The growth of electronic signature options has exploded in the past year with the introduction of iPad and Android tablets. These are ‘perfect’ devices for viewing and signing documents. However, care should be taken with who you trust with your signature.

Beware of ‘Non-Compliant’ Electronic Signature Apps

Nearly all of the applications we tested – including Acrobat Reader – simply ‘paste’ an image into a PDF and call it good. The problem is that this creates a document that has no real value – why? Because it does not produce a file that has any assurance that it was signed by a particular person. It is not linked to any ‘proof’ to make the signature legally binding.

Even worse, you can modify the contents of these documents AFTER they have been signed, and nobody would be able to tell – putting you and your signature at risk!

We’ll call these ‘non-compliant’ electronic signature tools because they don’t attempt to comply with any electronic signature laws, like the Federal ESIGN Act of 2000, which require specific process to be followed for an electronic signature to be valuable and legally binding.

Consider this – Someone can take photo of your signature on a paper document (or out of your email if you are so kind as to put it there for them) and simply ‘upload’ that image into one of these apps. Then they can create a contract, say you agreed to pay them $5,000, and try to collect.  Easy, huh? What evidence is there that you signed, or that you didn’t and that they created the agreement fraudulently? Now what do you do?

Using ‘non-compliant’ apps like these is actually dangerous because you cannot claim that ONE document should be deemed reliable, while another one – constructed the same way – should not be. Courts would likely not even consider these documents as admissible evidence because they do not demonstrate anything meaningful. They don’t protect the signer or the content.

What about Paper?

Wait a minute, you say. What about just writing on paper? Can’t anyone do that? The answer is yes, and defending cases like that is very expensive because you need to produce evidence – possibly including a handwriting expert. And in the paper world, there is no ‘copy – paste’ as good as in the digital world.  They will just use a copy of your signature. 

Now see why using these ‘non-compliant’ apps is not a good idea?

So, how is DocuSign Compliant?

DocuSign DOES follow the process outlined in US and International electronic signature law and directives. The process DOES create a document that has legal value. There are some really important things provided with a DocuSigned document that protect you.

  • The signature is linked to the signer minimally via an email address, an IP address, and potentially much more information.  You can click the signature to validate.
  • You can’t change the contents of the agreement after it has been signed and get away with it! Any changes will be flagged for all signing parties to see.
  • There is an audit trail generated for each document that captures everything that happens to the document with time and date stamps.

 

How DocuSign Protects You

Below is a document that has been signed in DocuSign Ink, our free personal electronic signature for iOS, Android, and Microsoft Outlook. When the PDF is opened, it displays information that the document has been protected with a digital signature, and that everything is OK. This means the document has not been tampered with since it was signed so you and all other parties can trust it.

If you click on the signature itself, it will open the ‘DocuSign ID’ card for the person who signed, and in many cases will even display the location they were when they signed. The content of the DocuSign ID card is controlled by the signer – the more information they provide, the more reliable the signature. The following is the DocuSign ID card for this signature.

 

 

How to See Tamper Evidence

Now, let’s make a small change to our $5,000 agreement. You can see below what happens. The validity of the document is now in question, because tampering has been detected. The SIGNATURE is still valid, but the contents have been changed since I signed it. What this means is DocuSign has your back (and in our sample doc, you won’t owe the extra $1,000!).

 

The detail shows exactly what happened to the document:

 

At this point, you know you can’t trust this document, so you have two options to get a fresh view into what you actually agreed to:

  • Go back to your online DocuSign storage, and retrieve the original DocuSigned copy of this document that has not been tampered with, or
  • Click the ‘click to view this version’ to see what the document looked like before any unapproved changes were made.

 

Conclusion

If you care about your signature, be sure you use the electronic signature solution that protects you, and creates documents you can trust. There really is only one solution that protects you from unwanted changes after you sign, and links your signature to your identity in the cloud – DocuSign. This does not say the other ‘non-compliant’ tools create signatures that are somehow ‘not legal’, in fact, with the right information surrounding the transaction, they may be. What it says is DocuSign provides you with a lower risk profile. I think you’d agree that these protections make DocuSign your best and only choice.

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