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What Is Remote Online Notarization (RON)?

Remote online notarization allows documents to be legally notarized in electronic form by a properly commissioned notary via audio-video technology.
Andrew Macdougall
May 13, 2022
3 min

For thousands of years, there was only one way to get something notarized: in person. But when Virginia signed House Bill 2318/Senate Bill 827 into law in 2011, it brought notarizations into the digital age.

The bill was the first in the country to allow properly commissioned notaries to notarize documents online via audio-video technology. Almost overnight, Virginia notaries could complete remote online notarizations for signers in all 50 states and expats across the globe — and now 37+ states have followed their lead.

Here’s everything you need to know about remote online notarizations, and how it offers a safer, simpler and smarter way to notarize documents.

What is remote online notarization (RON)?

Remote online notarization (RON) allows documents to be notarized in electronic form with the signer signing with an electronic signature and appearing before a commissioned notary online via audio-video technology. This allows anyone with an internet connection to get documents signed and notarized online.

These notarizations retain all the core components of a traditional, paper-based notarization, but add additional layers of technology and security to lend greater insight and confidence in the integrity of each notarization.

In addition to Virginia, 37+ states have signed RON laws into place, allowing their notaries to complete online notarizations. And thanks to Interstate Recognition, which gives legal authority to notarial acts completed in one state for use in any other, a properly completed RON performed by a notary from a state with effective RON laws is valid and acceptable in a different state when completed according to the laws of that notary’s commissioning state.

How to prevent fraud with RON

Signers completing a remote online notarization through the Notarize platform are typically identified through a multi-step identity verification process. This process involves the three most common types of authentication factors: something you have, something you know and something you are.

Knowledge-based authentication (Something you know)

Remote online notarization employs a robust form of authentication called “dynamic KBA.” This process relies on third-party databases with access to public records information to provide multiple, sophisticated knowledge questions specific to the signer. Examples include:

  • Which of the following vehicles have you ever owned or leased?
  • Which one of the following addresses is associated with you?
  • Are you related to any of the following individuals?

The variable nature of these questions and answers makes it harder to pass KBA if you are not the person you claim to be.

To initiate KBA, signers provide their name, date of birth, a recent U.S. address and last four digits of their U.S. Social Security Number. The signer’s identity is then verified, and the knowledge challenge questions are generated.

Credential analysis (Something you have)

After successfully completing KBA, signers are prompted to capture images of the front and back of a valid government-issued ID. These credentials are then analyzed by an automated system to verify authenticity and the results of this analysis are presented to the notary for validation.

Additionally, the photos captured for credential analysis are shared with the notary to review during the signing session.

The Notarize platform requires signers to capture their physical ID as proof of its possession – fulfilling the “something you have” component of the multi-step identification process.

Notary validation (Something you are)

After successfully passing KBA and credential analysis, the signer can initiate a session with a notary. During the notary session, the notary reviews the signer’s ID that was captured during credential analysis and affirms that the person before them is who they claim to be.

All of the components of a traditional, in-person notarization remain in a remote online notarization. This includes the notary’s role to:

  • Verify signer identity;
  • Confirm the signer understands the contents of the document they are signing; and
  • Confirm the signer is signing the document of their own free will.

Remote online notarization enables greater transaction transparency and record-keeping

Notarizations are tied to some of life’s most important moments, so the safety and sanctity of these transactions is important to consumers and businesses alike.

But states only require certain components of the interaction to be captured in the notary’s journal: elements like name of signer, type of document, type of ID and notary fee. As time passes and the details of each interaction grow hazy, that journal entry becomes a vital – and sometimes limiting – historical reference.

Remote online notarization uses technology to capture a more robust record of each transaction.

For example, businesses on the Notarize platform have instant access to the notarized document, the notary’s commission information, photos of the government-issued ID presented to the notary and a recording of the signing session. There is also a comprehensive audit trail with the date and time of every signer action on the platform.

This greater transparency goes a long way towards giving all parties peace of mind to trust each transaction.

Notarize is available anywhere, anytime

Security and transparency are important, but perhaps the greatest benefit of remote online notarization is its accessibility. 

Documents that require notarization are often time-sensitive. Your customers no longer have to find time in their schedule to pop by a storefront or negotiate an amicable time and place to meet a mobile notary. They can now connect with a notary using a laptop, tablet or smartphone through an online notarization platform.

Implementing a remote online notarization platform saves businesses time and money and allows them to provide their customers with a seamless digital experience.

As businesses continue to digitize and improve processes, remote online notarizations can offer a simpler, smarter, safer alternative to traditional paper-based notarizations.

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Andrew Macdougall

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