A Warning For Authors About Signing Books

Apologies in advance for the click-bait title–I didn’t intend it that way, but I couldn’t find a better one that accurately expressed the content of the post.

Most authors look forward to signing books. It’s one of the greatest moments in an author’s career, and for many of us it never gets old, no matter how many books we’re asked to sign.

Autographed books make wonderful keepsakes, and many readers treasure them for years (if not for a lifetime).

However, autographed books can also provide a dangerous opportunity for scammers and identity thieves . . . wherein lies today’s warning.

When signing books, don’t use the same signature you use for signing checks and credit card charge slips.

Consider the signature you use when signing checks, credit card slips, and legally binding contracts. What does that signature include? Your full legal name? Your middle initial? Do you spell out every part, or does your signature reduce some parts of your name to squiggles?

The signature card on file at your bank represents your “legal signature” and the bank will compare that card to questionable signatures if the veracity of your signature comes into question.

Use a different “version” of your name when signing books, to prevent scammers and thieves from capturing the signature off a book and using it for identity theft.

Although incidents of thieves using autographed books to forge an author’s signature are rare, why give a thief a foothold? The technology to capture and copy signatures does exist (most people carry it around with them every day…in the form of a mobile phone).

By using a different version of your name when signing books, you can’t prevent a thief from trying to use your signature for fraud, but you create a better defense against the fraudulent charges. If you can prove that you always sign your books in a slightly different way–or with a different version of your name–banks and other financial institutions and credit bureaus are more likely to accept that you may not have made the charges you’re disputing.

For example, I sign books “SSpann” – which is not the signature I use when signing legal documents. (Sorry…I’m not telling you what my legal signature is–while it’s not a secret, per se, I’m also not giving anyone extra ammunition.)

If your legal signature includes your first name, middle initial, and surname, consider these options for your author signature:

— Using only the first initial and last name.

— Omitting the middle initial.

— Using your first and middle initials and full surname.

Changing your signature will not guarantee safety; you may still find yourself having to defend against fraudulent charges or identity theft. In truth, identity theft occurs in many different ways, and as I mentioned earlier, stealing the signature from an author’s book ranks very low on that list. However, when it comes to protecting yourself and your identity, creating a “book signature” costs you nothing and adds at least a minimal layer of protection. I can’t guarantee it will save you from liability in every case, but it certainly does not hurt. 

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