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Experts debate pros and cons of webcam notarization

NNA2016 Webcam Notarization Panel

One of the most controversial issues facing Notaries today revolves around webcam notarizations.

When webcam notarizations popped up more than five years ago there were objections nationwide. But now the technology has evolved, more states are testing the water, and some believe it represents how Notaries will operate in the 21st century.

Webcam notarization panel

A panel of leading industry and Notary experts met at NNA 2016 Conference to discuss whether allowing a signer to appear via webcam is as secure as a traditional notarization during which the signer appears in the physical presence of the Notary. Currently, only Virginia and Montana authorize webcam notarizations under specifically defined circumstances. But it is being considered by various states and organizations.

“The idea of a physical presence makes no sense in a global economy,” said panelist Timothy Reiniger, Director of the Digital Services Group of Virginia-based FutureLaw. “There has to be a way to keep the Notary involved in internet commerce, which we all desperately need.”

Reiniger, who co-authored Virginia’s 2011 webcam notarization bill, argued that webcam notarizations are as secure as traditional notarizations. 

Questioning the security of webcam notarizations

Co-panelist Ozie Stallworth, Electronic Notarization Analyst and Director for the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, challenged the security of webcam notarizations.

Companies offering webcam notarizations use a method known as knowledge-based authentication (KBA) to verify signers’ identities. This method asks individuals a series of questions about their personal backgrounds based on information culled from various credit bureau databases.

Over the last few years, there have been many data breaches of sources used by KBA systems, Stallworth said.  “How is that as good as the traditional methods of Identifying signers?”

Pem Guerry, Executive Vice President of SIGNiX, noted that his company has been using KBA for various electronic transactions for 14 years and has only experienced one instance where a fraudster fooled the system. In that case, the electronic audit trail for the transaction allowed authorities to track and prosecute the individual.

Reiniger and Guerry argued that the safeguards of webcam notarizations were stronger than for traditional notarizations. Both Montana and Virginia, for example, require the Notary to keep a video record of each remote notarization. The video record is strong evidence of what took place during the notarization and also is a deterrent to camera-shy criminals.

Related Articles:

Webcam Notarizations: Redefining personal presence or opening the door to fraud?

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Additional Resources:

Companies offering webcam notarization

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Add your comment

Ellen Welsh

15 Aug 2016

Would this increase or decrease notary fees? Would this eliminate the need for notaries altogether? I'd like to see an video of what a "webcam" notarization actually looks like. Who answers the borrowers' questions, explains the documents, keeps the process in motion?

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2016

Hello. You can view a video demonstration of a sample webcam notarization here:

Ralph Zucker

15 Aug 2016

The biggest problem I see is the lack of ability to tell if the signer is signing under duress since others can be out of the view of the camera creating pressure on the signer.

Lorraine W. Pereverziev

15 Aug 2016

I have a number of questions regarding remote notarizations: 1. Who provides the signer with the KBA questions, and who confirms the answers? 2. How does the coercion issue of off-camera duress differ from the duress of a person who appears before you but that individual doesn't appear while you're signing the signer who's in your presence? They, too, could have a gun against a loved-one's head.... 3. What kind of storage are we talking about for the remote signing and how do we protect those? 5 years, 10 years of storage can take up an awful lot of space for those of us who do 30 to 150 notarizations a month. I'm sure there are a million more questions and concerns, but I am most interested in staying current and going with industry standards, as long as they are focused on protecting both the signers and the notaries.

Michael E Harris

16 Aug 2016

While working on my masters' and doctoral degrees, we were taught to look at an author's background and affiliation before taking the article seriously. Timothy Reiniger falls into the pile of questionable authors. He has a vested interest in the software that will be used in webcam notarizations. When looking at potential solutions, you must test and retest the software solution until you think it is "perfect"; then you must do serious "gorilla testing". This means that you must try to make the software or system fail. When you fix those problems, you need to hire the best hackers you can to demonstrate that the process is clean.

Virginia Notary

25 Aug 2016

KBA questions are not fool proof. I can easily answer many close relatives questions with ease. Has this ever been tested by a third (disinterested) party?

Kim Young

29 May 2017

will this service be in california

National Notary Association

30 May 2017

Hello Kim. California does not permit the use of webcam technology for notarizations.

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