Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

What Would You Do: 2 Women, Same Name

Sister pretends to be a wife for a loan signing

The Notary Hotline receives hundreds of calls daily from Notaries nationwide who find themselves in challenging situations. To boost your knowledge of Notary best practices, we’ve created a series of scenarios based on actual situations and ask a simple question: What would you do?

It seems like a simple assignment. You’re asked to handle a loan signing for a couple looking to refinance their home mortgage.

You show up at the appointed time and everything seems to go smoothly. Both the husband and wife show you current, valid ID. They don’t have any questions, and proceed to properly sign all the documents. You notarize their signatures on all of the documents.

Just as you’re packing up your things and getting ready to leave, a second woman arrives unexpectedly, and an argument breaks out with the couple. She claims to be the man’s real wife, and the other woman is actually his sister — and they just happen to have the same exact name.

What Would You Do?
 

You’re confronted with an unpleasant situation. Either you’ve just notarized the signature of an imposter, or the second woman is trying to pull a fast one. How do you decide who is telling the truth? Then what would you do?

To participate in this week’s “What Would You Do?” scenario, share your answers in the comments section below. We may mention your response in next week’s Bulletin, when we offer the best possible answer(s) to this notarial challenge.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

WWYD: Answers To The Case Of The Transgender Signer

WWYD: Answers To The Case Of The Unidentifiable Signer

A Notary’s Guide To Spotting Fake IDs

Minimize Your Liability

Additional Resources:

NNA Webinar: ID Fraud — A Notary Trap

State Notary Websites

Errors and Omissions Insurance

82 Comments

Add your comment

Anita Martin

10 Mar 2016

I would immediately leave with the signed documents and call the contracting company to tell them what occurred after the documents were signed and conclude I was not able to positively identify the female signer. I would destroy the signed documents and be grateful that maybe in the future I won't be the one being judged.

Terri Postr-Taylor

12 Mar 2016

The 1003 should have both the DOB and SSN for the correct signer. Look at each woman's drivers license and social security card, to verify DOB and SSN

Na Miller

14 Mar 2016

Wow!? As a first year Notary this had me scratching my head. But I'm going to take a stab at it. Both women will need to produce proof such as a birth certificate, maybe? Or the couple will need to prove a marriage certificate? Or a witness that can verify the identy? I'm stumped .

Stacy

14 Mar 2016

Loan documents will contain a social security number. Time to move to further verification.

James Crunden

14 Mar 2016

Cancel transaction until birth certificate presented

Pat West

14 Mar 2016

I don't think it's up to the notary to determine which of the 2 women is being truthful. Clearly the notary has to take back the copy of the loan docs that were given to the signers. Then s/he needs to notify the contractor of the issue.

Trotter

14 Mar 2016

If the notary has validated the couple with appropriate ID (driver's license, gov't photo ID, etc.), and all are satisfied with the documentation and on their way out, this should not be the notary's issue. Notaries are not required to be lawyers settling disputes. In the event the couple being notarized wish to produce a marriage certificate, that is their prerogative.

Patrick Burke

14 Mar 2016

I would continue preparing my departure, taking the paperwork with me. I would notify the lender of the compromised signing. From the completed docs, II would remove all acknowledgments and destroy them. I believe those steps would be appropriate and justified. Input from the lender would be considered, but I believe it would be prudent to destroy those acknowledgments.

Sheila M Pierce

14 Mar 2016

I think if I was faced with a situation like this I would have to call the Notary Public number while still with the parties involved and report the situation so I could be advised how to proceed to avoid any form of legal action against myself or the Notary Department since I am representing the State.

Stan Patscheck

14 Mar 2016

It should be a simple matter to check with the lender and use the ID number (from a driver's license or other photo ID) that the borrower used when they applied. Social Security numbers could also be used. In any case, the lender should already have proper documented identification which could be cross-referenced.

Jacqueline A Phillips

14 Mar 2016

This easy ask for a second for of ID specifically social security card. No two persons can have the same number. The one that matches the loan documents is the right person.

