By Carol Salter—The role of the Notary has most certainly evolved over thousands of years. The latest and perhaps most important is that of identity verifier. It is imperative that the Notary takes particular care when checking identification!
For documents that require jurat notarizations, verifying identity is not required but highly recommended. With a jurat, the Notary is compelled to administer an oath for the document signer to swear or affirm to the validity of the document.
For acknowledgements, the signer must be positively identified. One of the best aids to prevent fraud is to secure an ID guide. National Notary Association members can purchase a guide online at such as the NNA Notary ID Guide. Others can find a national ID guide here.
With the onset of electronic notarizations, it needs to be stressed that just because a notarization can be completed electronically, it does not excuse the signer of the document from personally appearing before the Notary. Do not notarize a document where the signer is not present. There are many horror stories involving Notaries who have signed documents where identity was not checked or where the signer was not present. Those Notaries have faced civil and criminal lawsuits because of it.
Remember, it is the job of every responsible Notary to prevent fraud by properly identifying document signers and requiring personal appearance.
Refer to your state regulations on identity verification for exact requirements.