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February 27, 2013

2013 analytics: which notaries are getting more business?

Carmen and I talked in depth about this issue about nine months ago. And yes, notaries should pay a lot more attention to analytics.

Some notaries are doing a lot better than other notaries on 123notary. But, what are the factors? Has anything changed in the last year since we talked about analytics the last time?

Notaries with excellent notes sections outperform notaries with mediocre notes in comparable positions by double or triple in most cases.

Basically, my new analysis was about notes sections. Notes are our main focus for 2013 by the way. I studied how to write a good notes section, and what makes a notes section good. Several years ago, I studied the difference between having a long notes section and a short one. But, this year the focus was on the QUALITY of the notes section irrespective of size.

I learned that notes sections can be good or bad based on how well they are written (obviously), how well organized they are, and how much relevant content they have. Many notes sections have many words, but not much information that would be interesting to the prospective client. Other notes sections have information that is mildly interesting at the top, while failing to mention compelling reasons why someone should hire them.

The results of my findings were that notaries with quality notes averaged considerably more clicks than those with a poorly written notes section. I categorized several dozen notes sections in various cities by assigning them a letter grade from A to F. The unfortunate part of this study, was that there were hardly any A’s to compare, even fewer B’s, and no F’s near the top of the list. How can I compare clicks from a listing at the top of the search results with a listing left vacuous at the bottom of the list. My other click comparisons were between listings at similar places in various search results. To sum it up, there were very few A’s, F’s were at the bottom of the page, and I was forced to compare C’s and D’s for the most part.

To clarify matters for the reader — an “A” notes section would be well organized, have interesting and informative content, and be well written. B notes might be well written, but have some organizational flaws, or leave out some critical information. C notes might be average, and not more than one or two paragraphs. D notes would be blatantly short and incomplete, while F notes might be completely vacant, or at least short and deeply flawed.

My incomplete results yielded some conclusions: Listings with:
> “A” quality notes got around 50% more clicks than listings with B quality notes.
> “A”quality notes get about double or triple the clicks that listings with C notes get
> “A” quality notes get perhaps quadruple or more clicks than listings with D or F notes get in comparable positions, but there is very little data to support this claim.
> “A” quality notes might get about 10 times the quantity of clicks that a D or F notes listing might get further down the list
> Listings with REVIEWS and poor notes systematically performed better than listings with great notes and no reviews.
> B quality notes did systematically better than C quality notes (around 50% better). C did better than D.
> There was little difference between notes that scored D and F in terms of click performance, although D was about 20% higher on average in clicks — compared to a much higher percentage between A’s and B’s, B’s and C’s, C’s and D’s.

The components that make your listing thrive consist of: Placement, Reviews, Notes, and Certification. Reviews is 30% of the formula, so if you don’t like the idea of asking for a review — please change your likes and dislikes. Notes account for 20% of the performance of your listing. Although not as important as placement or reviews, there is a huge difference between doing a super job and a terrible job in terms of click performance. The irony is that it takes only 20 minutes to write a brilliant notes section. But, the financial rewards can be in the thousands per month simply for investing that 20 minutes in your notes section. Is 20 minutes worth an extra $20,000 per year? That is $1000 per minute! What is your time worth?

Sally and I analyzed many notes sections from some of our best notaries. We were very disappointed that only about 1% of our notaries got an A on their notes section. No notary got an A on their notes thumbnail — which is the top 150 characters that shows up on the search results page (unless I wrote it for them). People decide whether to click on you or not depending on what you write in the first line of your notes — so take it seriously! Less than 1% of the notaries got a B. Most notaries got a C who were in a high or medium position. The notaries in the lower middle and the bottom got dismal scores on their notes.

Why is it that so few notaries ask for help with their notes when their notes affect their whole future? Are they suicidal?

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February 17, 2013

Identification requirements for being notarized

Do you need to see a notary public sometime soon? Are you going to get some critical documents notarized? Don’t be afraid, this is easy! However, there are a few things that you must know.

(1) The notary public is required by law to check your identification. Certain types of identification are generally acceptable such as current driver’s licenses, state issued identification cards, passports,etc. As a general rule, if an identification is a current government issued photo-ID with a physical description, signature, and serial number, it should be good for a notary public to use. Make sure that your signature on the identification matches the one that you use on the document.

(2) Your name on the document must match the name on the identification. However, if your name on the document is shorter than the name on the identification, that is fine. If your ID says John J Smith, and on the document, you are named as John Smith, you are okay. If the name on the document is longer than the name in the identification, the notary public can not legally notarize that longer name variation.

(3) Some states require the notary public to thumbprint you for Deeds affecting real property and Powers of Attorney. It is painless (when I do it).

(4) The notary can not legally choose the type of notarization for you to get. Please have your decisions of whether to get an Oath, Acknowledgment, Jurat, or something else worked out before you see your notary.

(5) Most states require the document signer to sign the notary’s journal as well as signing the document. The notary should also record your identification information in their journal.

(6) Jurats require the signer to swear under oath. Please be cooperative about raising your right hand when you swear under oath.

(7) Mobile notaries charge a travel fee, and can charge waiting fees if you keep them waiting. Please be on time and respect their time and fees. specializes in mobile notaries.

(8) If the signer doesn’t have acceptable identification, please consult an attorney. Please be aware that inmates in jail do not have identification on their person other than their wristbands which is completely unacceptable as notary identification.

Good luck, and find a great notary public on!!!

(1) Your name on the document must match your name on the identification when notarized.
(2) Acceptable notary identification must be government issued, photo, serial #, exp. date, etc.
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February 15, 2013

Signing agent best practices: 63 points

Here are a few tips about best practices. Maybe nobody will care, or maybe they will even adamantly dislike your best practices. But, if you have any self-respect, you will engage in best practices.


(1) Hand written documents.
As a notary, it is not illegal to notarize a hand written document. The issue is if there are cross outs, or blanks. Blanks make it illegal to notarize, but cross outs are a question mark. Personally, if you care about best practices, and not ending up in court for some stupidity that the signer did, then require typed documents with no cross outs or blanks.

(2) Don’t pick the type of notarization for your signer
That is their job. Legally, you can not choose for them.

(3) Blanks in documents
Put a line through the blanks or refuse the notarize. (that was quick)

(4) Cross outs
I would avoid notarizing anything with a cross out. If you can do a cross out, you don’t know if it was there before the notarization or not. If there is one before, what prevents there from being more after. You can forge an initial without being detected, so cross outs are an indication that you need a redraw.

(5) Affixing your seal over wording
This is illegal in many states. The seal should be placed in an area of the paper where there is no wording, and do not sign or write over the stamp impression or you void it. If there is no space, then attach a loose notary certificate and make sure you document all pertinent facts on it.

(6) Loose certificates
NEVER send a loose certificate in the mail or hand it to a client. Always attach the loose certificate to the document, preferably before affixing your notary seal. Always document the name of the document, document date (if any), number of pages in the document, document description on the certificate in addition to filling in the standardized state wording, signing and sealing the form.

(7) Journals
Keep thumbprints in your journal. If your state doesn’t require journals, write them a letter about how poor their standards are and then go and buy a journal from the NNA. Also, there is a section called, “additional notes” in your journal (hopefully). Please use this to write down anything unusual about the signer during the signing, or anything unusual about the circumstances. Write it so thoroughly, that when you are in court five years later about that signing which could have involved fraud on the part of the signer, that you will have your evidence handy! Impressive!

(8) Oaths
If you do sworn Oaths, make sure to have the affiant (know this term) raise their right hand. Make sure to study up on formal Oath wording. Oaths are serious, and you are a state appointed official, so keep it official, okay?

(9) Embossers
If you don’t have a 2nd notary seal, get one. Embossers create a RAISED inkless impression. Use it as your secondary seal, and you can affix it to all pages of all documents you notarize for security. There are many frauds out there who do page swapping after the fact. To avoid page swapping (which could lend you in court for something they did after the fact) use an embosser. That way when you get a phone call 2 months later to notarize that separate page they are adding, tell them that you have to do the whole thing all over again. Sorry Charlie, that is a best practice!

(10) Learn the correct verbiage for power of attorney signings
But, there are four accepted verbiage variations. My favorite is Joe Doe, as attorney in fact for Mary Doe. Always call the lender to find out what type of verbiage they want at a signing. Remember, it is their loan, and just as long as you are not breaking the law — do it their way!

