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What Would You Do Answers: The case of the copied ID

An elderly couple appearing concerned with a notary present.

Last week, we shared a real-life Notary situation and asked how our readers would handle it. The Notary was asked to notarize the signatures of a husband and wife on documents for a condominium purchase. However, the wife's only form of identification was a photocopy of an outdated, expired ID, and the wife didn’t look exactly like the image on the photocopy. We asked how you, our readers, would proceed in this situation.

What Notaries said

Several readers were concerned that the wife was trying to present a copy of an ID as proof of her identity.

Kim M. said that she would refuse to perform the notarization due to the lack of an actual ID, the fact that the information on the copy was expired, and the woman’s physical appearance not matching the age on the copied ID. “I would recommend she bring an acceptable ID, then make an entry in my journal that I refused,” Kim said.

“Copies are easily manipulated and could pose potential legal issues,” said Sandra Thomas. “I would ask the signer if they could provide the original. If not, I would explain the requirement and reschedule if possible, or cancel.”

Other Notaries also said they would be willing to reschedule the notarization for the couple, but only if the wife returned with an acceptable form of ID. “I would ask the signer if she had any other picture ID. If not, I would suggest she get an updated ID and schedule a new signing date,” said Carol Voydanoff.

The biggest concerns for readers are the possible fraud risks in the scenario. “I would apologize and let them know I will not be able to do this,” Maria Bradshaw said, adding that an expired ID is not worth jeopardizing her Notary business.

Judi Stutz agreed that notarizing is too risky. “I would have to decline the notarization without a valid form of ID,” she said. “This transaction could be mortgage fraud.”

The NNA’s recommended practice and what really happened

There are a lot of red flags that should put any Notary on guard in this situation. First, you should never accept a copy of a signer ID as proof of identity. If identification documents are used to identify a signer, no state allows Notaries to accept anything other than original, official identification documents. Even if you are commissioned in a state such as Louisiana that doesn’t specify acceptable forms of ID, a copy of an ID card is at high risk of fraud because a copy is easy to alter and counterfeit. Also, copies of ID lack the official security features on an original ID that can be used to verify the identification is genuine.

In this case, the Notary became suspicious of the copied ID and the fact that the woman presenting herself to the Notary as the “wife” did not match the image on the copy. The Notary chose to stop the notarization — which turned out to be the right decision. It was later learned that the “wife” was not who she claimed to be, but an accomplice trying to help the husband commit real estate fraud without the real wife’s knowledge by posing as the absent, genuine spouse.

David Thun is the Editorial Manager at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Video: When a signer does not match their ID


Add your comment


21 May 2024

I would refuse the signing letting the customer know I need a valid original license and I accept the copy.

Maritza Cintron

22 May 2024

Thanks for the information. I would have refused to notarize until a valid was provided, too.

Priscilla Westbrooks

22 May 2024

I would informed the couple I need current and up to date identification and also current updated documents

Chawn, Notary in NorthCentral PA

22 May 2024

No, no and no! While I will take a photocopy of a valid, unexpired ID, I always look at the original to compare dates, etc.. Much of this can be avoided by simply confirming in advance that the signer has valid photo ID, or if not for some reason, they have acceptable secondary ID. For example, I've accepted an expired license from someone who no longer drives with two secondary forms such as a health insurance card, official mail, birth/marriage certificate, SS card, etc.. I don't go to appointments until signers have confirmed they have appropriate ID. Why waste my time?

27 May 2024

I would not perform the notorial act without an actual ID.

Neha Pancholi

27 May 2024

What about if signer has original id and he has copies of id of his witnesses to prove his identity.

Dianne B.

27 May 2024

Before accepting any Notary Assignment, I would inform or give a list of documents that are required upon making an appointment. Giving the individual (s) enough time to require the proper and legal ID. There is no need to waste your time.

Barbara RRobie

27 May 2024

In Texas, you can get a replacement photo ID fairly quickly if lost. The replacement issued has a picture. But there’s also something else on a Texas drivers license that has to match up to get a replacement. It’s called the DD number. It’s quite lengthy. Many people also have a valid passport. So I would take a Texas issued replacement ID or a passport.

Chasidy Alexis Smith

28 May 2024

I would definitely reschedule with clients. Not only does it pose a risk for my own business but it could potentially be aiding in a wrong doing on the clients part that I do not want to be associated to just because I wanted to move forward with getting paid and adding to my client list.

M. Garcia

28 May 2024

Chawn, Notary in NorthCentral PA said that "While I will take a photocopy of a valid, unexpired ID, I always look at the original to compare dates, etc....." That is very confusing; it would be a waste time if an original was provided. Based on the NNA article "Can Notaries accept copies of signer IDs?" on I hope NNA contacts Chawn to say that accepting a photocopy of an ID is a No, NO!

Calvin Bailey

02 Jun 2024

Hello, I am new notary, I need all the advice I can get. I'm a bit nervous. Thank you notary family.

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