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A Notary’s guide to spotting fake IDs

An illustration of Jane Does' Driver License

Updated 10-27-23. Verifying the identity of signers can be challenging considering how many types of ID are in circulation — and how good many of the fakes are.

In an effort to cut down on ID fraud, most states have significantly improved the security features of the driver’s licenses and identity cards they issue. Here are 4 things to look for:

1. The signer’s physical description on the ID doesn’t match the signer.

Always be sure to compare the physical description of the signer on the ID to the person in front of you. If the signer is 6’2” but his driver’s license lists him as 5’0”, or a twentysomething signer presents you with a license that said she was born in 1963, then something’s definitely amiss.

2. Misspellings on the ID.

Spelling errors on an ID card — such as the state name or other information being misspelled on a driver’s license — are a warning sign that the ID is a counterfeit and wasn’t produced by a legitimate agency.

3. Look for signs the ID has been tampered with.

If the signer’s photo on the ID seems unusually thick or stands out from the ID, it’s possible a second photo has been pasted or glued on top of the original. Other signs that an ID may have been tampered with are peeling or damaged laminate on the card, or blurry or smeared text.

4. Check for state-specific watermarks and security features.

State-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards often include security features such as holograms or specially printed images as protection against tampering.

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

Related Articles:

The 3 ways Notaries can properly identify signers

Is an expired ID acceptable for Notarization?

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline

Notary Essentials

2023 I.D. Checking Guide

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

R C Leyva

02 Jan 2017

Want tp read articles I am a member

National Notary Association

03 Jan 2017

Hello. There is no membership requirement to read articles, they are available to everyone. If you are having any issues reading them, please contact us at with a description of the issue you're having and we'll try to help you solve it.

Anna Gutierrez

02 Jan 2017

I'm in California and received a QuitClaim Deed through a signing service for a property in Florida. In Florida, it is required to have 2 witnesses which I requested the signer to bring. At the time of the signing, one of the witnesses had an "Ohio Driver's License" which underneath clearly said "Not to be used for Identification Purposes". This must have been a fake "ID" but it looked real to me. Looking closely at the ID is a must!

Patricia Sarver

03 Jan 2017

Where can I obtain the ID Checking Guide? Thank you Pat

National Notary Association

03 Jan 2017

Hi Pat: You can order the ID Checking Guide online here: Happy New Year!


08 Jan 2018

What steps should be taken when presented with a fake ID?

National Notary Association

09 Jan 2018

Hello. Obviously, you should not proceed with the notarization if you have reason to believe you have been presented with fake ID. You should record the reason for your refusal in your journal. If you suspect fraud has taken place, you may wish to contact local law enforcement and report it.


21 Aug 2018

Anna Gutierrez when it says not for identification it doesn't mean its a fake the federal government requires certain security features by all states to be classified as what the government calls a "real ID" (its just a classification the feds give for states with all the security features) which all states will be required by 2020 if your state doesn't use real id qualified id s by then you will have to use a passport to board a plain in 2020 but what they gave as identification was most likely good enough for anything at the state level or bellow hope that helps

Mark Samson #160864924

09 Mar 2021

The new Texas DLs an IDs have raised text for the Name, DL or ID Number. The State Seal on the back ground is laser inscribed giving it a "rough" feel. There is a hologram on the lower right corner of the individual including the DoB. On the obverse side on the bottom left corner is a Texas Blue Bonnet flower that can be scene only with a UV light. There is also a micro print stripe along the center line, running vertical, that has the word "Texas". This stripe is the most background element on the card. This stipe in on both sides of the card. This only be scene by using a magnifier lens. Between the person's Image and words "Driver License" is a laser engraved 'Star' that reflects under normal light and shimmers as the card is rotated.

maireni salgado

13 Nov 2023


13 Nov 2023

newbie here: Is there some place where I can get a black light for verification of such ID's?

National Notary Association

13 Nov 2023

Hello. We offer a UV light for sale here:

Amy Collins

13 Nov 2023

As a new notary public student in Pennsylvania, the debate surrounding expired driver's licenses sounds odd. My understanding be that it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle without a valid license. When an individual drives to the office of a notary public, and then presents him or herself with an expired license, and further expects to obtain a notarized document, I wonder if what they should leave the office with a traffic ticket. Wouldn't it be a dead giveaway that something be amiss? What else might be "expired"? Vehicle registration? Vehicle insurance? Individuals do not just forget to renew their driver's license. Something is behind the lapse.


14 Nov 2023

I work for a national car dealership in PA. We deal with fraud a lot. We see fake DL's where the signature looks like it was typed by a font. (No one's handwriting consistently makes a letter the exact same way.) Also the photos look either too big or too small, or too dark or too light to really see the person's face. You can always google How to spot a fake ID in [your state]. The PA liquor control board has good advice and the mnemonic FEAR. F - Feel the ID, E - Examine the ID, A - Ask the bearer about info on the ID and/or for another form of ID to compare, R - Return the ID and refuse it if you are suspicious. (The site goes into more detail but FEAR is a great way to remember what to look for.) Pay attention to the person's attitude as well. I find they are usually in a hurry and bully me to rush. That is a red flag for me that something isn't right.


15 Nov 2023

I’m going to be doing a notarization of a Pennsylvania DMV POA, daughter is here in California father is in PA, and needs signed to him it appears to have a witness line and acknowledgement box . 1st question Do I need a witness. 2nd question is it ok to use their acknowledgment and obviously cross out commonwealth of Pennsylvania or should I attach my California acknowledgment .Document is Pennsylvania P O W E R O F AT T O R N E Y TO EXECUTE MOTOR VEHICLE DOCUMENTS

National Notary Association

16 Nov 2023

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

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