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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: https://www.driverslicenseguide.com/products_summary.html 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.

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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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January 15, 2012

Free valid and phony government issued photo ID

Free Valid and Phony Govt issued Photo ID

I have been a notary for well over a decade. I am not often shocked. Today I had a phone call and learned of a threat to notaries everywhere. It’s an amazingly illogical and frankly astonishing situation. Read very carefully what follows; it happened to me moments ago.

I receive a call for mobile notary work. The caller identifies himself as a former prisoner who has been “just released”. He needs a property pickup form notarized to receive the items taken from him prior to incarceration. He tells me that he has his Social Security card, his Birth Certificate and his prison release ID. Of course the first two are not photo ID, but he states that the prison release ID; of which he has the original – does have his photo.

It sounds OK so far. But now the anomaly: The name on the Government issued prison release Photo ID differs from the name on the other two items! He “explains” that when he was arrested he gave the police a phony name! So the name on his Photo ID is fictitious! He wants me to notarize his real name, as on the Birth Certificate & Social Security card.

Whoa, this does not make sense. If the prison has his property under the phony name, how can the “property claim” form work with a different name? Even scarier is that he is in possession of “Government Issued Photo ID” – with a fraudulent name! Naturally I could not notarize anything for him as one name has no photo; and he has stated to me that the other is phony!

My message to fellow notaries: Do not accept a “prison release photo ID”. The name on that ID is the name given when the person became a “resident” of the facility – apparently without any further verification. This is a really weird situation – the New York City Police Department is issuing photo ID – to convicts with any name of their choice!

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