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5 Tips For Authenticating A Signer’s ID For Notarization

Updated 3-21-22. A Notary's primary duty is to authenticate identification before witnessing a signature. Follow these helpful tips for proper verification of identity.   

1. Always ask to physically hold and examine the ID.

In order to ensure the ID is satisfactory, you will need to physically examine it. When a signer presents identification, ask that it be handed to you so you can look at and touch any details and security features to confirm they are genuine.  Don’t simply glance at a driver’s license or ID card in the window of a signer’s wallet, as this leaves you unable to check the ID card’s security features (see below).

2. Make sure the ID meets your state’s Notary law requirements.

While examining the ID, make sure that it includes all required information under your state’s laws. For example, California statute provides a specific list of ID types California Notaries may accept and requires an ID to be current or issued in the past five years. Florida requires any ID on Florida's list of acceptable identification to be current or issued within the past five years, and the ID must also bear a serial or another identifying number. For most notarizations, Texas requires a signer’s ID to be issued by the U.S. federal government or a state government, and include a photo and signature. However, Texas Notaries may accept a current foreign passport as ID if the notarization involves a deed or other instrument related to a real estate transaction.

3. Familiarize yourself with security features on common IDs for your state.

It’s a good professional practice to know the security features on IDs commonly used in your state and check to be sure they appear on the ID. Again, using California as an example, state driver’s licenses include features such as a raised printing of the signature and date of birth you can feel by running a finger over the surface of the card. Other security features may include holographic images, patterns or hidden details that only show up when held up to a light. An ID reference guide can help familiarize you with what to look for when checking ID security features.

4. If something doesn’t match, look for other discrepancies.

If a picture or description on an ID is out of date, it’s possible the signer has simply changed their hair color, lost weight, or been ill recently — but it may also mean the signer is an impostor. If you are uncertain, follow any statutory guidelines first. For example, Pennsylvania’s laws specifically allow Notaries to refuse to perform an act if the Notary is not satisfied with the signer’s signature or appearance matches what is on the ID.

However, if you are in a state where the law doesn’t provide clear guidance, check if there is more than one discrepancy. For example, is the signer’s hair color not matching the photo the only difference? Or does their height and weight not appear to match the information listed on the ID as well? If you feel there is reasonable doubt the signer’s identity is legitimate, then it is better to stop the notarization until the signer can produce another satisfactory form of ID.

5. Record ID information in your journal entry

Many states require you to keep a record of your notarizations, so make sure you include all the information required by your state laws and rules.

If you keep a Notary journal but your state does not have rules for journal entries, it's a recommended practice to always include the name, address and signature of each signer; a description of the evidence used to identify each signer; and the itemized fees, if any, paid to you (The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, Standard VII-A-4).

In addition, you may include in your journal entry other information you deem important (including any notes about verifying the signer’s identity), unless prohibited by law or official guideline. However, you should not record a full identification number, serial number, Social Security number, date of birth or other non-public, personal information, unless required by your state’s law.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

 

23 Comments

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Joan A. Baffa

19 May 2017

Excellent tips. Is there any way to share this via email to multiple recipients? I tried using spaces and semi-colons in between the email addresses, but it didn't appear to work. Pls. and thnx - jab

National Notary Association

22 May 2017

Hi Joan. If you are having difficulties with the "Email" button at the bottom of the article, another option would be to copy the URL link to the article and email it separately to the persons you would like to share it with.

Suzanne Porte

21 May 2018

Recently my husband needed his driver's license notarized for a Irish passport application. As his wife, I could not notarize. We brought it to our bank ans the notary photocopied the ID with an acknowledgement form from our state. I have never notarized an ID and I am checking to see if this is an acceptable way to notarize. Also, she filled out the sentence in the document like this: This instrument was acknowledged before me on DATE by HER NAME. Please verify if this was done correctly and if not, what would be the correct way.

National Notary Association

21 May 2018

Hello Suzanne. What state are you located in, and can you tell us whether the Notary was asked to perform a copy certification or an acknowledgment of a document signature?

Joel Hedge

21 May 2018

I am a Texas notary and it is my opinion of the law that prohibits recording of serial numbers, IE. drivers license numbers in a notary journal is asinine, although if considered who makes the laws it's not so unusual.

Leslie Boucher sr.

