Electronic signatures are here to stay, and that means we need to protect ourselves against forgeries and the legal fallout from fake signatures.
In a perfect world, your document would be electronically signed, and you wouldn’t need to worry about the authenticity of the signature.
But that’s not always the case, as you’ll discover in this post.
So, can you trust that the electronic signature on your document is bona fide?
Let’s investigate how we can tell if an electronic signature is real.
Verifying Signatures in the Digital Age
Research shows when the digital revolution introduced new expectations in the business world, more people demanded a way to sign documents remotely.
By 2014, over 200 million transactions were signed electronically worldwide.
The Association for Intelligent Information Management calls eSignatures the “new normal”: a “linchpin” for streamlining the signing process for a range of services.
And companies who use electronic signatures reduced their turnaround time by up to 90%.
These benefits mean electronic signatures are becoming the leading way for professionals and individuals to get things done quickly.
If you’ve ever signed a business agreement, you’ve probably used some type of electronic signature.
But how secure are these signatures?
Let’s consider the recent allegations of signature fraud. Customers claim a Florida business copied and pasted their eSignatures into documents they’d never seen before, like pricing estimates and financing applications.
It’s scary stuff.
Cases like these demonstrate the need for effective - and efficient- ways to verify signatures are real.
If you’re like most people, while you’re shopping for a solution to streamline your signing process, you don’t want that convenience to come at the cost of security.
In this post, we’ll examine how you can ensure your signatures are real with a signing solution like eversign.
Different Types of Electronic Signatures
eSignature software will help you save time and money, but they’re not all created equal.
Despite the abundance of electronic signing options available, there are few that strike the balance between security and ease of use.
Here’s some of the electronic signature solutions you may have encountered.
An Image of Your Signature
One of the earliest ways to capture a signature is to take an image of your handwritten signature and paste into a document.
To do this, you’d sign on a piece of paper, take a picture and save to your computer. If you’re in Word, you head over to the top toolbar (aka the “ribbon”), click Insert>Pictures. Browse the computer for your signature. Insert into your document, resize as needed and save your document.
It’s easy, fast...and it comes with significant security risks.
There’s no way of verifying the signature is real.
You leave yourself open to forgery, contract breaches and long drawn-out legal dramas.
You don’t have time for that.
Now you can opt for a third-party digital certificate to add credibility. But you could end up paying hundreds of dollars per year.
Overall, it can amount to a complex and costly solution.
Cloud-based Signing Solutions
Fortunately, the eSigning market is booming.
Secure, simple applications are catering to the growing demand for legally binding, easy eSigning options.
These software applications comply with the following regulations:
- Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) (LINK),
- Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and
- European Union eIDAS (EU No.910/2014).
Choosing an electronic signing that satisfies these regulations means your signature has the legal weight it needs to stand up in court.
Secure online signing solutions also come with security features like signer verification and an audit trail.
There’s also digital signatures that use a hashing algorithm to verify signatures. (These use a different type of technology to the type of electronic signature we’ll be discussing in this post.)
Why you Need to Take Steps to Make Sure Electronic Signatures are real
So, now you have an idea of the different types of verification offered by different signing solutions.
But why does it all matter?
Imagine having to go to court to defend an agreement in the digital age.
How do you prove that a signature is real? Sure, you could rifle through emails or text messages to make your case, but the other party could still dispute the signature, or charge that it doesn’t comply with regulations.
How do the Courts Tell Whether an Electronic Signature is Real or Not?
Although electronic signatures seem to be one of those modern trends moving faster than the pace of legal reform, courts are recognizing their validity - if the signing platform has the necessary checks in place.
Let’s take a look at how the courts handle the issue of whether an electronic signature is real or not.
In one case last year, a client took their merchant credit card company to court, arguing that they didn’t review the documents before signing. However, e-signing records of times and dates were shown to the court.
One top of that, the audit trail offered by the document management system showed the documents were signed accessing the client’s company email. As a result, the court granted summary judgement to the defendant.
Signs an Electronic Signature is Real
So, how do you protect yourself and make sure an electronic signature is real?
There’s no easy way to tell whether a signature is real on your own, but an online signing platform has advanced ways to accomplish this task.
We’ll examine the ways you can use a tool like eversign to authenticate your documents, and the criteria to keep in mind when you’re on the hunt for an electronic signing solution.
- detailed audit trails documenting each stage of the signing process;
- software that complies with international eSigning regulations;
- signer authentication to prove the signer is who they say they are; and
- tamper evidence to prevent people from secretly changing documents.
How to use eversign to Ensure an Electronic Signature is Real
Now’s let examine how a solution like eversign helps ensure signatures are real.
As mentioned, you should determine whether your signing solution complies with the relevant regulations. Document management systems like eversign comply with ESIGN, UETA, and eIDAS.
As we’ve seen with those earlier cases, it can be difficult to authenticate the identity of a signer with electronic signatures. How do you know the signature on the document is real?
Here’s how eversign makes sure signatures are authentic.
Signers must verify their identity using an email double opt-in. This means you need to invite the person to sign the document, and that request is sent to their email.
Then eversign will log the following data to authentic the signer:
- signer’s full names,
- email addresses,
- IP addresses, and
- time stamp data along with document transactions.
NOTE: if you decide to sign in person, this kind of email verification won’t apply, and it will be your responsibility to request proof that signers are who they say they are.
That’s not the only way eversign verifies electronic signatures.
Each signer has three options to enter a unique signature, they can:
- draw a signature;
- type a signature; or
- upload a signature
First, the signer will select the type of signature and confirm it’s a legal representation of their signature.
After this, they’ll click on another tab to confirm that they understand the document is legally binding.
Tamper Evidence and Secure Storage
No signer can go back and secretly change the document once it’s been signed. If the document is modified in any way, it’s no longer valid.
Plus, because your data is securely stored, and transferred via encryption, you can ensure your signature won’t fall into the hands of cyber criminals.
Comprehensive Audit Trail
Audit trails can serve as legal evidence, as was the case with the credit card company discussed earlier in this post. Technopedia defines an audit trail as a “chain of evidence”, that can assist investigations that seek to “verify all parties are fair, honest and truthful”.
Each eversign document comes with a comprehensive audit trail.
- signer data;
- signature timestamps, and
- IP addresses.
Use an eSigning Software You can Trust
When you next need to sign any document electronically, don’t settle for eSigning software that leaves you vulnerable.
Do your research, and make sure the signing platform offers measures like an audit trail.
If it doesn’t meet this criteria, suggest using a tool like eversign.
On top of being compliant with regulations, eversign uses advanced data logging and identity authentication methods. So, the documents signed using eversign carry the same weight as handwritten documents.
This is a better option for everyone involved.
Even if you’re not meeting the other party in person, they can trust the signature is really yours and you know your signature can’t be stolen and abused.
If you’re the one requiring a document to be signed, you can rest assured there are protections in place to authenticate the signer, so you can avoid any future disputes.
Step into the future of business agreements with confidence, sign up for eversign today.