Carolyn Brown

14 Mar 2016

I would ask to see the marriage license because the date of birth on the marriage license and driver license would verify the correct person.

Carmen N. Garza

14 Mar 2016

Marriage license, passport, or the person that married them before the forms that were signed go anywhere.

Sandra Payne

14 Mar 2016

When looking at the ID's it would of shown address for husband and wife, which I always log all that information in my journal. If they were not the same that would of been a red flag.

Elizabeth Piñzón

14 Mar 2016

I would ask for additional government sanctioned photo IDs.

Ronald Hall

14 Mar 2016

I have all the docs so I am in control. I would tell them I won't submit the docs unless they can prove who is the spouse. I would then ask to see their wedding photos to see if I can determine who is the real wife.

Shelia D. Luntz

14 Mar 2016

I had this exact situation early on in my career as a signing agent. I arrived at the borrower's home for a simple refinance. The couple presented their drivers licenses and everything matched. No questions during the signing, everything went smoothly. As we were nearing completion another woman walks in the front door with her arms full of grocery bags. A loud conversation erupted among the three in Spanish. I was at a disadvantage as I did not speak the language.and at this point had no idea what the problem was. The borrower and who I thought was his wife, got up from the table, without a word to me and left, putting their coats on as they were hurrying out the door. I asked the grocery toting woman where my borrowers went? They still had a few papers to sign. The lady ignores me and goes in what I assume was her bedroom. While all this commotion was going on a teenager had emerged from somewhere in the house and was now routing through the grocery bags. I finally got her to tell me that, the woman who had left with her father was her aunt. Her father's sister. The grocery lady was the girl's mother, the wife of the man who had left. I asked the girl to tell her mother that it was extremely important that I speak with her. It took some time but she finally emerged from her bedroom. The woman had no idea what was happening. I had called the loan officer earlier and he called back about the same time I had convinced her to show me her driver's license. I filled him in on what had happened so far and he wanted to talk to her. While she was talking with him, the tears started flowing. By the time she put me back on the phone she was crying hysterically. The loan officer explained to me that the grocery lady had to sign the loan documents or she was going to lose her house. He told me to cross out the other "wife's' name and have this wife sign and initial. At this point, you have to understand, I was dumbfounded, so I said ok. After all he was the all powerful "loan officer". Anyway, the woman sat down and I asked her what was happening. Trying to calm her down enough to make some kind of sense of what was going on. Why was her sister-in-law signing for her? Was she aware of what was happening? In between the sobbing, she told me that her house that she inherited from her father several years earlier had no mortgage. The loan officer told her that two years ago her husband and someone had taken out a $200,000 loan on the property. That was the loan that was being refinanced. She knew her husband had a gambling problem. but thought he had overcome it. By this time I was regaining some composure myself. The loan officer told her if she didn't sign the papers she would lose her home. I truly believed this was the correct wife. She was ready to sign the papers even though she was still crying, she had calmed down somewhat. As had I. I now had control of the situation. I told her that I could not notarize any documents she signed because she was being coursed and she needed to see an attorney. Under the circumstances I thought an attorney could help her. When I called the loan officer back and filled him in, he was livid. He said he would see that I would never work again as a signing agent. That was about ten years ago.

Pamela Cauley

14 Mar 2016

I would not sign the document and request further representation of ID.

Pat M Smoot

14 Mar 2016

I would request the drivers licenses and socials for both woman to see which match the documents in the loan package. Call the lender for a fax of the IDs used at origination, contact the party who initiated the loan package for assistance ,Call the notary hot line!

Alice

14 Mar 2016

Look at the address on the IDs of all three people. Surely the sister doesn't live with her brother.

Tracy Bishop

14 Mar 2016

First I would ask for ID from both parties to verify by picture and then secondly, just because they have the same exact name, I would ask for some other form of ID such as a SS card or birth certificate, etc.

Dianne

14 Mar 2016

I would double check the address on the drivers license. The sister may have the same name but she wouldn't have the same address.

tod

14 Mar 2016

Call the title co. Let them demand birth and marriage certs from both women involved before funding.