(11) Overseas documents
People overseas have bizarre standards. Some require the stamp to be on the document itself no matter what, but they didn’t put the verbiage in for your state. There is nothing LESS legal about attaching an acknowledgment form, but it is not about the law at this point. It is about whether or not THEY like it! So, find a legal way to do it the way they like. Once I manually wrote in the California Acknowledgment verbiage by hand and then sealed it. It was legal. Not exactly a best practice, but if they won’t accept best practices, then settle for “best practices under the circumstances”. Chinese are a tough crowd — you will find out!

(12) Initialing
Many Title companies don’t like suffixes such as Junior, or IV at the ends of names. But, if you are Louis Remy Martin IV, then the IV is part of your name, the 4th part of your name to be precise. Ronald R Rubin initials RRR. Get the initials to be correct and thorough. And if a lender doesn’t like it, should you break a best practice for their happiness? I don’t know of any laws about initialing, but making an initial of each part of the name is only logical, right?

(13) Signing for confused elderly people
If you sign for a person in a hospital, or someone who is just elderly. Make sure you have whomever calls you READ the identification over the phone to you including the expiration date. Have them read the name on the document too. Elderly people can never find their ID’s, and if they assure you that they have it, don’t believe it, they are lying. Trust me. I know! I am experienced and you are not! Otherwise you would be writing this blog. Do not notarize an elderly person if they can not move their arm on their own. Do not let their daughter drag their arm across a page that they are signing. You can use the daughter’s arm as a brace, but not a movement device. If the elderly person can not paraphrase what the document says, DO NOT NOTARIZE. And, by the way, the night daughter might be a con-artist who is pretending to help the elderly woman, only to be trying to cheat the old lady out of her money. Notaries beware!

(14) When in doubt, call your state notary division
Sometimes the handbook is just not enough. It doesn’t include all situations, and it is not written in English either. Legalese is not my mother tongue, what about you? Call them and bug them. Do it right or not at all. The NNA offers a good notary law hotline too, but get your information from the SOURCE and call your state notary division as your first choice!

(15) Safeguarding your seal and journal
Keeping it under lock & key is the rule of many states. A locking bag, a locking file cabinet. Keeping it in your car, etc. But, honestly, property DOES get stolen, and you need to protect yourself the best way. If your goodies are in your car, keep in in a place where it won’t get taken in a break-in. Keep it under the seat, or behind some large container in the trunk. I kept it in my trunk, but where the robbers could see it. Everything was in a little bag, and they probably thought it was a lap top and valuable. They were in a rush and didn’t inspect it before they took it. If it is at home, keep it in a locked file cabinet instead of hanging around in your locked bag. Go above and beyond the law for best practices. Keep your seal in a place where it is least likely to be “robbable”.

(16) Be an expert at your state notary laws. Look them up in your state notary handbook. Keep this book with you. It is your bible when you are at work.

(17) Be an expert at credible witness procedure, and signing by X procedure in your state.

(18) Be an expert at all notary and signing related knowledge.
Don’t half know it or kind of know it. Be an expert, and it will show. You will be higher on people’s list if you are.

(19) Keep four phone numbers with you at signings.
In jail you get one phone call. But, as a notary you get many, and should have three phone numbers. The number of the signing company, the lender, the borrower, and the lenders’s wife. Just kidding about the last one. You need to call the lender half the time at a signing because they are such a careless bunch, that they will not have thoroughly prepped the borrower for the signing, plus there might be unexpected surprises on the documents as well. Be prepared!

(20) Using your seal on a blank piece of paper.
ILLEGAL. However, if you go to a jail, they require this for security. So, affix your seal, and then cross it out and write the words void. It is no longer illegal. It is the BEST way to clean up a WORST practice that the jail makes you do. I joked with them and told them that I thought it was funny that I was being forced to break the law by a guard at a jail. What is the world coming to?

(21) Check the signature on the identification
Does the signature on the identification match the one on the document? Did you check? Start checking.

(22) Bad identification?
Is the identification peeling? Is the signature above the lamination? Does it look fake? Do you even have a reference guide to know if it is fake? It is your business to know. Get the NNA book on identification and drivers licenses. Also, take thumbprints. Standards for identification should be a government issued photo ID with a physical description, serial number, signature, and expiration date. Nothing else will do. Whether or not the government issuing the document need to be in the USA or not depends on what your state laws are!

(23) Thumbprints
Take thumbprints for all Deeds, recorded documents, power of attorney — as a minimum. Do this regardless of what your state requires. It could keep you out of court, and time is money. Get an inkless thumbprint pad from the NNA. Get this today. You should not be without it for one nanosecond. They can fake an ID, and fake a signature, but you can not fake a thumbprint.

