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As of August 2021, almost 80% of states in the U.S. allow notaries to perform remote online notarization (RON) services. RON services, however, are a new prerogative for many state legislatures in the wake of COVID-19. Law firms, mortgage brokers, and title companies, among other entities, now require access to notarial service from the safety of their employees’ homes.
With the emergence of RON as a permissible notarial avenue, many traditional notaries have attempted to expand their business by providing online services in addition to their existing in-person offerings. However, providing online notary service comes with its own pitfalls. If you are already an existing notary public and are considering expanding your notary business to offer remote services, consider the following three challenges to operating a RON service.
Since there is currently no federal law that expands the use of RON nationwide, notaries offering RON services must navigate through individual state laws that address notary licensure and bonding, digital document acceptance, and procedures for performing RON services. For example, take the following unique situations:
Additionally, local entities such as county/city governments or other parties that require notarized documents may either not allow the submission of digital documents or may not have systems in place to accept them. Prior to performing a RON service, you and your customers should research if using RON is acceptable for their current needs.
Customers completing documents submitted through electronic notarization (where documents are submitted electronically, but both the notary and the signer are in the same place) may assume this activity is the same as RON. However, some states’ laws may still require both the notary and the signer in the same place even for submitting digital documents. Although electronic documentation and RON may use similar technology, they are not the same service. All licensed notaries can perform electronic notarization, but only notaries with RON licensure through their state can perform RON services.
Given that RON services are performed entirely online, critics of RON argue that online notaries are not adequately able to validate customer identification, determine if customers understand the documents they are signing or are being coerced to sign documents, or prevent video and document data generated during RON service from being hacked or stolen online.
This public perception is a myth. RON platforms utilize several security features, such as recorded video sessions and database-driven ID verification, to facilitate notarizations at the same level of security of in-person services. Additionally, while cybersecurity is always a concern for any web service, RON platforms are required to meet cybersecurity industry standards and state guidelines concerning data encryption, SSL security, two-or-three factor authentication, and watermarking/stamping.
To help address any customer concerns with the security of your RON offerings, research the ins and outs of the different RON platforms you are considering using for your business. If you are knowledgeable and confident enough to explain RON platform technology and guide your customers through the RON process, you will be more likely to attract customers to your notary service and grow your business.