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WWYD Answers: The Case Of The Signer With The Broken Wrist

Signer at notarization with broken wrist

Last week we shared a real-life scenario about a married couple who needed a set of mortgage documents notarized, only the husband’s signature on the documents did not match his driver’s license. The wife said that was because of the cast on his broken wrist. The other issue is that the husband’s ID photo is old and his appearance has changed.

What You Said

We asked our Notary community what you would do in this situation, and you offered some interesting responses and solutions.

Many of our commenters saw the situation as potentially suspicious:

“I would decline the signing: too many red flags,” wrote Terri L. Poster-Taylor. “Refinance documents are date sensitive, and they have showed up late in the day. Either other Notaries have refused to execute the documents or they are hoping to get a Notary too tired to notice the discrepancies in the photo and signature.”

Verne Gordon concurred. “I would ask the 'husband' if he had another form of identification that I could verify. I would also ask some pertinent questions such as his address and age, etc., without the wife present. If he was hesitant or nervous about the signature or showed signs of trying to rush to get the notarization done, I would politely explain that I could not continue.”

“I understand that a dated DL picture could be difficult to match,” wrote Pam Bass. “However, there are too many discrepancies with this situation so therefore I would probably turn them away unless I knew them personally.”

Linda L. Mitchell, who is a handwriting expert, urged her fellow Notaries to be cautious about making a judgment call regarding the husband’s signature. “If there are limitations on the part of the signer, I am sure to note those limitations in my register. I also suggest to the parties involved that they either video or photograph the signing in the event that the signature comes into question at a later date.”

Another Notary said she had a broken thumb that changed the way she signed documents, “so I would allow the shaky signature.”

“I don't see the ID as an issue since it states that other characteristics DID match, other than weight and a beard,” wrote Notary Erika. “I would note his injury in my book.” Another commenter suggested resolving the issue with a signature by mark.

NNA Recommendations

As most of the commenters noted, the crucial issue in this situation is verifying the identity of the signer. That is the core responsibility of every Notary. It also is the duty that requires Notaries to exercise the greatest degree of judgment.

In this real-life scenario, the man with the “broken wrist” turned out to be an imposter who changed his appearance to match the picture on the husband’s real ID to help the wife obtain a mortgage without her husband’s knowledge.

There are two warning signs in this situation: the mismatched signatures and the ID photo that doesn’t really match the man. But it was the picture in this case that was most problematic.

The suggestion that most commenters made is a good one: Ask for another ID. The Notary in this case was commissioned in a state whose law gives Notaries discretion to request additional ID. This definitely was a step the Notary should have taken.

Since the husband’s real ID was used in this scenario, a second suggestion (mentioned above) is to ask the impostor to recite information from the ID. If the individual cannot confirm the date of birth, address, donor status, etc., then you have grounds to stop the notarization.

In this case, the Notary did not carefully compare the photo to the imposter. She was later sued, and her insurance carrier paid out the full amount of her errors and omissions policy.

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

Additional Resources:

Notary Errors & Omissions Insurance




View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Lori Williams

30 Jan 2017

Since this is a transaction involving real property in California a thumbprint is required in the Notary journal, If the signer seemed reluctant to comply, I would not procede.

Bill Kirchhoff Sr.

02 Feb 2017

Any time I do a notary with an ID, Ilist type of ID and necessary info from Id, then I thimp print anyone that is not personally known to me to ensure subject can be positively IDed st a later time if needed.

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