(24) Don’t notarize for people who ask you to break the rules or who look suspicious
Are you notarizing a kidnapper, or is the signer under duress? Stay away! It is not worth the money and you could get involved in a nightmare that just doesn’t end. What if someone asks you to notarize them under a different name variation than is what their identification says, and you tell them it is not legal. What if they say, “Oh, come on!!!”. What if they threaten to not pay your travel fee if you don’t? First of all your travel fee should be paid in cash at the door, or just leave. Avoid this type of people. They will make your life twisted.

(25) Don’t backdate
Signing companies will put you under pressure to do this if a borrower will lose their lock. Just say no. Tell them that their lock is their business and that your business is obeying the laws of your state which say, “No backdating”. Tell them that the security of your commission is not worth their convenience. Just leave. Don’t deal with these frauds.

(26) Don’t use white out
White out is a worst practice and will get you fired. Cross outs are a bad practice as well.

(27) Name changes the kosher way
A processor I used to work with instructed me not to cross anything out. Just have the borrower initial under the last several letters of their last name and then sign the way the new name will be typed in the document. After the fact, the processor can type in the new name. The cross out simply doesn’t help. They just need the initial. The processor can cross it out in a way that they think is professional.

(28) Don’t explain the specifics of the loan or when the loan will fund
Just explain the basic definitions of loan terms such as APR, or rate if your state allows that. Specific information particular to their loan is for their lender to discuss with them. You can get in trouble if you make any explanations or commentary about information specific about their loan. On the other hand, you should be an expert at looking up specific pieces of information. APR is on the TIL and perhaps the Settlement Statement, so tell them that and show them where it is. The interpretation of what the information on the Settlement Statement is up to them and their lender, not you!

(29) Don’t notarize for someone who you can not communicate directly with
Some states allow the use of interpreters. I say you should not as a best practice. The interpreter could be lousy, and misinterpret something that you said. You are leaving yourself open to communication gaps. If you speak a little Spanish and can get by, and the signer understands you and vice versa, that works. Don’t create opportunities for communication gaps. I have traveled to enough foreign countries to know that people in different cultures communicate differently, they say yes when they mean no, they lie, they misrepresent, they save face, and fail to explain things thoroughly (especially asians who do the quickie explanations that leave out 95% of the meaning). I am not knocking foreigners — I just don’t believe half of what they say — and I don’t believe half of what Americans say either since Americans are a bunch of liars too! Speak directly to your signers! Learn oath verbiage in Spanish, or whatever your rusty foreign language is. Learn how to ask if you understand the document.

(30) Have a registered business name
We have notaries on the site who change their business name on our site every month. Each month it is the name of the month. This is illegal. If you have a registered business name that is registered with your county, then that is your business name, and you should have a bank account that takes checks paid to that name.

(31) Don’t draft documents
Unless you are an attorney, or authorized to draft documents, don’t get involved. You can get into bad trouble.

(32) Don’t give legal advice
If you are not an attorney, do not give legal advice. Interpreting laws, or suggesting that a person take a particular legal action might be construed as legal advice.

(33) Consult an attorney before doing modifications
Although modifications could be legal in some states under some circumstances, they are often done in an illegal way, and YOU are not knowledgeable to know the difference, or to know what you can or can not do. Consult an attorney or stay away!


(34) If you don’t get paid on time, contact the Title company.
They might fire or discipline the signing company in that case.

(35) Charging travel fee in cash upon arrival
It is ILLEGAL for a notary to have beneficial interest in the signing. However, many clients including Title companies will simply not pay the notary if the documents or loan packages don’t get signed, notarized, and funded properly. Unfortuantely, that is illegal to put the notary in the position where they will only get paid if they notarize. It is actually a MISDEMEANOR in many states to ask the notary to do something illegal which could include having beneficial interest. If you don’t get your cash up front BEFORE you see the signers, documents or identification, you will be sorry. Get your cash, and THEN see the document. If it is incomplete, that is their problem. No identification, or the names don’t match? Their problem. Signer is in a coma and can not talk — their problem. Some situations will merit waiting time, and you will have no way to enforce your WAITING FEE if you don’t have your travel fee. You will not be in a bargaining situation as they will have the upper hand. If you have your $40 cash travel fee, you can say that you want waiting time when the clock strikes 20 minutes otherwise you are leaving. You have the power that way, and you DON’T have beneficial interest anymore (learn to define this term to be professional).

