Law Offices of Cheney and Cheney, P.C.

130 South Main Street, Reidsville, GA 30453
(912) 557-4768

 

That’s not my signature

By: Curtis V. Cheney, Jr. 

Children are taught early on how to write and eventually sign their names. Some take great pride in the style of their signature and others view it as a mere obstacle to be scratched away with little attention or care. Fortunately the law gives equal significance to all signatures. In the eyes of the law, a signature can be anything. It can be a legal name, a nickname, a single letter, or even a symbol. This is well settled law and even common knowledge among circles. However, courts in many states are struggling with what significance and effect should be given electronic signatures.

Electronic signatures are everything that handwritten signatures are with the exception that they are not unique to the person. To be clear, when I refer to electronic signatures I mean signatures that are typed in lieu of a handwritten signature. A signature that is signed onto the screen of tablets or other handheld electronics are not the subject of this discussion. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to perfectly duplicate a handwritten signature but electronic signatures, because they are most often typed, are impossible to make unique without sophisticated encryption features. (Note however that these encryption features are becoming more common and less expensive with the passage of time). The danger is that a criminal could use your signature through electronic technology and cause you great financial harm. The immediate reaction might be to only use cash and checks and go off the electronic grid but in a technologically advanced society such as ours it is difficult and inconvenient to go without electronic technology.

Georgia law allows individuals to use electronic signatures provided that each party to the transaction agrees to use electronic signatures. It is important to note how you might agree to use an electronic signature. You might agree expressly, in writing or orally, to use electronic signatures in the future or you may imply agreement by your actions. For example if you sign something electronically you have agreed to sign electronically. While it may be convenient to conduct your affairs electronically it is important to guard your signature and pay close attention to where it is used. If you have not used an electronic signature with a particular person or company and suddenly see an electronic signature, there may be fraud and you need to act immediately in order to protect yourself from would be criminals.

It is possible to be duped at any age but senior citizens and those unfamiliar with this technology are particularly vulnerable to this sort of crime. If you think your signature has been used when you have not given permission seek out the appropriate authorities immediately.

Curtis V. Cheney, Jr., is a partner with Cheney & Cheney, P.C., a general practice firm in Reidsville, Georgia that specializes in personal injury, workers’ compensation, and social security.

If you have any legal questions of a general nature, please submit them to: Legal Forum, Post Office Box 1082, Reidsville, Georgia 30453.