Valinda Hanna-Lazarus

14 Mar 2016

I would first call the mortgage company that extended the loan to the borrowers to explain what is going on, then call the police because a possible crime has been committed. Any individual who knowingly and willfully makes a false statement or misrepresents himself is guilty of a felony.

tom hockaday

14 Mar 2016

I think I would cancel the signing and go to the car and call the signing agency or title or lender

Diana DeLeon

14 Mar 2016

If the signing is for husband and wife, you can request to see their marriage license. Both spouses signed the license, so that's one way to identify the true borrower.

SEdwards

14 Mar 2016

I would request the copy of the marriage and birth certificate from the individual claiming to be the wife. If she's unable to provide me with a copy, at that time, I would inform each of the parties that I could not move forward with submitted the signed documents until I have personally been presented with the marriage and birth certificate from the wife.

Lonnie Washington

14 Mar 2016

2 signers with same name. I would request, and verify other identifiers such as address, DOB Social Security number while uncomfortable this is not really complicated. Obviously I would contact Lender right away for direction.

Virginia Wells

14 Mar 2016

Hello, I think I would have to take a look at both women's official birth certificates to prove date of birth and parent names, which would help me rule out if one of the women is a sibling or not; and also have the wife produce a valid marriage license proving whether or not she's the wife.

Maria

14 Mar 2016

Two same names, then we should do as they do in Greece, get birth certificate and include mother and father's name to prevent fraud

Kim Fohr

14 Mar 2016

Some of the counties have an free online information of marriage licenses obtained. In that information usually you can find the birthdate of the individuals being married. This may eliminate one or the others credentials, if in fact one truly is the Sister and the other is the wife, and they both have valid licenses that were presented to the Notary. We had a similar case years ago, where the girlfriend, actually changed her name to the wife's name, legally. (The wife was in a mental institute). She presented a valid drivers licensed at the time of signing documents on a refinance with her boyfriend, and pretended to be the wife. There was no indication at the time of signing that the wife was incompetent. The loan was in the name of the husband, but due to homestead rights, the some of the documents required the joinder of the spouse (ie. Mortgage). It wasn't until years later, that this was detected through litigation.

Linda Caputo

14 Mar 2016

You say"husband and wife" show ID's. If they claim to be H&W then that is fraud. Also, if the address on ID is not the same as the docs, then I ask why. I would call title immediately to find out who owns the property, husband and wife or brother and sister. I've been asking if people are legally married to each other for a while. I ran into a signing that they both had the same last names. They had gotten a divorce but had not remarried each other, so they are two single people. Then I asked if either is married to someone else. (OH is a dower state)

Denise Gould

14 Mar 2016

The first woman has satisfied proof of identity. The second woman has done the same. At this point, you would need additional proof of the marital relationship to the "husband/brother". A marriage license with the date of birth of the wife would be needed to validate which is the wife. Validate the DOB on the marriage license matches one of their driver's license. If the marriage license doesn't have the DOB, try for a birth certificate of one of "their" children. The child's birth certificate will definitely have mom's DOB on it. hey may both have the same exact names but what are the chances that they were born on the same day?

Marsha

14 Mar 2016

Require the second woman produce her ID and a marriage license to verify her identity. Do not release the papers until you are certain of the identities of the people in front of you.

Mary Fahey

14 Mar 2016

I would ask to see all of their id's and check the addresses, birthdates, and date of license issuance.

Louise

14 Mar 2016

I would check two forms of picture their ID's.

ALLEN M. SMITH

14 Mar 2016

I would ask for a copy of the marriage license, where the full name of the wife and her date of birth would be listed and compare it to the date of birth on her ID.

Frank Bagnato

14 Mar 2016

Odds are the two women are not going to have the same date of birth, which can be verified on the Loan Application and Driver's License. If the license of the woman who signed does not match to the DOB on the application, the signature is a fraud. In either case, I would report this to the contracting company/closing agent, for further review.

