It’s easy to assume that electronic signatures are inventions of the digital age, but they’re actually older than they seem. In fact, 19th-century telegraphed signatures and late 20th-century faxed signatures were already considered e-signatures. Still, the popularity of signing electronically started to rise with the introduction of various e-signature enactments in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
E-signatures make it easier for businesses to close deals faster, not to mention that they’re perfect additions to a paperless office. What’s more, an electronic signature is significantly safer because it’s much more difficult to forge than a wet signature.
There are advanced e-signatures as well that are cryptographically linked to a document and typically used in person, such as when electronically signing a banking contract with a stylus. The safest variations are qualified electronic signatures, which are highly secure and always created with e-signature software.
In comparison, digital signatures are cryptographically encrypted and can protect documents via digital seals and certificate-based IDs. Most importantly, they invalidate a signing process if someone tries to edit the document after the signature request has been sent out.
- Choose and upload a document for signing.
- If the chosen e-signature provider comes with ‘Sign-Myself’, choose this option to quickly finish the process. If not, you have to send the document to yourself after adding an e-signature.
- Insert your e-signature by dragging and dropping it.
- Save a copy of the e-signed document.
For the most variety, the best way to create an e-signature is to use electronic signature software. E-signing platforms support typed and drawn e-signatures, and they often provide a mobile app for writing electronic signatures with a finger or stylus.
The electronic signature you create is inserted into a document as an image. Additionally, you can typically use text editors like Word or PDF readers, such as Acrobat Reader, to add e-signatures to documents.
- Upload the file and open it.
- Add your electronic signature by dragging and dropping it.
- Optionally, add signature fields before finalizing the editing process.
- Send the document without leaving the platform.
- Open the document with Acrobat Reader.
In the upper toolbar, click on the symbol that resembles a pen.
- Choose the ‘Sign Yourself’ option, and decide whether to use a signature or initials.
- Create your signature by typing, drawing, or inserting an image.
Note that once the file is saved, you can’t remove the e-signature.
- Choose where you intend to insert an e-signature.
- Click on the ‘Insert’ tab in the upper left corner.
- Under ‘Text’, choose ‘Signature Line’. In Word, it’s a symbol with a pen and a sheet of paper.
- Add the signer’s details.
- Once the signature line is inserted, double-click on it.
- A separate window will appear where you can create your.
Google Docs requires the use of its drawing tool to add an electronic signature to documents. In order to do so, proceed as follows:
- Move the cursor where you want your signature to appear.
- Select ‘Insert’ from the toolbar, then choose ‘Draw’, and finally click ‘New’.
- Once the drawing sheet is up, opt for the ‘Line’ tool and pick ‘Scribble’ from the dropdown menu.
- Draw the e-signature.
- Click ‘Save and Close’ for the signature to appear in the document.
For example, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) act started legalizing electronic signatures on a federal level in the U.S. in 2000. A few years later, many European countries like Switzerland also started legalizing e-signatures individually. But it was only in 2016 that the EU made e-signatures legal by introducing the eIDAS Regulation.
In addition to adhering to an e-sign act, an electronic signature is only considered legal if it’s made with the intent to sign. As such, digital documents must have a clause stating that everyone agrees to sign electronically. Moreover, every party must verify themselves with a verification method, but often a simple checkbox can suffice.
Meanwhile, the ESIGN act has been in effect since 2000. It enforces e-signature legality on a federal level, meaning the states must either adopt the UETA or design a similar act.
Only New York hasn’t adopted the UETA yet. However, it has its own e-signature legality law in the form of the Electronic Signatures and Records Act (ESRA).
One form of verifiability is if the steps of signing can be retraced. As such, an e-signature platform’s audit trails, which reveal data such as a signer’s geolocation and IP address, validate an electronic signature.
The RON process involves the following steps:
- Contacting the notary.
- Sending or uploading the document.
- The notary asks for identity verification through a webcam.
- Signing the document electronically, and the notary adding their seal.
- Returning the signed and sealed document to the signer.
For the IRS to accept an electronic signature, the taxpayer must use various identity verification methods. They must also submit their tax returns and various other legal documents through an electronic return originator (ERO) that uses e-signature software. Other than that, taxpayers must have their names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and dates of birth for identification purposes.
Restricted signing locations can also be bypassed with a VPN, so distance won’t stop a determined cybercriminal from forging signatures. As such, it’s best to take advantage of electronic signature software with audit trails and advanced identification methods to significantly increase e-signature cybersecurity.
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