With the digital revolution and the decline of cheque books came pin numbers, passwords and fingerprints – and the traditional signature is dying out says recent research.

Our signature is our name written in a distinctive way as a form of identification, but it seems the days of the carefully honed personal signature are coming to an end!

According a national study by UK cyber security consultancy –  Online Spy Shop – more than half of adults rarely sign their names anymore and one in five don’t even have a proper signature, instead just writing out their name when one is required and potentially leaving themselves open to the risk of identity theft and fraud.

The national study of 1,000 UK adults found:

  • * 55% of say they “rarely” use their signature
  • * One in five UK don’t have a consistent signature
  • * 15% of under-24s can’t remember the last time they signed their name
  • * Four in ten signatures written in the UK are to sign for deliveries

On the whole, 20% sign their name so infrequently nowadays that they admit to not being able to produce a consistent signature.

Younger people are even less inclined to bother.  21% of those aged 18-24 say they don’t have a consistent way of signing their name and 15% can’t remember the last time they had to do it.

Over-55s are little different and may be responsible for keeping the written signature alive for a while yet.

84% of over-55s say they still have a consistent signature, but even among a demographic that grew up with written signatures as the standard, 7% can’t remember the last time they used theirs. Regular signature use is 20% lower among under-55s compared to over-55s.
According to the study, deliveries account for 41% of all signatures, while parenting related paperwork such as school consent forms and homework diaries account for 10%.

Steve Roberts of Online Spy Shop, who commissioned the research believes signatures could still have a place for a while, despite advances in encryption and security.

“We’re now so used to engaging with modern means of verification, be that fingerprint recognition or simply passwords and PINs, that the idea of just scribbling our name seems almost ridiculous.  So it’s no surprise that a significant proportion of us no longer have a definitive, consistent signature to call our own and many of us can’t even remember the last time we signed our own name.

“I don’t think it’s quite the end of the written signature, but I certainly believe the days of youngsters perfecting a unique, hard-to-copy autograph to use in adulthood will be a thing of the past, if it isn’t already.  Although in the EU, digital signatures are legally as legitimate as hand-written signatures, the latter is still standard proof of consent in many scenarios, so I’d recommend people take care to ensure their signature isn’t easily-copied, just in case.”

Online Spy Shop’s Top Tips on how to find your best signature if you’re starting out, getting married or divorced or simply fancy a different one:

  1. Choose how you want to write your name, it could be in full or just your initials and surname.  The longer it is though, the harder it is to copy.
  2. Look at other people’s signatures and don’t be afraid to use your favourite parts for yourself.  Is it short or long?  Curly or sharp?  Do you want to begin or end with a flourish?
  3. Experiment with your signature until you get the one that is perfect for you, while always remembering to make it unique to you and difficult to replicate.
  4. Select a few signatures and ask a trusted person to see which they prefer – and which one would be harder for them to forge.
  5. When you’ve chosen your signature, practice it again and again as you need to be able to write it exactly the same on demand, when necessary.