A newly published white paper prepared by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is calling for quick action by government, industry and professional associations to provide a “sound strategy” for e-notarization to help stem the rising tide in forgeries and frauds in identity, mortgage and immigration transactions.

The paper reveals the importance of providing secure authentication and effective electronic transactions for e-commerce in the burgeoning digital age.

In the paper, “Electronic Notarization: Why It’s Needed, How It Works, And How It Can Be Implemented To Enable Greater Transactional Security,” published by the National Notary Association, Daniel J. Greenberg, director of MIT’s E-Commerce Architecture Program, outlines the legal and technological issues that must be addressed to ensure convenient and secure e-commerce in an era of rising document forgery and identity fraud.

Such crimes interfere with the orderly conduct of business and threaten individual property rights. The Notary Public is charged with positively identifying individuals during such sensitive transactions as purchasing a home, and can serve to shield the public from insidious identity and document schemes.

“As a society, we may never be able to stop criminals from obtaining fraudulent identification documents, but Notaries can pose a formidable obstacle and deterrent to these criminals and provide an independent record that may be the only evidence prosecutors have to convict a forger,” Greenwood writes. “Indeed, in protecting our identities from misappropriation, Notaries are one of the most powerful weapons we have against the ever-increasing onslaught of identity crimes.”

Many paper-based transactions, from real estate conveyances to international adoptions to last wills and testaments, are notarized to prevent, detect and prosecute fraud. As government agencies and industry move toward a complete paperless workflow, electronic documents will need to receive the same level of security as their paper counterparts. However, Greenwood warns that laws and regulations to guide Notaries in the performance of electronic notarizations are lacking and must be immediately addressed to ensure the protection of property rights in the 21st century.

“Those who regulate Notaries Public would be derelict in their duty if they failed to effect the rule-making necessary to transition to a reliable system of e-notarization,” Greenwood writes. “Failing to exercise oversight and control in this area would be akin to failing to provide and enforce safety rules for hydrogen or hybrid cars because the new technology is different from the old.”

Greenwood emphasizes the need for more uniform laws to “ensure that consistent and harmonious national infrastructures develop” and interstate commerce is not adversely affected.

In response to this legislative need, as described in the research, the National Notary Association has published the Model Notary Act (2002), a model statute that “integrates paper-based and electronic procedures and contains the first comprehensive set of rules for registering electronically-capable notaries and regulating their electronic acts.”

“It is essential to inform government, law enforcement and industry leaders of the need for regulated electronic notarization to best protect consumers against forgery in e-commerce,” said Timothy S. Reiniger, vice president and executive director of the NNA.

The White Paper is available online at the NNA’s Web site, http://www.nationalnotary.org/.


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription