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April 24, 2014

What to do when the phone literally stops ringing

For some of you the phone has stopped ringing altogether…dead silence. “What am I going to do?” you ask yourself and me as well….

Market, market, market and then market some more. In the dead times this is what you should be doing especially if you are full time traveling notary / CSA and want to keep it that way. Most people I speak with don’t want to work an 9-5 and many of you told me that they would rather ‘die’ then go back to that same old 9-5 routine. :) I understand completely. We all love the freedom and independence that the notary profession gives us. And even though our lifestyles are unique the flexibility of a traveling notary is usually there for all of us. (Which would account for its popularity, I assume)

You cannot sit on your laurels and think because you have paid advertising in place that that is all you need to be successful. With interest rates starting to climb and applications for loans significantly down signings are beginning to dwindle. If you are in an area where there are no state restrictions on travel fees then you need to think about general notary work. Get out there to those convalescent facilities, hotels, hospitals, etc. have a card or flyer to give them. You may offer them a referral fee or perhaps you want to offer a discount on services. Hand out flyers and/or business cards to everyone. Make sure you have a website and be sure to link it to all the places that you advertise. Call ALL the companies that you have previously worked for and let them know you are thinking of them and are still available for all of their notary needs.

And last but not least. Make sure all your listings/advertising is up to date and current with all the services you provide I personally take Paypal and credit cards. This is an added benefit to potential clients. Also list any credentials you may have.

These are just a few suggestions. If you have more then please comment and share.

Until the next time!… Be safe!

(1) Most notaries would rather die than go back to the 9-5 routine.
(2) We all love the freedom & independence the notary profession gives us.
(3) If the phone stops ringing, start calling signing co’s & passing out biz cards.

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April 23, 2014

When Good Notaries go Bad

When Good Notaries go Bad
The stories you are about to hear are true, the names have been changed to protect the guilty. In truth I really don’t know the names. The sites I did check that offer illicit activities are very stealthy. Then not only omit any information about themselves on their site, they also mask their domain registration. With only a “throw away” cell number and lots of self praise – to offer very convenient, albeit illegal services.

One offers to Apostille your signed document (signed by an individual, not a registered public official) by mail. Just ship it in with your payment. I’m sure you can understand their preference for money orders! Notary by mail, what a concept! Such activity will bring much tighter regulation on us all. It is possible that they do nothing at all other than collect money, Cash the money order, shred the documents; what a business model.

There is one rascal in New York City whose perpetual goal is to drive other notaries “out of business”. I have posted a few Forum entries about this particular low life. This creep calls with a high dollar offer for you to accept what is clearly an illegal offer. You can be sure the tape recorder is running! I’m not sure how this anti-notary individual plans to use the tapes. How do I know this? I have received several of these “setup” calls myself. Of course I turned down the request, but the voice was familiar. Once, no make that twice, I heard a comment as the phone was being hung up. The voice said “Well, that did not work”. I suppose I will continue to receive these calls, you might too. A polite explanation of proper procedures ends the usefulness of the tape. Always conduct your phone conversations as if they were being played in a courtroom. Present yourself as calm, and informative as to what the proper procedures are; or, suggest the caller contact an attorney.

At times when I was unable to handle an assignment I referred my client to a notary with whom I had a very casual acquaintance. I made that mistake a few times. It was months before the feedback about the disasters reached me. I did expect the “other” notary to try to adopt my client – that comes with the territory and for them to leave a business card is routine. What I did not expect is major drama. In a majority of the cases, the notary I referred attempted to greatly overcharge my (now former) client. Former, because I made the referral. The sin of the notary was to not explicitly define their fees, and offer a whopping surprise bill upon conclusion of the assignment. It’s somewhat amazing how creative some notaries can be when it comes to charges. This one stated a standard fee, but when payment time came had some new “issues”. An after hour charge, an additional fee for climbing stairs, a waiting time fee (while at municipal offices), multiple travel fees, etc.

