What if the name's don't match?Jan 18, 2024
WHAT TO DO IF THE NAMES DON’T MATCH
By Dena Spinks, 01/18/2024
What do you do if the names do not match? Do you stop the notarization? Do you call the police because they are committing identity fraud? This issue can cause a new notary stress and fear the first few times they encounter this situation.
There are many reasons that there may be a name discrepancy. Did the singer just get married? Did they get a divorce? Did they legally change their name for other personal reasons? There are a few scenarios that would cause a name change. Also, signers may use a casual or formal variation of their name.
As a Notary Public, it is your job to get educated on these issues, so you always know what to do as a trusted public official and notary of integrity. The State of Alabama's secretary of State office, does not offer any guidance on this topic on their website or in the current Notary Handbook (Revised 2022). The guidance that is offered just tells you what an acceptable ID is and what elements that ID must contain.
The State of Alabama Notary Handbook states:
“A Notary's duty is to make sure the signers are aware of the contents of the documents they are signing, that the signer’s documents are for their true identity, and that they signed willingly without intimidation or coercion”.
Under their FAQ Section:
- How Does A Notary Identify A Signer?
Generally, a Notary will ask to see a current ID that has a photo, physical description and signature. Acceptable IDs usually include a driver’s license or passport.
As you can see, there is no real, clear guidance for situations when there might be a name discrepancy. You, as the Notary, are instructed to make sure that the signer’s documents are for their ‘true identity’. How do you determine what their ‘true identity’ is?
Ok, my Homeschool Mom self is going to come out for a minute . . .. .. both Melissa and I were Homeschool Moms.
We are going to use the steps to solve a Math Problem to solve this name discrepancy issue. Here are the steps:
- UNDERSTAND: What is the issue? What is the problem?
- PLAN: What strategies do I use to solve this problem?
- DO: What steps do I need to take to find the answer?
- LOOK BACK: Does my answer make sense?
UNDERSTAND (What is the issue/problem?)
What is the discrepancy? Is the last name different? Is the first name different? Is the middle initial missing or different? Is there a last-name suffix issue? Does the signer have multiple last names, but the document only lists one? What is the Issue?
PLAN (What strategies do I use to solve this problem)
What strategies will you use to solve this issue? In this case, your strategy will be to look at all the facts presented. Look at the document and the way the name is listed. Look at the ID/s presented. What is the difference? What needs to be resolved?
DO (What steps do I need to take to find the answer)
If the name on the ID is Michael but the document says Mike, most people readily understand that Mike is a shortened version of Michael and that is typically acceptable. What if the middle initial is different or missing? Remember, your signer is always supposed to sign the document exactly how their name is listed but if the name listed does not match their ID, then you may need to refuse and refer them back to their document issuer. Every situation is different and details matter so I cannot address every possible scenario in this blog post, but I will offer you the best guidance that I can.
If this is part of the Loan Signing Document Package, you should contact the hiring company but typically this type of mistake is found before you even get to the signing table if you are doing your job correctly. A Notary Signing Agent must always review all the documents in a loan package BEFORE you leave for the appointment. I have had signings where the names were typed incorrectly, and they had to send me a new set of documents. So always review your loan documents in enough time for corrections before the appointment.
Don’t automatically reject the ID, are there other elements of the signer's ID that you can use to properly identify the signer? What about their physical descriptions? Look at all the facts before you make your final decision. Remember, you as the notary have the right to refuse a notarization but ONLY if you have a legitimate reason to deny the person the service of a notary public. Never proceed with a notarization if you cannot properly identify the signer. If there are name AND description differences, that makes it hard for you to PROPERLY identify the signer.
Is there an issue with a Last Name Suffix? A dishonest son may try to sign for their father (jr. vs. sr.) and vice versa. ALWAYS check the physical description and age. If a signer says, they always get the name wrong and put my dad’s name on there, it is okay to go ahead. You then politely tell them that you cannot complete the notarization and they will need to have the error corrected before you can. Always ask if the signer has another ID with the correct name and suffix. Be alert and know the proper way to manage these situations. There are dishonest people out there who try to take advantage of notary publics every single day!
WHAT IF THE SIGNER HAS MULTIPLE FORMS OF THEIR LAST NAME?
According to the NNA:
Multiple Forms of Last Names
In some cases, a signer's last name may appear differently on different documents for reasons such as marriage, divorce, cultural custom or professional identity. For example, a married woman's full name might appear as "Maria Cortez-Nelson," but at her job she regularly signs documents as "Maria Nelson." Similarly, individuals of certain nationalities may have multiple names.
If a signer has a hyphenated or multi-part last name on their ID, but only part of the name appears on the document (or vice versa), here are some options:
1. Ask the signer for an alternate, acceptable form of written ID that matches the name as it appears on the document. If the signer lacks such ID (for example, a signer who has recently changed her name due to marriage or divorce may not have changed her name on her ID), some states may permit the signer to be identified using one or more credible witnesses.
2. The signer can ask the agency issuing or receiving the document if it's OK to sign using an "also known as" or "AKA" signature. If so, the signer would sign the document using a format such as:
"(Name appearing on the ID), also known as (name appearing on the document)"
"(Name appearing on the ID), AKA (name appearing on the document)"
You then could complete the notarization by writing the name appearing on the ID in the notarial certificate, since that is the only name for which the Notary has satisfactory evidence. However, remember that a Notary should never instruct a signer to sign using an "AKA" signature — the signer must ask the appropriate agency to confirm if this is acceptable.
LOOK BACK (Did I follow all the steps and does my answer make sense?)
As a notary public, you should always check back over everything to make sure you did everything correctly. Take a second glance to make sure you got everything right. Look back over all the details and make sure you made the right decision and that you performed the notarization correctly. I have to say this one more time, if you cannot PROPERLY identify the signer, you MAY NOT proceed with the notarization.
Tip from Melissa:
when I make the appointment, I always go over ID info with the person and make sure that #1 it hasn't expired before we get together and that #2 I ask how their name is printed on the ID. If it is different than the document, we can address the issue BEFORE we come to the table. i.e. just got married/divorced? They can go get a new ID before the signing.
We hope the tips help you navigate these sometimes tricky waters.
Wishing you much Notary success!
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