27 May 2018

I have been a Notary in Florida for over 5 years things appear to be a little different now

Leslie Boucher sr

30 Jun 2018

As a Notary I have done all that is written and this is helpful I make sure all show there drivers license to go thru the way things are to be completed

Leslie Boucher sr

30 Jun 2018

ok

Denise Stokka

11 Mar 2019

What is the criteria for an individual from ARIZONA to have on their ID card - to ensure that it is the "real deal".

National Notary Association

11 Mar 2019

Hello. The answer depends on the specific type of identification card in question. A good resource for referencing information on different state identification documents is the Keesing Documentchecker Guide, which is available here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/2019-documentchecker-guide

JolieM

24 Jun 2019

As usual the politicians in Texas are not interested in protecting the Notary. The prohibit the notary from entering any identifying any serial numbers or other ID numbers in the Notary's journal. I guess this law was passed before driver licenses were used.

A C Dye

24 Jun 2019

Whenever faced with something I don't know or not aware of ....I ALWAYS call the NNA hotline...I keep the number handy....it has been a useful tool so that I am not concerned whether I am doing something correctly...

Teresa Gyure

24 Jun 2019

How can you possibly do #1 when doing RON

have notary will travel

24 Jun 2019

do not accept copies of drivers licenses

john mcelhenny

25 Jun 2019

always check and also I carry a book with me to match up the ID check to make sure it was not pulled apart and check for watermarks

Teresa Gyure

15 Jun 2020

Do you realize how many Notaries have done Door Signings and only looked at ID through a window? All those signings should be nullified.

Jettie Davis

28 Mar 2022

Thank you for your comments. I am just getting to first base. I am getting my application from Judge of Probate today.. This was very insightful

Yolanda Adams

28 Mar 2022

This article starts with "A Notary's primary duty is to authenticate dentification before witnessing a signature." The NNA is a proponent of RON. If you're a RON notary, there's no way to handle and physically inspect the ID of the signer.

Natalia Du

28 Mar 2022

Can a person who has been incarcerated use a expired ID?

National Notary Association

30 Mar 2022

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state the Notary is commissioned in?

John Clark

28 Mar 2022

Once in a notary magazine I saw an image of a driver license in my home state with formatting, typefont, and background pattern all correct, yet it still looked odd. Then the reason came clear. The bearer's photograph had her laughing and her boyfriend behind her. What government bureau ever takes an ID picture like that? It turned out to be a stock photo that I had seen before online and would see again. Now, there's no way to embed a false picture into a genuine license with no sign of tampering. But this specimen on a magazine page proves how easily the image on a PHOTOCOPIED card can be faked. It shows why you should require the original ID to look at close and rub for proof of a signer's identity.

Cori Law

31 Mar 2022

I am a TN commissioned notary. Is it okay to record the driver’s license ID number in journal entries? All the training i’ve done requires it and there is a line for the ID number, issue and expiration date in my notary journal.

National Notary Association

07 Apr 2022

Hello. Requirements in Tennessee vary depending on if you are performing traditional or online notarizations. For traditional notarizations, “if the notary or the notary’s employer demands and receives a fee, the notary shall keep a record, either in an appropriate electronic form or in a well-bound book, of each of the notary’s acts, attestations, protestations, and other instruments of publication” (TCA 8-21-1201[b]). For online notarizations: “An online notary public, or his or her properly designated custodian or repository, must keep, for at least 5 years after the date of the transaction or proceeding, a secure electronic record of all electronic documents notarized by the online notary public, containing all of the following information: “(a) The date and time of the notarization; “(b) The type of notarial act; “(c) The type, the title, or a description of the electronic document or proceeding; “(d) The printed name and address of each principal involved in the transaction or proceeding; “(e) Evidence of the identity of each principal involved in the transaction or proceeding in the form of: “1. A statement that the principal(s) is personally known to the online notary public; or both “2. A notation of the type of identification document provided to the online notary public for each principal; and “3. A notation that the principal(s) completed identity proofing and credential analysis procedures described by Rule 1360-07-03-.05 and both were satisfactory to verify the identity of the principal(s); “(f) A recording of any video and audio conference that is the basis for satisfactory evidence of identity and a notation of the type of identification presented as evidence; and “(g) The fee, if any, charged for the notarization” (RRT 1360-07-03-.03[8]).

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