I am often asked about my fee. Callers ask what it includes. I tell them it includes going to you and doing the work as you just described it to me. If the work goes up, so does the fee; that point is made very clear. They are told that does not like to give nor receive surprises. A fee to notarize two documents does not include five “copies” of each; nor will the fee increase if I run into traffic and it takes me longer to get to their location. It works both ways.

There is a different notary in New York who often states “(censored) ‘em – they’re just a one wack” – and proceeds to try to milk whatever he can from their wallet. In one sense he is right, they will never call him back. Worse, the clients post very negative feedback on Yelp, Google, and other review sites. He probably started out, with a fresh notary commission, to “do the right thing”. But, some take the “low road”; and seek quick short term gains at the expense of long term relationships, and their ensuing profits.

Times are getting tougher. There is more competition for the few paying customers. Discounting, to an absurd (IMHO) is rampant. But, price cutting is legal; however, in the long run – not a viable business model. There is also the temptation to flaunt the regulations, for immediate profit. That must be eschewed. It just boils down to the classic “Golden Rule” about “Do unto others…..”. That “Do….” incorporates fairness to the public, as well as your competition. Being a “bad notary” not only risks legal repercussions, it will lower both your “bottom line” and your self esteem. You will succeed by doing a great job and being fair and honest to all others.

(1) Always conduct your phone conversations as if they were being played in a courtroom.
(2) Use caution & professionalism if asked to do illegal notary acts!

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April 22, 2014

Doing a signing with a gun sitting at the table

Filed under: Carmen's Blog — Tags: , — admin @ 11:18 pm

Sometimes we sign documents with people we share hobbies with, and sometimes that makes the signing fun. Here’s a story one of our members shared with me:

“I recently went to a person’s house to do a standard refinance closing. I could tell the borrower was a hunter and fisherman by all the trophies on the wall.

Having past a gun store/shooting range on the way, I asked him if he was familiar with it. He said he was, and he recommended it. He asked if I was a hunter and I told him that I enjoyed pistol shooting. That started a conversation about guns, and (of course) he had a new handgun that he wanted to show me. He excused himself and brought it out.

After looking at it, he set it on the dining table where we were doing the signing. We went back to the business of signing documents with his handgun on the table. I told him that this was the first closing I have conducted where the borrower’s gun was sitting on the table while signing documents.”

We both had a good laugh over that!”

(1) This was the 1st closing I did w/a gun sitting on the table.
(2) (at a notary signing) “Is that a gun on the table or r u just happy to see me?”

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April 21, 2014

Problems with Witnesses

Problems with Witnesses
Today I processed a “Plum” of an assignment. From my prospective (looking back upon the confirmation) all went smoothly. The Seller side job was a thin package, about 20 pages and the documents had been shipped to the Seller. It was a “high profile, big bucks, important client” job so I was offered my standard Edoc fee, yippie!

Oddly, the completed package was to be left on site. The Seller wished to make a copy of the final documents prior to shipping. So far no problem. As I processed the slender set, I noticed several of the documents called for two witnesses. “Where are your witnesses”, I asked. “You did not tell me that any were required”, was the response. The witness requirement was not told to me but was very prominent on the cover letter at the top of the package. Of course the Seller did not read that and was unaware of the requirement. What to do? I asked if they could provide the necessary witnesses, “NO”, was the response.

My only option was to process the notarizations after leaving voice mail for my employer. Said Title Company never did return my call. How does a witness sign after the Seller, and without actually witnessing the signature? To be “kosher” they really should sign again before the witness. It would have been nice if Title had included witness requirements on the confirmation.

Playing “go find a witness or two” has been repeated many times, in various locations. In Very Expensive buildings, the staff (mindful of Christmas Tips) is usually accommodating. However, the staff at FedEx usually gives the party line about not being authorized to sign anything. In an office, for an executive; staff is always willing to witness. Thus, the availability of witnesses varies with the location and “status” of the person needing them.

