States are enacting emergency orders to allow RON, Remote Online Notarization, as a way to safeguard both the public and notaries in areas where quarantine orders have been instituted. Besides taking away one of the primary functions of personal appearance, RON also takes away the notary’s ability to identify the signers. The function of identity verification occurs through a third party function before the signer is connected to the notary public via audio visual means.
If notaries conduct business in a state which mandates notary’s responsibility for identification, using RON can make the notaries legally responsible for incorrect identification that the third party made.
Considering RON only uses a less reliable system where personal questions are posed to the signer who must answer correctly before being given access to the notary public, the ability of fraud can become prevalent. Currently RON does not have the ability to use Biometric methods (facial recognition, thumbprinting, etc) even though states, like Virginia, have written laws to require it.
Primary functions of the notary public are to identify the signer and determine their understanding and awareness of what they are signing. These functions are seriously limited when using RON. With the identification piece entirely eliminated from the notary’s responsibility, states that place the legal responsibility on the notary will need to revise their laws to safeguard notaries public from legal ramifications regarding the identification of signers.
If you are a notary, please read your state laws carefully before engaging in RON. You may be subjecting yourself to more harm than protecting yourself from Covid-19.