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Will the Real John Doe Please Stand Up?

October 15 2013

200px question mark agentSignatures on real estate documents shouldn't feel like an episode of the game show, "To Tell the Truth." You should know exactly who signed the document, in addition to where and when they signed it. This may be an area of pushback from clients when you tell them you'd like to use electronic signatures. You can assure them, however, that reputable electronic signature solutions can provide true confidence in signer identity.

How do they do this? Perhaps the best way to explain is to use an example. We are going to discuss DocuSign, one of the most popular electronic signature solutions for real estate and many other industries.

Identity Verification with DocuSign

The process of identity verification begins before the document is even signed. With DocuSign, email authentication (sending a link to the document to a specific email address) is always standard. However, DocuSign users can also request additional identity verification methods, including:

  • SMS Text Authentication: The signer receives a unique password, which must be entered before they can sign.
  • Phone Authentication: The signer enters their phone number, receives a call at that number, and must enter an authentication code.
  • "Secret Knowledge" Questions: The signer must be able to answer a question that only they and the sender would know the answer to.
  • Access Code: The sender personally (via phone, text, or email) gives the access code to the signer. Only after the signer enters the correct access code can they sign the document.

If there's ever any doubt about the identity of a signer after a document has been signed, DocuSign provides a thorough "audit trail" that includes the IP address of the device used to sign the document, a time stamp, and many other data points that can be used to confirm the identity of the signer. This tells you where and when the document was signed, which comes in handy if someone refutes their signature.

If you're considering an electronic signature solution, you can use the points above to have a conversation with the vendor and determine how thorough they are in determining signer identity. As Marilyn Wilson of WAV Group pointed out in their recent webinar, not all electronic platforms are created equal. If you're choosing an electronic signature provider, this webinar is a great place to start. You can watch it here:

A Note on Notaries

When discussing the security of pen-to-paper (traditional) signatures, it's impossible to avoid the topic of notarization. Interestingly enough, this is now the case with electronic signatures as well. I've been watching with interest as DocuSign last month announced their eNotarization process. It's a very exciting development and a symptom of something larger I've seen time and again from DocuSign: a commitment to going the extra mile and constantly improving the depth and quality of services they provide.

You can see eNotarization in action on DocuSign's blog – it's worth a peek.