- Texas Secretary of State discourages notaries regarding thumbprint collection. (There may be other states that do.)
- Some private businesses don't want notaries with whom they are contracting to collect a thumbprint if their states' laws do not require it. (Only certain transactions and notarial acts in Cook County, Illinois and the State of California require thumbprints.)
- Collecting thumbprints in notary journals has produced privacy issue concerns.
I love this article because it gives me a chance to say what's on my mind.
Collecting thumbprints from signers has become a way for notaries to feel secure about notarial transactions they conduct. I have never been a fan of this process. While some believe it's the best fraud repellent in the world, I personally do not.
Criminals are fairly impulsive creatures who will take risks that their fraudulent acts won't be discovered and thumbprints won't be checked. In addition, a smart criminal knows that the road between putting a thumbprint in a journal and getting it compared by an expert to that of the rightful owner of a property that the criminal has stolen is a seldom traveled long, and winding one.
So, notaries fill their journals with the thumbprints of good folks and occasionally capture that rare one of a scoundrel who will never be caught. Notary journals in states that do not require thumbprint collection are heavy with the prints of unsuspecting, honest folks who have willingly given up precious biometric identifiers. Unfortunately, as technology advances, notary journals may become fat little targets for a more sophisticated type of ID theft.
My lawyer told me not to do it, and that was before the Texas Secretary of State discouraged notaries against it. He said if the law didn't require it, he didn't recommend it because it could blossom into all kinds of liability issues.
I have written about this topic for several years in the AAN's newsletters. It's not popular because notaries like to take thumbprints. It's good to hear another voice in the wilderness!
BEST PRACTICE FOR YOU? If you live in a state that doesn't require you to collect thumbprints, talk to your Secretary of State's office or an attorney of your choice.