Back to the hiring Title Company. I send them an email, after I had left the Seller, asking them to call me. Several hours later, I was explaining how the Seller did not arrange for the necessary witnesses, due to not reading the cover letter. And, of course, I had not been informed of the requirement. “Don’t worry about it – we will contact them and arrange things”, hmmmm, well I guess that has to be OK with me. When it’s a “Seller has the docs” type job, payment is always in advance via PayPal – so, with their blessing of my actions; I was “off the hook”.

There really is no simple solution to avoiding this situation. As a notary I am often not informed about the requirement. It’s not practical to ask every affiant to have witnesses “standing by” just in case they are needed. Asking about witness requirements has mixed results; generally the Signing Service does not “get the word” and will suggest you have them available if needed! Not really an option; as needlessly inconveniencing the signer’s friends/relatives, etc., is not what I am willing to do.

So, we as notaries are left to muddle along, with the best option being to report the problem “up the food chain”. I wonder if a second signature “just” for the witness would be an issue. The Seller signature was notarized Monday, and Tuesday they sign again, and “worst case” the witnesses date their signatures with Tuesday’s date. That’s sure to raise some red flags! Whatta mess!

(1) “Where are your witnesses?”, I asked. “You didn’t tell me they were required!”
(2) It was a high profile client, so I got my full edoc fee!
(3) Let’s play, “Go find a witness or two” so we can complete the signing!

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April 20, 2014

Avoid Disaster: Backup your PC.

Filed under: Ken's Blog — Tags: — admin @ 11:21 am

Avoid Disaster – Backup your PC

For over a quarter of a century I worked in the computer support industry. I maintained mainframe computers as a “systems programmer” and networks as a LAN Administrator. I built the computer infrastructure and made quite sure that the backup procedures were integrated into the system design. Most computer storage is currently on spinning disks. Some laptops and a few PCs use Solid State Drives, essentially hard drives that have memory chips in place of spinning disks. ALL are subject to component failure – without exception. There is no such thing as an electronic device that cannot fail. So much for the hardware aspect. Perhaps more common is the software failure. This can be in the device itself, or corruption from malware, my genetic term of virus, Trojan, spyware, etc. Eventually, your PC will lose your data. There are no exceptions.

But, there are ways to protect that data. Backup is the magic word. There are many backup methods. Over the years I have used many backup software products. The essence of most is to duplicate data on different media in case the original media becomes corrupted, for whatever reason. In my corporate life I would run across many who did not want to expend the time or effort to backup their data. But when it “hit the fan” they would howl at me and want me to recover the drive that sounded like a garbage truck towing a string of garbage cans! My solution was to attach their local drive to the file server to back them up without any effort, or even knowledge on their part. That’s fine in the big environment – but you have just a standalone PC or two.

I have gone thru many backup programs for my home system. Some were pretty close to what I would consider ideal, close but not quite there. I have even written “batch files” to copy data from one drive to another on a scheduled basis. However, that is very inefficient as tiny files get the minimum disk allocation and much of the space is wasted. This blog now directs attention to users of Windows 2000 Professional, XP Home, XP Professional, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8. The product is called Storage Craft Shadow Protect Desktop 5 Backup and Disaster Recovery Software for Windows Systems (XP to Win 8). I am currently using it (on my Win 7 PC) after becoming fed up with the limitations inherent in Microsoft Backup, and several other commercial backup programs that I formerly used. It is not free, plan on spending about $100 annually. If that bothers you stop reading now. The annual fee is to maintain the license and receive support and upgrades.

I can only cover the major highlights here. The features that will be most useful (to me) include: I have programmed it (using a very simple interface) to backup my “C” drive to an external USB drive. The backup takes place twice a week and the 4 most recent backups are retained, with the oldest one deleted. The backup is compressed to about half the disk space utilized on the entire “C” drive. The backup file is a single file! Or, if you wish to re-backup to DVD it can be multiple DVD size files. That backup can be “mounted” as a “device letter” to access individual files – just as if they were not in a single compressed large file. Or, the entire file can be restored to a new disk, installed to replace a failing disk (even in a different PC) and ALL settings will be restored to essentially “clone” the original PC. The backup image can even be “booted” in a virtual environment to almost instantly recover functionality. Backup all of the “C” once and incrementally update changed files only, and much much more. I am not often impressed, this product did impress me.

They offer trial versions (with minor limitations) that will work for a month. This is basically Big Shop high tech solutions made available to the home user. Nope, I do not have stock in this company, kinda wish I did. You can use any backup methodology, except none. Many is the time in my working career that I saw the look of shock and horror on faces when they realized “it’s all gone”. Some said their high priced, top brand name PC should not lose their data. True, but cars carry a spare tire no matter how expensive. It’s imperative that you implement a backup strategy; you also have to test your backup to see that it works properly prior to needing it.

The software I mentioned is, IM(not so)HO, really good. But just coping files that you would miss “after the crash” to floppies or DVD is also good. Any procedure that backs up automatically (once setup) is better than one that requires you to remember to backup what is important, and what might have changed. Forewarned is forearmed. If you have no backup you are skating on thin ice with a Gorilla on your shoulders.

(1) There is no such thing as an electric device that can’t fail. Backup your computer!
(2) If you have no backup you are skating on thin ice with a Gorilla on your shoulders.
(3) Backup your computer, otherwise if you crash, you’ll be asking 123notary for your password!

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April 19, 2014

Split PDFs into Letter & Legal Separate PDFs

Filed under: Ken's Blog — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:12 pm

Today half of my printer died. I have an HP LaserJet 4100, the main part “sits” on base with a second drawer. I keep Letter paper in the lower drawer, and Legal in the top drawer. I figure the longer paper should have a shorter path; but put in either way it works the same. When printing the PDF, I select “Choose paper source by PDF page size”. It works fine, but only if you have both sizes of paper mounted in the printer. Generally, has 2 working trays, but not today!

As mentioned, the bottom half of my printer died. I needed to print a set of edocuments which had interspersed letter and legal. First, a quick check to verify that it would be acceptable to print NOT interspersed; first the legal then all the letter. They agreed.

I needed some software quick. I found offering a tool A-PDF Page Size Split which seemed to meet my needs precisely. I downloaded the software from their site using this link: – being always afraid of downloads the next step was to make (almost) absolutely sure it was malware free. To do this I went to and uploaded the file for their MANY virus scanner inspections. It passed. Next I virus checked it with my own anti virus software F-Secure (after doing a manual update) and it again passed. Satisfied that it did not contain anything nasty I installed A-PDF Page Size Splitter.

It installed quickly and soon I was splitting an old PDF of loan docs. Its interface was simple. It’s easier to use if you first create a dedicated folder somewhere and put a copy of the input file there. I let it default to split back to the input directory. It displayed the page count of letter and legal and created new files using the input file name and adding the words “letter” and “legal” into the original file name.

A quick look at the new files showed they were indeed properly split and the page count of the two new files added up to the count of the original file. Huuh? What’s this? A bit of a “gotcha”. An advertising watermark had been added to each output page. What I had was the demo version, used to make sure the product will work. My Win 7 64Bit Dell was compatible, as are many prior versions of Windows. But, now it was time to “Register” and pay the $49 to get rid of that watermark. I paid the piper and soon was emailed a code to Register and the subsequent processing was without the watermark. They also give free updates for life to registered users.

Sooooooooo, after splitting the file I printed the Legal, then changed paper to print the Letter. The service people still have the base with the second drawer and it will be returned in a day or so. The software was a bit expensive, but provides me a way to meet my obligation; and to be ready for the next malfunction.