Sharon Young

14 Mar 2016

I would ask to see additional ID from both women. If I could 100% verify who is who, I would pack up and leave (if correct person signed) or call the police (if incorrect person signed). If I could not verify which is the correct person I would also call the police as one of the woman and man are perpetuating fraud. It would be interesting to see what the man's response to all of this is...

CHATEAU ROBERSON

14 Mar 2016

If faced with this scenario, I would first request to retain the document that I have just notarized until the correct person was able to provide a copy of the marriage license along with 2 forms of id.

Eileen Roe

14 Mar 2016

See which woman's drivers license address matches the address of the property.

Valerie Orman

14 Mar 2016

I would see if there was a 3rd party well I guess 4th party could verify and if it's a set of documents that we can verify middle name or other information to clear it up. My best friends brother married a woman with the same name. Only their middle names are different.

Beth

14 Mar 2016

I would request to see the wedding pictures. Also, the address of the couple should be the same if they are married.

TC Properties

14 Mar 2016

CANCEL THE NOTARY. Is a civil problem that could turn to a criminal problem. Inform the signers Notary IS CANCEL.

Diane

14 Mar 2016

I would check the 1003 for the date of birth of the intended signer and compare to the identification presented for the woman who signed. If the incorrect woman was the one who signed, either cross off all notarized forms to render them invalid and have the title company reissue the documents.

David Leidy

14 Mar 2016

Check the ID of the second woman. Check the address of all three people. The likelihood that the sister lives in the same household, is slim to none. Always verify photo, name and address of each individual.

Sandra Herring

14 Mar 2016

The easy thing would be to ask the man who is there to clarify! However, a more complex way is to have the two women bring in documentation on who they are ext.... and keep the documents until cleared up.

Lewis

14 Mar 2016

The notary is only verifying the signer's identity, not her familial relationship to anybody. If the ID verification is appropriate, the notarial act seems appropriate. I would advise the walk-in person to consult an attorney, and I, the notary, would contact the title company to report the issue.

Michelle

14 Mar 2016

Its not as uncommon as you think. Until she married, my stepdaughter and I had the same first, middle and last names! Always confusion when getting mail or calls at home. In this case neither woman is an imposter as to their name, just as to which one is the person named in the vesting of the property. I agree with prior comments, verify DOB on ID with other loan documents and advise lender of what happened. Even if the correct person has signed, I would describe the situation in my journal - a few years down the road the notary may be called into a deposition (like I have been) and it helps to jog the memory of the transaction.

Carroll

14 Mar 2016

Many of the answers above seem inaccurate, and/or ill advised, to me. I would call the lender and unless they can clear the issue up on the spot, take the signed documents back to them. Under NO circumstances would I destroy any documents. That would never be the job of any notary, and it could be harmful in any number if ways. (If the documents are legit, you have impeded a valid transaction. If they are not, they are evidence. For example.) I would return the documents to the originating source, with a full explanation of the situation and a copy of both IDs.

Alice

14 Mar 2016

I would keep the loan documents and destroy them, report this to the lender and let them sort out who the correct person is. I would further let them know I couldn't identify who the correct party is/was.

email2nim@yahoo.com

14 Mar 2016

Best Way is to compare their Birth Certificate and find out who is real one. Jayanti Patel

oneal

14 Mar 2016

Contact the lender, to verify the relationship of the borrowers, also request birth certificate of the women. And based on the info obtain from lender and the certificates, allow the lender to deternin who it is that is to sign.

A. C. Dye

14 Mar 2016

#1 I would let the document company know of the dispute...follow their lead...as to checking SS#'s, Driver's license for DOB...but beyond that have them provide 2 witnesses that would attest to their identity.

Barry Rosette

14 Mar 2016

I would of course try to get the documents back. If they refuse i would warn all parties present that I am calling the police dept and filing a complaint to see if that would make the right person right and the wrong person wrong. Hopefully the wrong person would give up the documents and leave. I would also place a notation in my log of the incident and also notify my attorney to make sure I am covered in the event this comes up in a future lawsuit. Whether the suit be against or simple with me as a party.

