An affidavit of identity is a legal document that affirms someone is who they say they are. Sometimes, the identity of an individual is essential to a transaction.
Due to concerns about fraud and identity theft, a person’s word is not always considered sufficient. In those cases, people take certain, universally agreed-upon steps to establish proof of identity. These steps, once completed, result in a document known as an affidavit of identity. This affidavit is considered legal proof a person is who they claim to be.
1. When Do I Need an Affidavit of Identity?
There are a number of different circumstances that may require an affidavit of identity. Below are just a few examples of times where one is or might be needed:
- Certain court proceedings;
- Some banking transactions;
- Sole proprietors doing business under a business name in certain jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, Kern County, and San Diego County;
- When running for elected office, in some states, such as Michigan;
- Business owners may request one from customers or clients in certain circumstances;
- Working with title companies;
- Drafting temporary guardianship papers; and
- Creating a power of attorney.
When someone is a victim of identity theft, affidavits of identity are used in multiple circumstances, including:
- When filing state income tax returns in some states;
- With credit bureaus;
- Law enforcement agencies; and
- Dealing with creditors.
Due to the wide variety of circumstances where this type of affidavit is required, one can expect most institutions to notify them if one is needed for a certain transaction or event.
2. The Consequences of Not Having an Affidavit of Identity
There are two key purposes of an affidavit of identity. The first is to authenticate identity, and the second is to verify the signature. Not having this affidavit can result in a lack of confidence in either identity or the legitimacy of a signature. More specifically, not having one can result in certain transactions being blocked or not allowed. For instance, this could mean one is unable to accomplish the following:
1. File a claim of stolen identity. If someone is unwilling to complete an affidavit of identity, most government agencies, including the IRS and law enforcement will find the claim unbelievable. The same holds true for creditors.
2. Establish that one is the true account holder at their bank. A person’s name and signature, along with a government-issued form of identification, are what the bank relies on when giving account holders access to bank accounts. This is for everybody’s protection. Without verification, banks cannot allow access to accounts.
3. File to run for office. The government’s interests are not served when run by people using fake names. For the safety and security of their citizens, many jurisdictions require proof of identity from anyone running for office.
4. Obtain a mortgage. Similarly, the bank’s interests are not served by loaning large amounts of money to people using fake names. Identity is an essential component of obtaining a mortgage.
5. Participate in court proceedings. From adoption to personal injury lawsuits to divorce proceedings, courts must be assured of the identities of the parties. Without an affidavit of identity, parties may not be allowed to proceed.
6. Engage in certain business transactions.
3. The Most Common Situations for Using an Affidavit of Identity
Unfortunately, identity theft has been running rampant over the past few years (and the internet is partly to blame). Thus affidavits of identity are increasingly being used to distinguish true account holders. They are also frequently paired with affidavits of fraud. Victims of identity theft state under penalty of perjury that they didn’t make certain purchases and provide proof that they are the true account holder.
Sometimes, a person’s identity is used to open a new account. The criminal then proceeds to charge any number of purchases on a credit card in the victim’s name. In this case, the victim completes an affidavit of identity and an affidavit of fraud declaring the entire account fraudulent.
Other times, however, the criminal obtains a person’s credit card or bank information unbeknownst to the account holder. In that case, the true card owner and the criminal both make charges on the account. Once discovered, the true account holder must review each purchase. They then complete an affidavit of identity and an affidavit of fraud identifying each fraudulent purchase – exempting legitimate purchases.
If you’re frequently making purchases online, it would be a good idea to iron out one of these documents in the event of identity theft.
Business owners engaging in certain transactions where the identity of a purchaser is essential may wish to request an affidavit of identity from the customer. This protects the business owner from possible fraudulent representations. For example, a business owner who rents heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, may request such a document. This assures the business owner they will be able to do the following if need be:
- Locate the renter;
- Sue the renter for damaging equipment; or
- File a police report if the renter fails to return the equipment.
