion, each state’s Notary division should require all Notaries to be experts at spotting fake ID’s in addition to other critical related skills. Maybe one day technology and training will improve.

Smokey bear says — say no to forest fires. Notary Jer says — say no to fake notary identifications — if you can spot them.

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Seven error free ways to identify a signer

Notarized document expired identification


June 21, 2015

Seven Error Free Ways To Identify a Signer

When it comes to correctly certifying to the identifying signers, Notaries typically resort to one of two methods. First is the standard state issued identification (valid Driver License or State ID) that is current and the second is where the more experienced notaries resort to using credible witnesses when the signer does not have proper identification. On rare occasions, notaries who are confident in their work will use a subscribing witness to identify a signer who cannot physically appear in front of a notary to sign documents.

1. State issued ID or Driver License from any of the 50 states in the United States.
2. Valid International Driver License from Canada or Mexico only.
3. Valid U.S. Passports issued by the Department of State. Valid Foreign Passports stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services.
4. Using two credible witnesses to identify the signer. Used when the notary does not know the witnesses and the witnesses does not have a beneficial interest in the transaction. The witnesses vouch for the identity of the signer when the signer does not have proper Identification.
5. Using one credible witness to identify the signer when the notary knows the witness and the witness can vouch for the identity of the signer.
6. Using a Subscribing Witness when the signer cannot appear in person to sign in front of the notary. Because of the susceptibility of fraud, a subscribing witness cannot be used for Real Estate transactions.
7. Valid Military ID that contains the name & picture of the signer, signature of the signer, serial or ID number as well as the issue date and/or expiration date.
Note: The only time a Notary can accept an expired ID or passport is if it was issued within the last 5 years.


1. Alien Registration Card (Green Card) for non-immigration documents (§ 8230. Identification of affiant; verification). This can get tricky because the Green card issued by the Federal Government contains everything required in the military ID, but still is not approved by the Secretary of State.
2. Employment Authorization Card/Work Permits
3. Matricular Consular ID issued by the Mexican Consulate or many Central American countries.
4. International Driver License from any country other than Mexico and Canada.
5. Voter Registration or Election Card with picture and other biographical details from any country.
6. Birth Certificate with Social Security card
7. Department of Homeland Security Notice issued as temporary identification that has all the required elements in a military ID.


April 23, 2015

ID – A Growing Problem

Confirming the identity of the affiant is a complex issue. Notary laws regarding ID requirements vary by state. Some states are very specific and have a list of what constitutes proper ID. They may or may not permit the use of a substantiating witness. I am not aware of any jurisdiction that requires multiple IDs to notarize; if you are aware of this situation please comment. One of the vendors: has guides ranging from 25$ to over $200 (published annually!). Clearly, ID fraud is a growing issue.

As mentioned in a prior post, the City of New York will issue an “inmate release ID” with any name the prisoner chooses; if they can’t ascertain the true ID via fingerprints (1st offender?). A new initiative in NYC is to issue “Municipal IDs” to virtually anyone. There are rules and some proofs are required; but the general opinion is that they will be easy to get; with any name or address you choose. Applications can be submitted at the main NYC library or one of the Credit Union offices. Picture their situation if the proof of birth is hand written in Latvian from the local parish, without an e-mail address or telephone. Thus, even a crude forgery becomes a “valid NYC ID”. Glad you don’t live in New York City? But, you have problems too.

If your state does not have a specific list, it’s generally acceptable to accept the classic: “Government Issued Photo ID” – so do you take the NYC ID discussed above? Getting away from the proclivities of New York; most states certainly take other states Driver License, but who can really tell a genuine from a forgery? Without subscribing and always carrying an ID guide, it’s virtually impossible to know what to look for in unfamiliar driver licenses. Worse, some of the passports I have seen are totally handwritten, nothing machine printed; a few even seem to use common package sealing tape to “laminate” the ID photo, yikes!