(36) Contracts with signing companies
Have your own contract that you make companies sign to get a better price with you. Make sure you indicate that if there is any ISSUE with the signing such as a last minute cancellation, no-sign, redraw, or anything unusual, that you get paid quickly. These are exactly the types of situations whre notaries typically get stiffed. So make them pay you faster in these situations so you don’t get stiffed. Even if you charge them a discounted fee. Make them pay within 10 days for these types of signings or charge them a penalty. No contract on your terms, then no discounts for you! Take the upper hand. You are a business person!

(37) Background check all companies who want to hire you
Check them on NR and the 123notary forum — OR ELSE… You will live to regret it if you don’t.

(38) Don’t put the Fedex in the drop box
Fedex is a great company, but they do hire human beings which is their downfall. Not recommended. If a driver changes routes, the new driver might goof (once in a long while) and that drop box in a remote area might not get picked up on time — or at all. Drop your Fedex at a staffed location. The deadlines are later, and it will be in the right hands 100%. Be safe.

(39) Printing on the road
This is a business best practice. If you can print on the road, you will be on time to more appointments, and can print last minute documents in a flash. You will be popular with lenders, plus gain people’s respect for being a prepared trooper. It is very expensive to have a comprehensive mobile office, so be ready to pay through the nose.

(40) Don’t go to houses that smell bad
You can end up in a hospital with a serious bacterial infection. If it is really filthy or smelly, tell them you will do the signing at Starbucks and that you have to leave at 5pm. Risking your lungs is not a best practice.


(41) Don’t talk about the wrong things at signings
Don’t talk about politics or religion. Stick to the weather and traffic, but not in the context of complaining!

(42) Call back etiquette
Announce who you are when you call back. Don’t demand to know who they are until you are politely introduced yourself and explained that you recieved a missed call from that number. Also, don’t call people back only to tell them that you can’t talk. That is plain stupid and is a worst practice.

(43) Announce who you are when you answer the phone
Do you say, “This is Linda”, when you answer the phone? Or do you say, “Hullo?”. Be professional.

(44) When you confirm the signing, make sure all signers are there
If you do a signing where the wife is not on the loan, she might be on a few of the documents such as the Deed of Trust, Right to Cancel, and one or two others depending on what state you are in and who the lender is. Make sure you know where the wife will be during the signing, otherwise it might be a short signing. Remember, that you don’t know what is on the documents until you get the e-documents which is within minutes of the signing. Plan ahead.

(45) Make sure your answering machine states your name!
Don’t make people guess if they dialed the number.

(46) Don’t ramble, make long pauses, or give opinions
Nobody wants to hear your life story, especially not me or my staff. Nobody wants long answers to quick questions. Nobody likes it when you ask them a question and you pause for 45 seconds to think. Don’t criticize others or give opinions either. Your job is to be a notary. Notaries don’t have opinions — or at least shouldn’t.

(47) Leave enough time between appointments
There is no point being late because you were delayed at your last appointment

(48) Determine how long your signing session will be.
Charge based on time. When you go to a massage therapist, you pay for a 60 minute session. If you go over 60 minutes, the next victem is waiting and they have to stop. Notary signings should be no different. Agree ahead of time how much time they want, and make them commit to that, or don’t work with them. If they want 90 minutes or 120 minutes, that is fine. Have them agree to that up front, and pay accordingly. Your job is not to be delayed endlessly. After all, your next appointment has the right to see your face showing up on time, right?

(49) Don’t have noise in the background when you talk on the phone
If someone calls you and there is noise. Apologize for the noise, and then walk to a quieter location. Don’t let the noise continue otherwise you are unprofessional in my book.

(50) Don’t park in the driveway.
Your job is not to notarize, don’t put the Fedex in the drop box, and don’t park in the driveway. These are my three golden rules for notaries. Notarize only if it is legal to do so. Bring Fedexes to staffed locations, and park on the street unless there is a good reason why you should call the borrowers and ask if you can park on their driveway.