4. What Should be in an Affidavit of Identity Form?
The Contents of the Affidavit
At a minimum, an affidavit of identity should include the following information:
- The signer’s full name;
- Date of birth of the signer;
- The signer’s address;
- The form of identification relied upon;
- A signature of the person seeking to be identified;
- The signature of a notary public; and
- The seal of the notary public.
If the affidavit is in support of a fraud allegation, the affidavit may also request a complete social security number or, alternatively, the last four digits of the signer’s social security number.
Acceptable Forms of Government Identification
When preparing an affidavit of identity, it is essential to understand only certain forms of government-issued identification are considered acceptable. This includes the following:
- State issued identification card;
- State-issued driver’s license;
- United States passport;
- United States military identification card; or
- Resident alien identification card (sometimes referred to as a “green card”).
Some states also allow the use of foreign passports and driver’s licenses from Mexico and Canada.
Other government-issued identification is not considered acceptable. This includes things such as:
- Social security cards;
- Birth certificates;
- School identification cards; and
- City, County, or State employee identification cards.
Credit cards and debit cards are not considered acceptable forms of identification.
Credible Witness Verification
There are rare circumstances wherein a signer does not have an acceptable form of identification. In such cases, some states accept a credible witness verification in place of government-issued identification. A credible witness must sign their own affidavit, establishing the facts below:
The credible witness knows the signer;
- They believe the signer does not possess any of the acceptable forms of identification;
- Further, they don’t believe the signer is able to reasonably obtain an acceptable form of identification;
- The credible witness does not have a financial interest or other incentive for the signer to be able to sign the document; and
- The credible witness has their own form of acceptable government-issued identification; or
- In some states, the credible witness must be known to the notary.
Affidavit of Identity Form (PDF Sample)
This sample affidavit of identity is a record of fictional “Charlie Immanuel” attesting to his identity: Sample PDF.
Affidavit of Identity FAQs
I’ve lost my driver’s license. Can I use a credible witness to vouch for me?
No. The absence of any acceptable form of government identification is a rare circumstance. It is not enough that someone lost their driver’s license, or left their passport in another purse. Instead, the person must truly not have access to government identification. For example, if great-grandma was born in a farmhouse in Wisconsin, and there was no record of her birth, she may be unable to obtain other forms of government-issued identification. On the other hand, if you lost your driver’s license, you can (and should) take the steps necessary to have a new driver’s license issued.
Where can I find a notary?
There are a number of places where you can find a notary. Some places to check include:
- City Hall;
- The courthouse;
- Your bank;
- The public library;
- Some insurance agents;
- Real estate agencies;
- The business center at your hotel;
- Some police stations offer notary services; and
- Mailbox companies, like Mail Boxes, Etc., PostNet, and the UPS Store frequently offer notary services.
There are also notary services made available by certain institutions. For example:
- AAA offers free notary services as a membership benefit at many branch offices;
- Most colleges and universities offer notary services to their students; and
- Officers may act as a notary for members of the military, as well as dependents of military members.
Why does an affidavit of identity include personal information, such as my date of birth, address, and social security number?
Affidavits of identity serve the limited purposes of verifying one’s signature and authenticating your identity. Thus, including intimate information known to the signer assists in establishing identity. This is particularly useful for people with common names. Distinguishing information, such as dates of birth, addresses, and the last four digits of a social security number can separate one (John Smith) from the next John Smith.
Do I fill the affidavit of identity out completely before going to see a notary?
No. A notary expects to witness your signature. Consequently, while you can fill out most of the affidavit ahead of time, you shouldn’t sign it until you are in the presence of the notary.
What should I expect when I see the notary?
The notary will ask you for government-issued identification. They will carefully review the documentation for a few separate things:
- Whether the identification appears authentic;
- Signs of forgery;
- Signs of alteration;
- To confirm you are the person pictured in the identification; and
- To confirm the type of identification offered meets the legal requirements.
Once they have reviewed your ID, they will witness you signing the document. The notary also signs the document and includes the date of signing. They will also have a notary stamp which they will affix to the document.
Do affidavits of identity have an expiration date?
No. Affidavits of identity do not have an expiration date. However, because different circumstances may call for slightly different information in the body of the affidavit, you may find yourself creating more than one of these documents over the years.