Pat

14 Mar 2016

If it had been fraud from the beginning, wouldn't they have used her SS number too? I think you take the docs and leave. Contact your contact who then contacts the lender and let them sort it out. I wouldn't destroy any documents until told to do so. They might need them for a trial.

John Mitchell

14 Mar 2016

This is not as difficult as it might seem at first blush. According to the hypothetical, both signers showed current and valid ID and presumably met every other legal requirement for a valid notarization. Although the second woman "claims" to be the "real" wife, the hypothetical never mentions her having shown any valid ID to prove it. Any further inquiry on your part is beyond the scope of what you, as a notary, are legally required to do. As a best practice, you certainly should inform the contracting company of the situation.

John Mitchell

14 Mar 2016

Anita Martin: "I would destroy the signed documents..." If there has been a fraud attempted, you have just destroyed the evidence.

Diane Lane

14 Mar 2016

This is a serious offense no matter which woman is the impostor. I would notify the local authorities and let them figure it out. I would turn the notarized documents to the authorities until it could be determined if they are legitimate or not. It is evidence one way or the other.

Fredric Chasson

14 Mar 2016

First off if they both admit they are sisters with the same name that is crazy. What parent names siblings with exactly the same name? I would ask to see the marriage certificate to see the date of birth and use that as the tie breaker. Seriously though, the other sister is looking to commit frraud - and use me to do it. There is no doubt that I would be on the phone to the lender to discuss the problem. If I did decide to do it all notarized signatures I would take thumbprints - not just deed. Finally - if it remained vague - I would decline doing the notarization - and I think the California Secretary of State would be ok with that!

Sonia mohamad

14 Mar 2016

Really interesting question. I would like to know what is NNA's response.

Leticia Araceli Valdivia

14 Mar 2016

Would check the document to see if a SSN and DOB are mentioned. If they are, then would ask for the SS card and verify DOB on ID.

jody.l.brewer@kp.org

14 Mar 2016

I would tell all parties that I am not an investigator and since one of them is comitting fraud by intentionally representing herself as someone she is not, I would take back the document and contact the lender. I would cross off my notarization and let them all know that I cannot complete the notorization and to contac their lender for further information.

Letha J. Ferguson

14 Mar 2016

She claims to be the man’s real wife, and the other woman is actually his sister — and they just happen to have the same exact name and that is possible but no one has the same social security numbers, birth certificates and marriage license.

John Bianca

14 Mar 2016

First of all I would collect all documents that are part of the loan signing, securing the same in my locked briefcase. In Colorado, claiming to be someone else to gain a profit is a Felony Criminal Impersonation charge so I would call the police. If the situation becomes endangering to my wellbeing I would leave the signing location. While waiting for local law enforcement I would contact the lender and explain my situation. More than likely there wouldn't be a future signing at this location unless there is a very good explanation about what just transpired!

Mel Griffin

14 Mar 2016

When, in past work experience, I have and instance with two people with the same name, I did the following. Check their address on the ID provided, and ask for their Social Security number. Usually this would help identify the proper one of the two persons. Beyond that, and at a signing, I would pick up the documents and contact the assigning organization (title company or lender) and ask them if they have information that would correctly identify the person(s) who should be signing the documents. If they have the information try to obtain it from them during the time of the signing. If unable to get the information at the time of the signing, gather the documents and return them to the assigning company, and excuse myself from the issue. REASON: In the example given there are other possible issues related to these folks, and there is no need for a Notary becoming part of the activity. Let some lawyers and a judge settle the issues. Then do a signing if still needed.

Myra Muhammad

14 Mar 2016

I would ask both ladies to produce drivers' license, and social security card, the can both have the same first and last name but they will not have the same social security number and that number will be on the documents.

