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October 17, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Identification

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As a Notary Public, the most important thing you do is to identify a signer. Different states have different rules for what identification document you can use and how someone is to be identified. If a Notary fails to do a good job identifying a signer, that Notary can quickly end up in court as a witness or defendant. In my opinion if you don’t do a good job identifying signers, you might as well not be a Notary Public.

Identification Documents & Characteristics
Commonly accepted ID’s include passports, driver’s licenses, state issued ID cards, military ID’s. Green cards (permanent resident cards) are not necessarily allowed, so look that one up in your handbook. As a rule, an acceptable ID must be:

Current — (there are exceptions in California, Tennessee and perhaps other states that allow the ID to be issued within five years even if it is expired.)

Government Issued — Some Notaries think that a signature affidavit or gas bill is a good secondary form of ID, but those are not government issued and you don’t know what the source of the information for the names on them are.

Photo ID — An acceptable ID should have a photo. I do not think that many states allow social security cards as secondary identifications. However, you can look that up in your handbook.

Physical Description — the ID would say your height, eye color, etc.

Serial Number — the ID should have a number such as A58362D.

Expiration Date — the ID should have an expiration date somewhere. Normally there is an issue date as well somewhere.

Signature — the signature on the ID is important because you will need to compare that to the one in your journal and on the document made by the same person.



Different states have different rules for what the name on the ID should say relative to the name on the document. Some states do not require the names to match. Others require that the Notary be reasonably sure that the person in the ID and the person on the document are the same person. Reasonably sure is a wishy-washy term. You can never be 100% sure it is the same person because ID’s can be falsified and there could be multiple people with the same name as well as multiple people who look similar to each other. Identifying humans is easier than identifying squirrels, but there can still be confusion. The name on the document’s signature must be provable to the name on the ID, otherwise it would be questionable and risky to notarize that signature.



When you do a Notary act, you ask for the signer’s identification. You record that information in your journal and you keep a journal whether your state requires it or not as that is your only evidence in court. You compare the name on the ID to the name on the document. If the name on the document is not provable based on the ID then you are advised to decline the notarization, especially if it is for a Deed. Here is a summary of the ID and acknowledgment notarization process.

(1) Ask for ID.
(2) Record ID information in journal
(3) Have signer(s) sign your journal and the document(s)
(4) Compare the name in the document to the name on the ID. Make sure the name on the document is provable based on the ID.
(5) Make sure the signature in the journal, document and ID all match.
(6) Fill out the certificate, sign and seal.

Examples of provability in ID
ID says John Smith — document says John W Smith…. name is NOT provable.
ID says John W Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable
ID says John William Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable based on the ID.



Keep an eye out for fake ID’s. There are guide books that can yelp you identify a false identification. If there is peeling lamination or the signature is above the lamination then it is fake. You can ask the signer what his sign is or what his birthday or height is. If he does not know his sign or birthday based on the ID, then his ID is fake. If he does know his sign that is great, but does not prove the ID is real.



If you value your life, ask for journal thumbprints. They can keep you out of court. People might complain about being asked to be thumbprinted as it can seem like an invasion of privacy and a hassle — but a thumbprint is the only way an investigative agency can have a paper trail leading to an arrest of an identity thief. Thumbprints are the only unique form of identification a Notary can use at this point in time. No two thumbprints are alike, and they cannot be forged at a Notary appointment unless they wear a latex thumbprint on their thumb which would be easily detectable.



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.

You might also like:

Seven error free ways to identify a signer

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October 11, 2016

Do you have to send a copy of your ID to companies?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: , — admin @ 10:44 pm

Is this a security risk? Sending your identification or drivers license photocopy to companies? Personally, I think it is okay, and a necessary part of getting a job. But, does it bother you?

We live in a world where bank accounts get broken into, credit card numbers stolen, and a lot more identity theft. It is scary to give your information to anyone these days. However, the critical information is more your mother’s maiden name, social security number and other personal information. Your Drivers License has more public information. But, on the other hand, your birthdate is used for security information and access as well.

I have personally been a victim of identity theft many times. Once was horrible involving my bank account which was connected to Paypal. I had to create new accounts and negotiate with Paypal. We got the money back, but $9000 is a lot. This is why I don’t recommend online banking if you have more than a few thousand in an account. The reps always say, “Oh, but this is for your convenience.” How convenient is it if you have heart attack because someone stole $20,000 from you leaving you penniless. Do the reps ever think of that or are they complete self-centered idiots? Then, my credit cards get routinely compromised. Every 18 months it happens. When I get that call from the credit card company I say, “Don’t tell me, I already know…” I stopped using my cards at gas station pumps as a result as that is the easier place for them to get compromised.

So, be careful with your personal information. But, an ID card copy doesn’t seem to risky to me. What do you think?


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May 9, 2013

Show me your ID

Show me your ID & you need to reimburse me for my lost time!

This is something a Notary typically asks a signer of documents. This time, the signer asked me, the Notary to show him my ID. Puzzled, I asked why. “These days, you never know who you are dealing with”, he said. I reminded him that the Title Company with whom he was working already informed him that I would be coming to notarize the loan documents. Because he seemed persistent and my goal was to complete the notarization & get paid (after spending the better part of an hour the night before printing everything in duplicate – 302 pages — and marking which docs needed to be faxed back), I showed him my Driver License and my business card which had the words, Notary Public next to my name.

The signer then had the temerity to tell me that someone form the Title Company had to reimburse him for the time that he lost waiting to sign the docs. To add insult to injury, he then nonchalantly tells me that because I was the Notary, the reimbursement should come out of my fees. Engaging the signer in this irrational argument with distorted logic would have been tantamount to banging my head against the wall. So, I listened attentively and ignored everything he said about reimbursement. I completed all of the notarizations and signings in 45 minutes and told him to contact the Title Company directly if he had any concerns. On the way out, he playfully asked to see my ID again. I politely said NO but gave him a couple of my business cards to give it to any of his friends who needed Notary services.

Lesson Learned: Don’t argue or engage in heated conversations with the signer who is angry over something you did not cause, contribute to or have any control over. Do your work correctly (you don’t want to go back a second time to correct your mistakes and this time the signer is even angrier because you made the error and what is worse you will not get paid the second time), get out, get paid and move on…


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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