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Will You Soon Be Able to Notarize a Document Over Webcam?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 17, 2016 11:15 AM

Electronic notarization, or eNotarization, is becoming increasingly common, according to a recent whitepaper by the National Notary Association. Lawyers are submitting eNotarized documents to courts, banks are relying on eNotarized mortgage forms, and law enforcement is using eNotarization to sign criminal complaints.

In most cases, this eNotarization simply takes the form of an electronic signature on a computer or tablet. Yet a smaller, but growing, approach to eNotarization allows documents to be notarized over webcams, eliminating the need to meet face-to-face with a notary.

Skype Your Notarization

The rise in eNotarization is caused in part by the "growing reliability and security" of electronic technology, according to the NNA. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau praise eNotarization as making the notary process more efficient and understandable, and this year Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced support for eNotarization via in-person electronic signatures and webcams both. The technology has been particularly successful in the mortgage finance industry, according to the whitepaper.

For webcam notarization, a signer "meets with" a notary electronically, through a webcam, in order to sign a document. That document can be either physical or electronic. In order to establish the signer's identity, webcam notarization uses "knowledge-based authentication," according to the white paper. That involves asking the signer information about their life and credit history. (Similar questions are asked when you check your credit score, for example.)

Here's how it looks in practice:

Don't Throw Out Your Rubber Stamps Just Yet

Webcam notarization is in its infancy, as the whitepaper notes. Only notaries in Virginia and Montana are currently allowed to perform webcam notarizations under their state laws, according to the NNA, and only Virginia notaries can perform webcam notarizations for signers who are not a resident of the state.

State laws aren't the only challenge facing webcam notarization, either. "Many people in the notary community will not trust notarizations performed without the signed in the physical presence of the notary," the report states, though those attitudes could change as webcam notarizations spread. There are also concerns about data security and coercion and capacity.

Despite this, though, the white paper predicts eNotarization and webcam notarization will continue to grow. "While certain challenges remain, societal acceptance of eNotarization has never been higher or more accessible," it concludes.

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