Julie Brickley

14 Mar 2016

Very unique situation. It does bring attention to our need to pay attention to all details. I could be inclined to start a personal practice of checking DOB and SSN on 1003 before going to signings. This information can be verified with two forms of ID, which we are usually asked for anyway. The legalities of who is doing what pertains to me only to the extent that I not be a willing party to fraud. I would halt the signing, ask woman #1 (aka sister) to produce additional ID (ssn card, other ID with address of property, etc.), since it is her identity that has been brought into question. Call Title/Signing company to make them aware of situation. Next collect all documents (including copies) and depart. I would ask woman #2 to produce ID with address to back her claim, only to the extent that it invalidates the identity of woman #1 being the same person on title. Either way, the signing is halted and this notarization is not taking place. The job of the notary is to positively identify the signer of a document and in this scenario, that is not possible at that moment.

Maria Alanis

15 Mar 2016

I would call the lender and explain the situation and leave with all docs. I am not an investigator--I would leave it to the lender to straighten out who the spouse is and tell the women that whoever is the actual spouse needs to report the fraud. I would also call the Secretary of State for advise on how I, as a notary, am to proceed, in this situation.

Alcey Hecker

15 Mar 2016

I would ask to see the birth and marriage certificates, and also make sure the document states it is specific to the either the sister or the wife. I would also document the event in my log.

Cheryl S Ferguson

15 Mar 2016

Request two forms of ID (Drivers License & Social Security Card). Compare DOB and SS# with documentation. If I am still unable to determine which is the correct Mrs, request an additional photo ID. If that does not help, Contact the client explaining the event that has occurred and with clients permission, cancel signing, taking both sets of documents with me as I leave.

teresa porter

15 Mar 2016

i would ask for further id and then i would ask for another document to compare signiture of person who just signed my journal

Christina

15 Mar 2016

I would verify ssn & dob with the title or lender and still report the incident to title/lender.

Linda J Hubbell

15 Mar 2016

Pack up my toys and all docs and go home - report to title/hiring party No secondary verifying..no backup ID.....there's fraud occurring here - nothing more to do but take the docs and leave.

Debra Vegeto

16 Mar 2016

OK, this is probably a once in a lifetime event....I would hope!!! But, since it is the notaries responsibility to positively identify a signer, I would ask to see the identification driver license, birth certificate, etc. for both women. Then , I would go through a series of questions that the "True" signer would be able to answer, e.g. Social Security number, passport, "Where issued", etc. I would do the best I can not to let the assignment fall through. However, if there is any doubt in my mind, I would take all documents, call the contracting company and notify them of the unsuccessful signing. Either way, the event should be documented in your notary journal and the contracting company be made aware.

Amy

16 Mar 2016

I would confiscate all the documents, inform the loan officer, and call the police. This is a possible case of fraud. If my name, stamp, and signature were on the documents, then there is no way I wouldn't reach out to the authorities. How am I to know that the loan officer isn't in on it or something worse. Not taking any chances.

Hugh Poling

16 Mar 2016

The 'guest commentary' seems to miss the point that the notary act had already been completed based on information available at the time. I am hoping next week's 'expert commentary' addresses the general question of what to do about conflicting information received subsequent to a notarial act and basis/process for revoking an acknowledgement.

Faye Drover

16 Mar 2016

What Anita said. I wouldn't want any part of this.

Chelsea Addison

17 Mar 2016

Ask for both women to provide social security card and compare to the 1003.

Joseph Cummings

17 Mar 2016

Both the husband and wife show you current, valid ID. Unless the notary personally knows the couple, it's not the notary's position to determine if the couple before him/her is actually married. The notary's task is to obtain positive ID from the signers, verify the persons physically in front of you are authentic and the signatures match that of the identification. If they all match, the notary did the job correctly.

PHARIS Y HAGANS

18 Mar 2016

Proof of ID,SSN, and right thumb print will be the best information along with the signature

AnnMarie

24 Mar 2016

Ahhhh, what's the husband doing during all of this? Obviously, he knows who they both are and he's not saying anything? Confiscate the docs, call the mortgage lender, tell them that fraud was attempted at the signing and ask how they want to handle the situation. Write VOID across everything you've signed, but don't destroy, it's evidence. And I would probably call the NNA and ask them if there is anything else I needed to do to protect myself.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.