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Can You Trust That eSignature? How to Spot a Tampered Document

August 11 2014

document mgrLegal contracts are a critical part of real estate. Real estate professionals need to be sure they're providing tools to customers that protect their clients' interests as well as their own.

It's not always easy to sort out what those tools are, however. A simple search for "electronic signatures" on the App Store or Google Play will yield dozens of results. How can you know which solutions to trust and which to avoid? Knowing what questions to ask and what elements are most important in an eSignature solution is a great place to start.

From a legal standpoint, the following two items are most important:

  • Authentication - How do you match the person with the signature?
  • Encryption - Once a document is signed, can you demonstrate that it hasn't been tampered with?

We can look to banks to find out more about how to evaluate solutions. Many larger banks now provide requirements or recommendations on the type of support electronic signatures must have to be legally viable within their programs. They want to be able to see the entire "story" of a document--where it's been, who has signed it and more. This can be accomplished via a certificate of completion, a transaction summary that demonstrates authentication procedures, time stamping, audit trail and more. All of these are evidentiary bits that support the integrity of the transaction in case it is ever challenged.

As an industry, we want to be sure that we are providing tools to our customers that will protect our interests as well as theirs. We previously provided an overview of criteria that electronic signature solutions need to meet in order to be legally viable. But just because you choose a secure solution doesn't mean you won't encounter questionable documents from other agents. So today, we're going to take a look at how to distinguish a valid document from one that's been tampered with.

What Does a Trustworthy Document Look Like?

Anytime a document is opened, it's checked for validity. A trustworthy document, like the PDF below, will be verified as having all signatures valid. (See the green checkmark above the document on the left.)

esig security webinar 1

The document below, however, has been tampered with, as evidenced by the message near the top of the screen. The sidebar here shows what parts of the document have been changed. By selecting "Click to view this version," you can compare the current version of the document to previous iterations to see what has been altered.

esig security webinar 2

Interested in learning more? View our recorded webinar, Not All eSignature Platforms Are Created Equal, and then check out the following resources for further information.

To explore your options for electronic signature solutions, visit our Product Directory.