I have been presented everything from a Food Town membership card to a Diplomatic Passport issued by the State Department. I notarized a Secret Service agent’s mortgage papers. Have I previously seen an SS agent card? Of course not. It looked “good” – so I accepted it. Yes, he did have a pistol also, inadvertently briefly exposed. He also had a DC driver license, again a first for me. Probably they were authentic; but as notaries we are not trained in ID verification.

Some might argue that a national ID card, the same for everyone is the solution. I doubt if such a measure would ever become reality. Thus, we are, with virtually; no strike that – with absolutely no training tasked with determining if the ID presented is authentic. Even a highly trained state trooper can be fooled with a good forgery. So far, there does not seem to be a solution. Here in New York State the notary is required to view (not verify!) “adequate proof” of ID. The determination of “adequate proof” is the responsibility of the individual notary – NY State does not publish a list of acceptable IDs. The list would be helpful; but forgery is still a big issue.

Inexplicably, we have the technology at hand capable of doing the job. There are databases of information about the authenticity of documents. There must be (probably with some exceptions) databases of currently issued and valid IDs. It would be nice to be able to take a cell phone picture of an ID and have it verified by competent authorities. Alternatively, many phones have the ability to scan fingerprints for their lock screen. Perhaps that technology will come to the aid of notaries struggling to verify the identity of the affiants prior to adding their stamp and seal.


You might also like:

Quiz about Notary identification

How to notarize with expired identification


December 18, 2013

Notarizing For a Minor — Identification!

It is not that common to notarize the signature of a minor, but at some point you might be asked to. A minor who needs to be notarized must be positively identified just like everyone else even thought their signature is not legally binding. But, if you need a notary for a minor — what type of identification can they get? The DMV can issue them a state ID card if they are not licensed to drive yet. If they are old enough to drive, you could get a drivers license. Another possibility is to go to the Post Office and apply for a passport which is another acceptable type of identification for being notarized. One benefit of passports is that they are valid for ten years while state issued ID’s are generally only good for four or five years!

So, if you are asked to notarize a minor, you can give the parents a tutorial about acceptable types of identification for their benefit! And remember — when notarizing a minor, please document in your journal that the signer is under 18 — and you might also document their exact age as well! Be professional when you do an “underage notarization”! Do it right!


October 19, 2013

Notarized Document Expired Identification

Filed under: Identification For Being Notarized — admin @ 8:18 am

Using expired identification cards

As a notary public, you will be bombarded with various types of identification — some will be current, some expired, some foreign, and some forged. Some states allow an ID to be used for a particular number of years after the issue date. Many identification cards will document the issue date somewhere on the ID even if they don’t say what that date is. You can kind of guess what that date represents because it is not their birthdate or expiration date.

Using expired identification cards might be legal in particular states. California and Tennessee allows a notary to use an ID within five years of its origination date / date of issue.

Check your state’s notary handbook to find out the current laws in your state regarding what types of identification are legitimate in your state! Using expired ID cards just might be okay just as long as they are not “too old”.


September 15, 2013

Revisiting trouble with the Name Affidavit

Now here is a perfect example of the problems that we notaries face when working in the mortgage field, be in an escrow, real estate, title, etc.

I get a call from a lovely woman who has been working in the title business for a very long time. She works with many of the notaries on 123 and she pays very well. She is also a notary herself. And she has noticed that it has picked up greatly due to these Obama Harp (Heart, not sure as to the spelling) loans. She wanting to spend more time with her family felt that she would give the signing agent gig a try part time and see if she could make it as a signing agent herself. She was intrigued and most of all tempted by some of the handsome fees that we charge and that she is paying out. She was quick to point out that we make really good money…I told her some of us do and some of us don’t..but that is another story all together…LOL

I went on to explain that yes for the most part we do but only when we work with people like her that pay well. So, I go over all the advertising options with her and she signs up and we vow that we will speak soon. I tell her that if she needs anything at all feel free to get in touch with me.

