Notary Publics and Paper Still Matter in a Digital World

In our digital world, you can pay bills and bank online, sign online contracts with an e-signature and click to accept terms and conditions. In fact, you don’t need to use a written signature for most day-to-day transactions. But there are still plenty of situations where it’s legally required to put pen to paper, and often those legal documents require a seal from a notary public.

“People appreciate the added security that a notarized piece of paper brings,” says Ginger Shore, senior funding sales officer and notary public at North Carolina State Employee’s Credit Union. “I find myself providing notary services every single day. It’s still a very necessary part of the business and legal world.”

A Notary Public Plays an Essential Role in Fraud Prevention
A notary public is an official appointed by the state government to serve as an impartial witness and fraud deterrent during the signing of important documents.

“As a notary public, your job is to confirm a person’s identity and watch them sign the document,” says Kelley Shepherd, customer marketing manager at Domtar. “The point is to deter fraud and ensure proper execution on legal and other important documents.”

A notary public not only watches a person sign the document but also uses a raised seal to emboss the paper. This provides additional proof that the document and signature are authentic, and it’s an additional layer of security against hackers and identity thieves, who could easily manipulate digital or even paper copies.

“The raised seal of a notary public provides added assurance that the document is an original, not a copy,” Shore says.

The process to become a notary public varies slightly from state to state, but in all states, applicants must go through training to learn the laws governing the role’s official duties. Then, they must pass a state exam and a background check in order to be commissioned by the state.

Some of the many documents that often, if not always, require a notarized signature include: Power of attorney; Deed of trust; Motor vehicle bill of sale; Mortgage; Property title; Will; Absentee ballot; Advance health care directive.

In all instances where a notarized signature is necessary, security is a top priority. “Think about how ripe something like a power of attorney could be for scams,” says Shepherd. “It’s important to have an impartial third party view the signature to protect the rights and property of the person involved.”

Also consider a car, which may pass through several owners over the life of the vehicle. “Often the bank holds an electronic title on a car loan, but when the loan is paid off the individual receives a paper title,” Shore says. “That notarized document is important when the car is sold again to another person so that all parties involved can be assured they’re undertaking a legal transaction.”

Paper Offers Dependability and Convenience
In addition to the security that a notarized document brings, paper offers other benefits, including accessibility. Legal documents such as wills and mortgages are designed to last for many years, often outlasting the technology used to create and store digital documents. Imagine if you had signed a 30-year mortgage that was stored on a floppy disk instead of printed on paper. Today, very few computers can access that type of storage, assuming the disk itself is still intact and readable. But paper documents are always available, and you can store them in a safe or security deposit box for added security.

Specialized security papers offer another layer of protection against fraud, especially when it comes to banking. Domtar security papers include six anti-fraud features, making it extremely difficult to forge financial documents such as checks.

In today’s fast-paced world of changing technologies, it’s comforting to know that signing a document on paper can provide long-lasting, trusted documentation for the most important times in our lives, especially when it’s authenticated by a notary public.

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