Should You Identify Document Custodians Requesting a Certified/Attested Copy?

The notarial duty of certifying/attesting a copy requires attention to certain details that may not occur to some notaries. For example, do you routinely ask the document custodian requesting the copy for satisfactory identification if he or she is not personally known? American Society of Notaries recommends that you do. For one, your state’s notarial certificate language for this duty may very well include a blank for the name of the document custodian. Don’t just take the document custodian’s word for it—ask for satisfactory identification. The same applies to your recordbook entries for certified/attested copies, which typically capture the document custodian’s information (name, address, signature). Your recordbook entries are your only evidence of the notarial acts you perform; protect the credibility of this evidence by satisfactorily identifying document custodians requesting certified/attested copies.

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Personal Knowledge: There’s Nothing Casual About It!
American Notary, Issue 2008-#2

As the incidence of fraud grows, so grows the rate at which fraud involves a notarized document.

One of the most fundamental ways for the notary to help guard against fraud is to positively identify the signer.

Many notaries assume personal knowledge is the easiest form of identification to assess—you either know someone or you don’t, right? ASN cautions, however, that you must be absolutely, unquestionably certain of the signer’s identity when relying upon personal knowledge, or else you are well advised to ask for an identification document as well. Consider:

1.  To “personally know” someone, you must have known the person over an extended period of time. Someone you met that morning, that week, that month or even that year is not necessarily “personally known.”

2.  You must have had direct interaction and contact with the person over that period of time, such that you indeed “know” something meaningful about this person’s identity or life. Being a mere acquaintance isn’t enough, in our opinion. You will have needed to socialize with the person, worked with the person or lived in the same neighborhood; i.e., have some circumstance that creates ongoing, direct interaction and contact.

3. That direct interaction and contact must leave you no doubt that the person is who he says he is. If there’s reason to have even the slightest doubt, ask the signer—even when it’s someone you “know”—for a satisfactory identification document to further prove his/her identity.

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Fake IDs: Be Alert and Aware!
American Notary, Issue 2007-#3

Every once in a while, a notary may get the uncomfortable feeling that a driver’s license presented for identification purposes is a fake. While you are NOT expected or trained to detect expertly forged identification documents, it’s still smart to be aware of how easy it is to obtain a fake ID, and how to recognize the most obvious signs of ID forgery.

The federal legislation known as the REAL ID Act of May, 2005, held the promise of reducing the number of counterfeit driver’s licenses in circulation by adding features that make the driver’s license much more difficult and costly to falsify. Some of these features include a retro-reflective laminate with an optically variable device in it that may make a line or other figure look like it is floating above or below the surface of the license. There may be a kinegram on the license—a picture that, when the card is tilted, turns into words or another picture. The license may contain a two dimensional barcode that can hold much more information than a standard barcode. It requires a special “2–D” barcode reader. The license can have a digital “watermark” that is invisible to the naked eye but reveals information to an electronic scanner.

In crafting updated driver’s licenses, each state may pick from among the available security features and decide which ones they want to use. Licenses displaying these features will certainly be accepted with greater confidence… after all, they are nearly impossible to counterfeit, right?

In fact, a growing number of the websites that offer a “novelty” driver’s license in the earlier, laminated style (cost: around $100) have expanded their capabilities to produce fakes of the newer, Real ID Act-compliant licenses. Some are so well-crafted that only an expert could detect the fraudulent ID.

So, should notaries be overly worried about fake driver’s licenses? “Worried,” no—but alert and aware, most definitely. While the greatest demand for fake driver’s licenses still seems to come from young people whose primary interest is underage drinking (not committing document fraud with a false ID), they are creating the market demand that makes counterfeit licenses readily available to everyone else.

So, don’t assume that all newer driver’s licenses with their high-tech security features are the real deal—a few might be counterfeit. Remember, while you are not expected to detect an expertly forged driver’s license, you should ask for an additional form of identification if there are ANY red flags that make you think a driver’s license might be a fake. We also offer these tips for carefully examining a driver’s license:

If you have a doubt about the genuineness of the license, ask the person questions based on information from the license or ask for another form of ID.
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The "AKA" or "FKA" Affidavit
American Notary, Issue 2007-#3

Occasionally, mismatches between a signer’s name on a document and his or her identification documents will occur, and are the result of the signer’s use of variations to his or her legal name.

John Quentin Public, for example, may be legally known as John Q. Public, J. Quentin Public, JQ Public, etc. In addition, a married woman who took her husband’s last name certainly was legally known under a different name—that is, the previously unmarried Mary Jane Doe is one and the same as the now married Mary Jane Public.

A frequently used method to correlate the way a signer’s name appears on identification documents to the way his or her name appears on documents presented for notarization is the “Also-Known-As (AKA) Affidavit.” A similar document is called the “Formerly Known As (FKA) Affidavit.”

The AKA Affidavit is used when a signer needs to make a sworn statement about previous or current variations to his or her legal name.

Many document originators and document recipients, especially lenders and title companies, ask that this form be executed whenever additional steps must be taken to draw a link between a signer’s identification documents and his or her name on the document to be signed.

The AKA Affidavit should be used with caution! It is NOT meant to compensate for misspellings or typos in the signer’s name as it appears in the document to be signed. Nor is the AKA Affidavit meant to “stand alone” in the absence of proper identifying documents. It can be used in addition to satisfactory identification documents, especially when the notary has relied upon more than one type of identification document to positively identify the signer.

As with any other affidavit, the signer will swear an oath (or affirmation) to the notary about the truthfulness of the information that is written in the body of the affidavit. The notary (after confirming that all required elements of a lawful notarization are present) will administer the oath or affirmation, then will finish the affidavit form by completing the venue at the top of the form and the jurat at the bottom.

Following is a sample of a typical AKA/FKA Affidavit, which also has the signer making a sworn statement about his or her true signature:

AKA • FKA • Signature Affidavit

State of ____________
County of ___________

I solemnly swear or affirm that:

This is my true and correct signature:

           (Printed Name of Signer)              (Signature of Signer)

and that I am also known as or formerly known as:

           (Name Variation-print)                  (Sample Signature-variation)

           (Name Variation-print)                  (Sample Signature-variation)

Signed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me this _____ day of ____________, 20___ by (Name of Person Making Statement).

            [SEAL]                                      (Signature of Notary)
                                                             (Printed Name of Notary)

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