Notarize Blog
Bringing notarization into the modern era

Go Back May 25, 2016

What about the 28%?

We’re in the heart of the political campaign season and we hear a lot of talk about the 1%.

At Notarize we decided there wasn’t enough talk about the invisible 28%. What is the 28%? According to a study by the National Notary Association, 28% is the percentage of times when notary publics failed to correctly identify a signer, even when they were standing in front of them in a lineup.

Why is this important?

There are approximately 1.25 billion notarizations in the U.S. each year. These include some of the most important transactions of a person’s life, like executing a will, closing on a home, or opening a retirement account. That means that as many as 350 million of these documents may have been improperly notarized for the wrong person! With all of the pain and chaos surrounding the loss of a loved one, the last thing their next of kin should be worried about is the validity of the last will and testament based on a fraudulent or incorrect notarization. This is even more concerning when you consider that verifying the identity of the signer is a key principle of notarization and one of the essential duties of the notary public.

That’s why we set out to empower notaries with the tools to do better. With Notarize, we’ve added new software enhancements that dramatically improve the notary public’s chances of correctly identifying the signer and preventing fraud though a new 3-step process:

Step 1: Verifying the signer through knowledge-based authentication. The purpose of this step is to ensure that you (the signer sitting at your computer or using your iPhone) are who you say you are. If you’ve ever purchased goods online, the odds are that you’ve already experienced this process. It’s pretty straightforward. You provide your driver’s license or the last 4 digits of your social security number and we use that to validate your information and generate a series of “out of wallet” questions for you to answer. The questions are derived from your credit and banking history along with other secure data sources. If you answer enough of these questions correctly in the allotted period of time, then you advance.

Step 2: Verifying your ID. This step is all about preventing a fake ID from getting through. Aside from their trained eye, notaries have no tools in person to verify a driver’s license. With Notarize, we give our notaries the same tools that the Federal Reserve, nuclear power plants, and law enforcement agencies use. A customer takes a picture of the front and back of their ID using their iPhone or webcam. Our software then runs a multi-faceted forensic analysis, checking the features of each ID according to the state where it was issued and verifying that it is real. All of this occurs in seconds.

Step 3: Visual verification by the notary public. Once a customer makes it through the first two steps they are connected with a notary public in a live audio-video call. During this final step, the notary has an image of the customer’s drivers license that can be enhanced on their screen. Just as they do in person, the notary visually confirms that the person they’re looking at matches the person on the ID. If for any reason they aren’t convinced that it’s the same person, the notary has discretion to terminate the notarization.

The best part is that the entire audio-video call is recorded and verifiable, which has been shown to be one of the greatest deterrents against fraud. Notarize’s 3-step identity verification process dramatically reduces fraud and improves the odds that a notary public can correctly identify a signer. Every signer must have their personal information validated and must correctly answer a series of challenge questions that only they should know, they must have their ID validated through a software-based forensic analysis, and they must be visually confirmed by the notary.

This is how we’re raising the bar for identity proofing for 1.25 billion transactions in the country.

A year from now we hope we’re writing about how to reduce the 1% of notarizations where a signer is incorrectly identified instead of the 28%.

– Adam