Notary Bulletin

ID Theft Complaints Hit Record In 2012; What You Can Do To Fight It

A record number of identity theft complaints were filed with the Federal Trade Commission in 2012, and many of the identity fraud scams involved transactions that could require notarizations.

The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network recently reported that it received 369,132 identity theft-related complaints in 2012, a 32-percent increase from the previous year.

The Consumer Sentinel Network only reports on the number of complaints it receives from consumers and law enforcement agencies around the country. But its numbers are supported by the annual survey from Javelin Strategy & Research, which found that there were one million more identity theft victims in the U.S. last year than in 2011.

Stolen ID information was used for a variety of scams, the FTC reported, including various types of loan fraud, fraud related to government benefits or documents and employment-related fraud.

Because many of these transactions can involve notarizations, Notaries are in the forefront of the fight against identity fraud. When identifying signers, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Take a few extra moments to examine the ID. Do you notice slight differences in the typeface — or “font” — of the printed information? Is the photo raised? These could be indications that the ID has been altered.
  • If you have doubts about the ID, ask the signer a few casual questions about the information on it. If the ID is fake, the signer might not have memorized the address or birthdate.
  • If you still have doubts, it is permissible to request a second, supplemental ID. The second ID does not have to contain all the elements of a primary ID, such as photograph, signature and address, but the information on it should match the primary ID. The FBI suggests that a credit card makes a good second form of identification because people using bogus IDs seldom get credit cards in the fake name.
  • Finally, one of the best fraud deterrents is to obtain a thumbprint for your journal entry. Requiring thumbprints from signers for all required documents protects both you and the public. Currently, only two states — California and Illinois, under certain circumstances — require thumbprints for real estate transactions. Only Texas and North Carolina prohibit Notaries from taking thumbprints.

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Quiz: The Many Types Of Notarial Acts

Notaries perform many different duties for the public — and it’s easy to lose track of the different acts and what states they’re authorized in. Test your familiarity with common — and uncommon — notarial acts.

(A link to the correct answers is provided at the end of the quiz.)

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