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Quiz: Notary identification best practices

Updated 7-11-23. Identifying signers is an essential part of a Notary’s role. Without positive identification, there’s no assurance signers are who they claim to be. Test your knowledge of proper identification practices in this month’s quiz.


1. A signer’s personal appearance before a Notary:
A. Is an essential part of confirming the signer’s identity and willingness to sign the document
B. Only is necessary when the person lacks an identification document
C. Only is done if it’s convenient for the signer
D. Can take place any time after the document is signed and notarized

Answer: A. The signer’s personal appearance before the Notary is essential. Personal appearance ensures that the Notary can compare the signer’s actual appearance to any ID presented and verify the signer actually signed the document willingly with understanding of its purpose and effect. While there are very rare situations in which a third party may appear before a Notary on an absent signer’s behalf, (such as a proof of execution by subscribing witness) these situations are strictly regulated by law, limited to certain documents and only permitted if the signer has a critical reason, such as a medical emergency or being out of the country. A third party may not ask a Notary to waive a signer’s personal appearance simply because it’s not convenient for the signer to appear; or because the document needs to be notarized in a hurry.

2. While state ID laws vary, as a general rule the most reliable ID documents:

A. Are issued by credit card agencies and include a name, bank number, and magnetic strip
B. Are issued by employers and include the signer’s work address and photo
C. Are issued by government agencies and include a photo, physical description and signature
D. Are issued by schools and include a photo, signature and grade level

Answer C: If state law does not specifically list acceptable forms of ID for a notarization, the most reliable forms of ID are those issued by the government that include the signer’s photo, physical description and signature. These elements provide a basis for comparison with the signer’s actual physical appearance and signature.

3. A photocopy of an ID:
A. Is acceptable to identify a signer if it’s signed by the bearer
B. Is acceptable to identify a signer, but only if it’s a photocopy of a passport
C. Is acceptable as ID only for a power of attorney document
D. Is not a reliable form of ID

Answer: D. A photocopy of an ID should not be accepted as proof of a signer’s identity for a notarization. A photocopy can easily be altered with falsified information using a computer or copy machine. Only an original, appropriate form of ID should be accepted.

4. True or False. A “matricula consular” card is considered a reliable form of identification for a notarization in all states

Answer: False. A “matricula consular” card is an identification card issued by a Mexican consulate for citizens of Mexico. Some states exclude “matricula” cards from their list of acceptable signer IDs and some versions of the cards may not include identification information compliant with state Notary laws.

5. A notarization can never be performed for a signer who does not possess an identification document.

Answer: False. Some states permit Notaries to identify a signer if the Notary personally knows the signer and has sufficient contact with the signer over a period of time to be confident of the signer’s identity. In cases where a signer does not personally know the Notary and lacks ID, many states allow one or more third parties to act as a “credible identifying witness” who attests to the signer’s identity before the Notary.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

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1 Comment

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patricia estrada

25 Sep 2014

Thank you for keeping me up dated on ID information,this really is a great way to be informed.

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