Can You Electronically Sign Documents & Should You?
Perhaps you’ve heard your tech-savvy friends throw around both the terms electronic signature and digital signature. Maybe you’ve even heard them used interchangeably. However, you should know that they are not the same. In fact, they couldn’t be more different.
A digital signature is an encrypted authentication that is attached to a document so its receiver can verify that you are the person actually sending it. Its a bit more technical than anything I’d like to get into today, for an electronic signature is a bit more lightweight. In essence, it’s the electronic form of your physical, stylized signature, and it can be visibly attached to any document you send out over the Internet.
When Would You Use An Electronic Signature?
There are a variety of reasons you might use an electronic signature, but most of them reside in the Land of Convenience. Generally speaking, anytime you’ve had to put your signature on a screen, you’ve used a electronic signature. This could be in a checkout line, with Square , or even via email.
Most often, however, you would use an electronic signature to sign a PDF file. More specifically, you might be signing a contract or filling out a form that requires hand-written approval. After signing your signature onto the document (using whatever means – Adobe Reader even allows for it), you can send it off to wherever you need to. The principle of the whole ordeal is quite similar to sending out a faxed document.
Legally speaking, electronic signatures should be accepted just like a normal physical signature would. Based on my personal experience, I’ve used them to sign apartment leases and even binding contracts. However, your results may vary. Occasionally, there are individuals who do not understand the concept of these signatures, and there could be some concern for “liability” on their part. Don’t waste your breath on an argument, though. Sometimes, that’s just how the world is.
Are Electronic Signatures Safe?
Simple answer: no.
To elaborate, anyone could steal your electronic signature and use it for their own not-so-nice purposes, but think about it. How many times have you signed a receipt to verify your credit card? How many documents have you signed over the entire course of your life? How many waitresses, cashiers, public officials, and deliverymen could have copied this signature over for their personal uses?
You see, your real-life, physical signature is just as unsafe as your digital one. Anyone could copy it down or memorize it. Individuals who are a bit more innovative could even transfer it to their computer and even create a digital version all on their own. Anyone can be a fraud if they want to be, and in all honesty, a digital signature seems to be a bit more secure these days. At least it can be traced right back to you.
Should You Use An Electronic Signature?
By now, you may be a bit paranoid about signatures as a whole. No need to fear – we’ve used them for years, and this shouldn’t sway you from continuing to use them. Too often, the legal consequences that result from the theft of a signature are too heavy for a petty criminal, and those that would be brave enough to steal it likely have their stakes set on higher-profile crime. Don’t worry so much.
However, anything that has to do with finances involves risk. If you purchase stock, you risk your finances to a company’s fate. If you take money with you, you risk losing it to a passing wind. If you accept a job, you risk getting fired. There are by far more things to worry about than just having your signature stolen. Live life, folks.
Perhaps you may still find an electronic signature too risky. In such a case, the digital signature would likely be more your style. Using specialized algorithms, passwords, and authenticity certificates, these types of signatures are even safer than your physical one.
So you may disagree, and that’s respectable. I’d love to hear what you think. Should you use an electronic signature? Have you ever had your signature stolen through electronic means? Let’s see what you have to say in the comments.