(51) Know your hours of operation
Never say that you are flexible. Tell people when you are available. I am available from 11am to 2am seven days a week unless I am already engaged, on vacation, or dead. That is a quick and professional answer. Don’t say that it depends. Don’t say that you sign anytime. People who say anytime have such restrictive schedules that they won’t sign any time other than 9-6. Flexible means 9-5:30. These terms mean absolutely nothing. Act like a professional and give people hard numbers when they ask a question — and don’t keep them waiting.

(52) Use your notes section to describe your service thoroughly
Don’t use empty adjectives like thorough and professional. Describe what YOU are like at a signing which is unique to you, so people can get to know you through your notes rather than reading something that looks like you copied it from 3000 other boring notaries who use exactly the same adjectives in exactly the same order. Talk about how fast your laser printer is. Talk about your exact counties or cities that you cover. Give people real information, not some empty sounding sales literature that tells them nothing.


(53) Get certified by ALL listing agencies who you advertise with.
If you advertise with ten companies, do all of the certifications. You look like an idiot if you can’t even be a professional at your profession!

(54) Having reviews on your profile from esteemed Title Companies looks great.
It is not a crime to have reviews from “nobodies”, but it is a best practice to have the people who review you be as reputable as possible. Their reputation is your reputation when they write a review about you.

(55) E&O insurance looks professional
E&O insurance looks professional, but is it? It makes it attractive for a company to hire you. E&O doesn’t protect you that much though. You can still get sued if the lender makes a mistake and the borrowers sue all parties involved. This happened before. You will not be covered. It actually encourages lenders to make claims rather than reducing your liability! E&O makes you look good, so get some! But, is it a best practice? Being covered is better than being not covered, so I will call it a “better than nothing practice”. Or, I can call it something that looks like a best practice to the uninformed.

(56) Background screening
If your state doesn’t screen notaries as well as California does with the FBI, DOJ and KGB, then there might be some merit in a background screening.

(57) Advertise on all major directories
Have a well filled out profile, amazing notes, and reviews if possible.

(58) Call all local title companies
Call them up and announce yourself. Call them every month to remind them that you are good, and that you want to work.

(59) Get on the list of all nationwide signing companies.
Fill out the paperwork ahead of time. Make it a best practice to be on as many company’s lists as possible.

(60) Read notary blogs
The more you know, the more impressive and knowledgeable you will be. Know as much as possible to be the best that you can be. 123notary has an interesting Facebook,Linked in and Twitter profile as well. The more you read, the more you know!

(61) Don’t lie about your number of signings
Keep a count. Look them up in your journal. When someone asks you how many signings you have done, don’t ramble about how many years you have been in business. Nobody wants to hear that. Tell them how many you did. 1012 signings, plus there will be another one tonight! Don’t tell them you did two yesterday and three the day before. Nobody has patience to hear you count. Don’t think — KNOW!

(62) Guarantee your work
If you goof, go back and do it again for free.

(63) Send complete bills regularly.
You need to know exactly what information goes on the invoices you send out. Name of borrower, loan number, address, date of signing, name of lender, etc. Bill regularly and keep good records, including the CHECK # of incoming checks. Otherwise you won’t get paid.

(1) Is it legal to notarize a hand-written document? What if there are cross outs?
(2) Blanks in documents? Put a line through it buddy!
(3) It is illegal to use your seal on a blank piece of paper. Yet jails usually require this! (cross it out)
(4) Notary topics: Hand-written docs, Blanks in docs, seal over wording, loose certificates, overseas docs.
(5) Don’t go to houses that smell bad #mobilenotary
(6) Notary contracts, fees at the door, background screening signing co’s, call Title if not paid on time.

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Feb 2013 Phoninar Quick Course


February 9, 2013

2013 Phoninar Quick Course

Here is the study guide for the phoninar!

The purpose of the phoninar is to help notaries learn some of the basics of signing without taking an actual course. Many notaries do not want to take a course, or they already took a course without mastering the material. My solution is to have a free quickie course to start them out with. If they can pass our over the phone test, we will keep them on the site. However, if they fail miserably, then we will most likely remove them from the site if they have a free listing.

Topic #1
The Right to Cancel
Most notaries have a rescission calendar that they refer to when calculating the last day to rescind. Few notaries know when all of the Federal holidays are. Many notaries also can not think clearly about how to calculate the last day to rescind mainly because they have never practiced calculating this date. If you want to come across as a professional, learn to give quick and accurate answers to simple everyday signing questions.

