Can Your Physical or Electronic Signatures Be Stolen?

Contracts are binding, placing you under certain responsibilities and even potential repercussions. That's why people are so afraid of having their signatures stolen. After all, who wants to be placed under an agreement you never knew of?

But can it really be stolen? Here, we'll talk about both physical and electronic signatures. We'll also delve into measures employed to prevent theft.

Physical Signature

Also known as the handwritten signature, you create a physical signature when you write on a physical document or form using a pen and ink. If you're worried about people using your signature on important documents, don't be. Your signature is extremely unique to you.

Here are a few indicators forensic writing specialists use to catch a forge:

  • Tremors. It signifies that the forger isn't confident about writing the signature.

  • Speed and pressure. The trail of the ink, as well as its thickness, may be different.

  • Blunt starts and stops. This can be an indication that writing the signature is rehearsed. That's why it's not fluid.

  • Pen lifts and hesitations. It happens when you stop in the middle of the signature to consider the correct flow.

Wet signatures are extremely tough to forge. The only way to truly steal it is when someone misrepresents the document's content and makes you sign it.

But if you want to further make it hard to forge, consider making your signature illegible and have more line direction changes.

Digital and Electronic Signatures

The usage of electronic signatures makes document management and global transactions go more smoothly. However, a lot of these transactions aren't necessarily happening face-to-face, thus making it impossible for some to sign the dotted line right in front of everyone. And with governments encouraging people to limit physical contact, the use of electronic signatures increased.

Through the internet, e-signatures have also become part of marketing. An advanced e signature has become a marketing instrument that helps heighten brand awareness or improve conversion rates.

Digital vs. Electronic Signatures: What's the Difference?

For our purposes, either term will refer to electronic versions of its inked counterpart. This is what an electronic signature is. It can even be a sound, a pin, or any process representing your intent to “sign” something.

A simple electronic signature doesn't hold a lot of legal value. Meanwhile, digital signatures are the more secure version. Here, the authenticity of the electronic documents as well as the identities of the signatories are verified.

FACT: A Stolen Digital Signature is Extremely Rare

There are cases of someone copying another person's signature from email, a word document or other sources. Fortunately, identity theft doesn't end well for the fraudster. They can also try to go for unscrupulous methods, but the nature of the e-signature itself provides you layers of protection against theft.

This means you can't easily compromise someone's signature security. You need to be able to prove it's authentic. Thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, your e-signature is safe.

How Does the US Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act Promote Signature Security?

This law sets up security requirements to make the signing process legal. According to the Act, it must have:

A Digital Certificate That Can Track the Origins of the Signature

With a physical contract, you can't add details to it once it's been signed. The same goes here. The law requires this so you don't unknowingly agree to something you never read.

If either the sender or the signer changes anything, everything will be void, and the documents won't hold up in court.

Detailed Audit Record That Can Trace the Electronic Signature to the Signer

With a legal contract, details like where and when it was signed are included. You may even need witnesses with no vested interest as proof that the signing indeed happened. Unfortunately, doing the same thing isn't possible with online transactions.

So that the document signed would still be admissible in court, you have this electronic record. This has IP addresses, timestamps, dates, email addresses, and other relevant information to create a digital trail for the signers.

Strong Identification Verification Methods to Confirm the Signer's Identity

E-signature tools may have various methods of doing this. What will be acceptable for the document you're signing will depend on the industry you're in as well as the importance of the content, among others.

Here are the most commonly-used methods:

  • Email address: Signers enter the email address where the invitation to sign was sent. The platform also usually limits access to these email addresses.

  • Access code: The document recipient enters an access code the sender provides before signing.

  • Phone call: Signers call a particular number where they provide their name and access code.

  • SMS: The signers receive signers a passcode via SMS that they enter to access the document.

  • Knowledge-based: Signers answer questions that are assumed that only they would know, like vehicles owned and past addresses.

  • ID verification: Signers provide a valid ID to verify their identity.

If someone steals a copy of your signature and uses it to sign documents, they would have to provide these as objective evidence of legitimacy. Otherwise, the document signed won't be considered binding. This is way harder than just forging a digital copy of your signature, right?

Therefore, you can rest assured that it's generally safe to use the same signature in documents and emails. But like any security concerns, it pays to always be on guard for potential threats.

Want to Prevent Having Your Digital Signature Stolen? Look for These Key Features During the E-Signing Process

Having a reputable e-signature vendor in your corner is important because they serve as your protection against theft. They have the technology to ensure the legitimacy of your electronic signature. At the minimum, they should employ these security measures:

Dual factor authentication

With dual-factor authentication, any unauthorized person won't be able to access the document. This means you're sure that only the specific signers will have access.

As far as legitimizing your signature is concerned, it reduces the suspicion of it being fake. But more importantly, it minimizes the exposure of your signature to people with unscrupulous intentions.

CFR Part 11 Compliance

Apart from the identification aspect for the signer and the sender, it also records the length of the signing session and establishes a time-stamped audit trail.

Digital Certificate

With a digital certificate, you'd be able to know if the documents were tampered with in any way. This feature is important because any edits void the electronic signature.

A qualified certificate will serve as your safeguard against people trying fraudulently misrepresent. There's no need to worry about anyone adding any clause that would heavily favor the other party.

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

As with anything on the internet, it's important to always consider the threats that are just waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack. With advanced threat protection, you'd be preventing phishing, malware, and other malicious attacks.

If there are links within the document, ATP will preemptively warn you if they're harmful.

Key Takeaways

Both physical and digital signatures are very hard to steal. There are so many measures that protect it from being stolen.

And with electronic signatures, some criteria must be met before they're considered legal. As with any online transaction, simply take the necessary precautions to stay safe.

The features provided by e-signature vendors make it hard for a fake one to be considered legitimate. So if you want to use one on your email and marketing materials, give it a go!

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