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Using facial recognition techniques to spot impostors

Spotting fake IDs and impostors

When it comes to checking signers’ IDs, Notaries have to make two, key judgment calls: whether the ID is real and whether the signer is an impostor.

Experts in each of these areas offered their tips and guidance to attendees at NNA 2016. Here’s what they had to say.

Telling real from fake IDs

Glenn Garrity, a 21-year law enforcement professional and founder of G2 Identity Management, said that spotting fake IDs can be particularly challenging because high-quality fakes are easy to obtain on the internet. However, newer IDs contain easily detected security features, such as raised lettering, embedded or holographic images, micro printing and more, Garrity said.

He teaches a technique used in many states known as FLAG: Feel, Look, Ask, Give:

  • Feel the ID for raised lettering, such as the signature or date of birth. Feel the edges of the ID and the photo. If the raised lettering isn’t there, or the photo feels raised or the edges can separate, the ID is probably fake.
  • Look for the visual security features, such as overlapping lettering, laser perforated images and ultraviolet features, which can be seen using an inexpensive UV light. If you can see the perforated image without holding the ID up to the light, then it’s probably fake. You also should look at information on the ID, such as height, weight and age. If the description does not match the person, that’s a red flag.
  • Ask questions, such as what’s their zodiac sign or zip code.
  • Give the ID back. This is when you make your best judgment about the ID. If you suspect it is fake, Garrity recommended that you get out of the situation and report your suspicions to your local authorities or the issuing agency.

Garrity also urged everyone to keep a copy of the I.D. Checking Guide handy. The Guide, which is updated annually, has examples of IDs and many of their security features for each state and U.S. territory.

Spotting impostors

Megan Papesh, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Louisiana State University and facial recognition expert, trained Notaries on facial recognition techniques that could better help them positively identify signers.

The information she presented was partly shaped by the results of a 2015 research survey involving more than 1,150 Notaries. Among her findings, Notaries failed to spot impostors about 28 percent of the time, and misidentified people as impostors who were not about 20 percent of the time. She also discovered that the number of years someone has been a Notary and how many notarizations they perform makes no difference in their ability to spot impostors.

To improve your ability to spot someone using a stolen ID, Papesh recommended using a technique called ACE-V, which stands for analyze, compare, evaluate and verify. Essentially, it works like this:

  • Analyze and note a person’s facial features, including their shapes, sizes and relationships to other features. She recommended focusing on internal features such as the shape and location of the ear, the ridge of the eyebrow and similar features. These are less changeable than eye color or shape, hair and skin tone.
  • Compare those individual features with the features on the ID photo, and focus more on the dissimilarities than the similarities.
  • Evaluate the dissimilarities to explain them. If you cannot explain the different shape of the ears or the presence of a dimple, that should raise a red flag.
  • Verification: This is when you make a decision. She suggested quickly rethinking the previous steps to make sure you focused on the right features.

Papesh also cautioned that people are often tripped up by “change blindness.”

“It’s hard to see things you don’t often encounter,” she explained. “If you don’t expect to see an impostor, you won’t.” The best way to counter this is to expect to encounter impostors.

Related Articles:

Identifying Signers: A Notary’s greatest challenge

The three ways Notaries can properly identify signers

Is an expired ID acceptable for notarization?

Additional Resources:

ID Fraud — A Notary trap

How to ID in a multi-cultural world

View All: Notary News


Add your comment

Martin Sierra

15 Aug 2016

I have been a Notary Public now for about six years i believe. I rarely do any Notarizing but when i do i have always asked for two types of identification that are up to date from the State of Fl.3 and a bill or vehicle registration.I have small towing buisness that helps me get through my finances.I have wanted to be a Notary Public since i got my first wrecker in 1992 and im most cautious with having that Privilege.Im most Thankful to the NNA staff for sharing the information keeping me up to date.🌏

Jerry Henderson

01 Apr 2021

I, meet that,

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