A few days past and I do in fact hear from her. She is concerned and wants to leave a complaint for one of the notaries and needs instruction on how to accomplish this. I ask her for the details. It seems that she was in need of a notary and the assignment called for this notary to come into the title office to meet with their clients. The documents would be printed for the notary, so nothing for the notary to do but show up. The notary arrives as promised and the title girl introduces the borrower to the notary and she then leaves them to go on to other duties. Shortly thereafter, our title girl returns with a last minute document to be signed by her borrower and as she enters the room she is astounded that her borrower is crying. The title girl asks what is wrong and the borrower says the notary told her that she can not notarize her signature because it would be illegal at this point to do so. She turns to the notary and the notary begins to explain that the government issued ID does not match the documents. The title girl has now become somewhat angry with this notary and she told her that she could use the ‘signature name affidavit’. I’m thinking, What?? Here is a title person telling the notary to use this form, I stop her cold in the conversation. I ask her why she felt that this was OK? She says that that is what the form is for and that (remember now she is a notary) she uses it as well.. I am thinking oh boy, when the ‘you know what’ hits the fan….there is going to be hell to pay. I humbly explain to her that that is NOT what this form is for and even if it were a notary public cannot use it in place of government issued identification. Our title girl was shocked to say the least as she had been told by many that this was OK to use. She also expressed to me that the LENDER had checked them out so it was OK. I let her know that that the lender doesn’t really check anyone out per say, Except for employment, credit history, etc. But that it was the notaries job to as she called it “check folks out”. And this is why they use us in the first place..we are the real people checkers!! :). She also told me that that must be how they do it in California…I let her know that this applies to ALL notaries nationwide. PERIOD.

Obviously the signing with that notary went bad. And in my opinion on this notaries behavior is, that instead of upsetting the borrower to the point of tears. She should have politely excused herself and found the title girl and let her know. This way the borrower quite possibly been as upset as she was. The notary handled this very poorly.

So, in closing, even in some of the offices where they should know better, this document causes allot of confusion. And for those notaries that don’t know any better using the ‘name affidavit’ in lieu of ID, it is going to get you into a world of trouble which could lead to financial ruin as well as a jail term. So remember, please don’t let anyone tell you how to do your job as a notary public. That is your responsibility and yours alone. And if you don’t know or are not sure about something, ASK!!! Better to be safe than sorry! And take note, Just because a person is a title or escrow officer, broker, etc doesn’t mean they understand or know what YOUR duties are. It’s up to you to know what you can and cannot do. All they care about in the end is closing the loan….usually by any means necessary. Money for them trouble for you!

Until next time….be safe and prosper!

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Notarizing an affidavit for an ax murderer in San Ysidro

Notarized Affidavits Information


July 3, 2013

How to get something notarized if you don’t have ID

If you don’t have ID, many states allow the use of credible witnesses. Two people could identify you before a notary public, sign the notary’s journal, and produce identification themselves.

But, honestly, if you need to get notarized, go down to your DMV and get a state issued identification card. You need it to go to a hotel, rent a car, get notarized, and more. You might need a copy of your birth certificate to get your ID. So, be prepared to figure out how to get your birth certificate. Don’t waste time. It is a hassle when notaries have to deal with clients who don’t have proper identification.

Personally, I have notarized many people. Some lived in bad areas where they got mugged, and the mugger took their identification. Others were old and had expired identification. Get with the program and get your identification ready.

It is sometimes hard or impossible to get something notarized if you don’t have current government issued identification.

Some states will allow the notary to notarize you if they know you well. But, most states have changed their laws, and no longer allow the notary to claim to know you as a form of identification.

Now you know how to get something notarized if you don’t have ID.

You might also like:

Show me your identification

Identification requirements for being notarized

Signature Name Affidavit: Not a substitute for an ID

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