One tip. In the ordering process they automatically add a ten dollar “download protection” that allows you to download at a later date. I find that feature totally useless. Once you have the registration code; you are always able to download the demo version and apply your registration code. Thus, the download protection seems to serve no function. Perhaps, the download protection sends you a file that already has your registration code “built in”. But, I deselected it. Updates are just a reinstall, with no need to do an uninstall prior to the update. They claim an update will “find” that you are registered.

A small side benefit is knowing exactly how many sheets of each type of paper will be required; just in case you are near running out. With the letter pages atop the legal pages it’s off to the borrower for me.

(1) Splitting PDF’s into letter & legal: a story of how it all went wrong.

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April 18, 2014

Real Estate Prices are like an elevator

Filed under: General Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:10 pm

Real Estate prices are like an elevator
If real estate prices go up, people will have more equity to borrow on. It is only a matter of time.

Right now, we are on the Mezzanine! Going up! Let’s hope there’s no 13th floor! But, prices are strange. Arizona doesn’t seem to follow the rest of the country. They have bizarre extreme highs and lows. Tucson hit bottom and you can get beautiful 3-bedroom homes for $170,000. I just came back from a trip there. If you like cactuses and bedrooms, you can get a combo deal today!

On the other hand, real estate in Napa just got uncorked. There used to be a large supply of inexpensive housing in the 200k to 400k range. Those days are over. San Diego County’s inventory of affordable housing just went out with the tide as well. Although certain real estate markets behave differently than others, in general, the United States will have more business for notaries if housing prices go up. There will be more equity to borrow on and more loans. Even if interest rates go up, Americans insist on borrowing money whether they can pay it back or not. That is a fact you can bank on!

Me: “How is life as an elevator operator”
Operator: “Oh, it has its ups and downs!”

(1) Real Estate prices are rising which is good for the refinance & home equity market

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April 17, 2014

Hi Tech fax backs are easy.

Filed under: Ken's Blog — Tags: — admin @ 11:17 am

Hi Tech Fax Backs are Easy

Fax Backs, to most of us they are a real annoyance. Receiving an enema during root canal is preferable to the processing of Fax Backs. Unless they are truly required for an immediate funding situation; their purpose is to do some “quality control” checking of your work. But you have been doing signings for years (some of you for many years) – and your work is predictably error free. Well, let’s be honest; that is not always the case. We are human, the forms are often complex and have areas the require sigs or initials in virtually hidden places. So, they want to “take a look” prior to your shipment – “just to make sure”.

Listen up fellow signing agents, this blog is going to have lots of “meat” and provide a ton of really useful information. Unfortunately, to follow my example you are going to have to spend some money. But, as is often said, “in the long run”, it will payback handsomely. The first aspect of dealing with fax backs is to accept them as having a genuine purpose in verifying our perfection. Look at it that way. Quality control or just plain checking others peoples work is something you do every day. When you cash a check at the bank, don’t you count the currency given to you by a money handling professional? Get over the mental aspect and read on how to make those fax backs quick, easy, and actually become a source of protection for you; really, no kidding. Well, read on; by the end of this blog you will no longer think is full of hot air!

The first item has the big price tag. It is the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner for PC and Mac, it is about $400 from Amazon. It is a magical device. I scans very quickly, double sided (eliminating blank pages), and can process interspersed letter and legal. You just drop in the package. The hopper holds 50 pages, but you can set an option to “wait” for a second feeding and continue. The output of this scanner can be a PDF. Ready for a “biggie” – the resulting PDF is formatted to print both letter and legal! Thus the PDF that you ship back is exactly the same PDF that you received. The only difference is that the PDF that you email back has the sigs and initials and will print on both letter and legal – exactly as it was sent to you! Now you have an exact copy of the documents you will be shipping, and, at a later time; can see exactly what you sent. Note: mine is USB connected to my Win 7 PC. It will also connect to a PC via WiFi – without any wires!

