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?