That’s great, but they are insisting that you FAX, not email the file. That is a silly requirement; but one that you can easily meet – without a fax machine. Just sign up for the Efax service. It cost about $170 a year. They give you a dedicated fax phone number – that saves monthly phone charges (which would probably cost more annually than their charges). An incoming fax can be automatically converted to a PDF and mailed to the email address of your choice. The FAX number on my business card is my Efax number, and it has been for many years. I can pick up FAXed edocs at any Kinkos, just by logging into my email. As to outgoing – just fill in the screens and attach the PDF that was created by the above scanner and specify the FAX number to receive it.

The Efax system will automatically “Un-PDF” the attachment and send it just the way you would want it to. You get a receipt and proof of transmission, the same as if you had sent that PDF by email.

So should we now do fax backs at no extra charge? Of course not. The ones gaining the benefit of this technology are going to pay the bills. You are not going to be schlepping that scanner with you – if you really want to they offer a rather nice carrying case…. However in the real world what we have is an extra trip fee. You still have to go home to feed the docs into the scanner. Take care to not feed in staples. You will have to have a procedure to process documents that have a loose ack attached. Perhaps scotch tape it (but no tape into the machine). In any case that page will have to be scanned twice so the underlying document is not obscured. If you don’t attach it, but just have it “in stream” it will feed and become a separate page!

As promised this blog entry has a lot of “meat” and some of my processing methodology. I REALLY want a lot of comments posted about this blog! If only a few respond that would tell me that this type of information is dull and not worthy of your time to post a comment. Using the iX500 and Efax turns a chore into a speedy and profitable delight; with a file to prove you did it right! Now, not later PLEASE post a comment to this blog.

(1) Fax backs are for signing services to inspect your work just to be sure!
(2) Fax, but don’t email? What about scanning & sending the docs back!

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April 16, 2014

The AcuNotary: an acupuncturist becomes a notary!

An acupuncturist became a notary.

She found us on our acupuncture directory, and found out we ran 123notary. She decided to become a notary. She’s the only notary who accepts insurance. I asked her to notarize a loan, and she asked if she could prescribe a course of treatment. She asked me if I needed some herbs with my affidavit. You’ve heard of Oaths & Affirmations… well now there is Herbs & Affidavits!

This acupuncturist turned notary got her first loan signing. After a lengthy interview with the borrower, we quickly learned what had happened and what had gone wrong.

Signer: “I showed her my ID and she started to take my pulse. I asked when my first payment was due and she asked me to stick out my tongue.”

Signer: “What about a full physical?”
AcuNotary: “Stick a pin in it buddy”
AcuNotary: “Now here’s the APR”
Signer: “Boy, you get right to the point! So, how long have you been a Notary?”
AcuNotary: “I feel like you are using me as a sounding board”
Signer: “Well, I feel like you are using me as a pin cushion!”
AcuNotary: “Normally when I work, my patients like relaxing music. How about wave sounds from the beach or soothing sounds of the sitar?”
Signer: “Listen lady, I just want to get my loan signed without all the drama. I feel like I’m on pins and needles over here!”
AcuNotary: “You know you might get writer’s cramp signing all of those documents. I have a cure for that. We can just leave the needles in for 45 minutes and you will be as good as new.”
Signer: “Let’s just get this signed so I can get out of here!”

Finally, the signing was over and AcuNotary left our signer with some chewable American Ginseng. I guess with this notary, patriotism knows no bounds!


April 15, 2014

A Notary Arrest – a sequel to the notary bank robber

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:04 pm

Here is an arresting story about a notary who was arrested.

The notary arrest!
Police: “Freeze, put your hands in the air.
You are under arrest. Anything you sign can and will be held against you.
Let me pat you down to make sure you’re not packing any pens, seals or embossers.
Congratulations, now you are on the FBI’s 10 least wanted list!”

Notary: “I didn’t do it I tell ya, you’re making a big mistake!”

But, on a brighter note, the notary who was arrested was gainfully employed in jail. He did thumbprints for all the new arrivals. His notary skills came in handy, and he didn’t have to worry about not being paid on time by signing companies. The baked beans weren’t that bad either!

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