In a residential refinance, the borrower has (3) days to rescind not including Sundays and Federal Holidays. Be careful, Presidents day and Washington’s birthday are synonomous. Also, Flag day is not a Federal Holiday, but banks might be closed. Some lenders do not count SATURDAY as one of the (3) days to rescind, but formally, Saturday is considered a business day in terms of calculating rescission. Other lenders allow the Friday after Thanksgiving to be considered a holiday when legally it is not. Basically, each lender is different, but you have to know the basic laws effecting rescision instead of relying on what the handful of lenders you work with say.

Here is a list of Federal Holidays — memorize these for the test
(1) New Years Day, (2) Martin Luther King Day, (3) Washington’s Birthday, (4) Memorial Day, (5) Independence Day, (6) Labor Day, (7) Columbus Day, (8) Veteran’s Day, (9) Thanksgiving, (10) Christmas

Quick Facts
(a) There are two blanks for dates in the RTC which are generally filled in by the lender. Once in a while the notary needs to fill in these dates or correct them. The technical terms for these dates are the Transaction Date and the Rescission Date. Please memorize these terms for the test.
(b) The date of the signing is NOT included in the (3) days to cancel. If a loan is signed on Monday then Tuesday is day 1, Wednesday is day 2, and Thursday would be the 3rd or last day to cancel.
(c) Loans must be cancelled in writing by the deadline in writing by fax or mail, but not by email.

Pop Quiz
(1) Name all Federal holidays that come in January
(2) If a refinance is signed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when is the last day to rescind?
(3) If a refinance is signed on a Friday, when is the last day to rescind?


Topic #2
Most notaries know a little something about the APR, but this topic is actually very critical for your success as a signing agent. Every borrower wants to know why their APR is higher than their Rate. How good is your explanation. Here is what we want you to know for the phone test. Sure, there is more to know than what we are telling you, so learn the basics from us, and learn more on your own.

Definition:The APR is the annual percentage relationship between the payments and the amount borrowed, minus the fees. This rate is often used to compare the different loans borrowers have to choose from. The APR is almost always higher than the rate. The rate, on the other hand, is a monthly percentage relationship between the payments and the total amount borrowed, including fees.

Quick Facts
(1) The APR is documented on the Truth in Lending Disclosure
(2) The APR is usually but not always higher than the Rate
(3) Your definition for the APR should include the fact that it could include loan origination fees, closing costs, appraisal fees, inspection fees, points, escrow fees, notary fees, and other costs of the loan — those are some of the big ones.
(4) If you mention that the APR is often used to compare loans, you get points on the phone test
(5) If you mention that the APR might be compounded, you get points.
(6) Several notaries have claimed that there is no government standard for computing the APR, it is up to each individual lender.
(7) You could also claim that the APR includes the interest rate, all fees and costs of the loan, and incorporates them all into a compounded Annual Percentage Rate.
(8) There are many ways to define the APR, the key is to mention all of the components in a clear and easy to understand way.

You might like:
Definitions of the APR

Pop Quiz
(1) Which document contains the APR?
(2) What are some fees that might be incorporated into the APR
(3) Please create and rehearse your definition of the APR so that you will sound professional before your borrowers


The Rate
The Rate or Interest Rate is more of a topic of confusion with the notaries than the APR although it is much simpler to understand and actually easier to find. Traditionally, the Rate is always findable on the Note. The note by definition discusses the Interest Rate, monthly payments, and prepayment penalties (if any). Once in a while there will be a Rider associated with the Note that might discuss these issues as well.

Inexperienced notaries typically claim that the best place to look for the Rate is on the Truth in Lending. Half of them say this because they are so uneducated that they can not distinguish between the APR and the Rate. The other half choose the Truth in Lending Disclosure because the Rate is actually documented there in many cases. But, let me ask you — if you are in front of the borrower and want to make a good impression — would you look for the Rate in a document where it sometimes is, or in a document like the Note where by definition it ALWAYS is? I vote for always because you will look like a fool if you go fumbling through the documents trying to find the right information in the wrong place.

Quick Facts:
(1) The Rate is always located in the Note
(2) In loans over the last few years the Rate is also generally documented in the HUD-1 Settlement Statement which comes later in the documents than the note unless it was sent separately.
(3) Some lenders include the Rate in the Truth in Lending, although this should NOT be the place you look for it first since it is not always there.

Pop Quiz
If you want to show the borrower the rate, which three documents would be where you would look, and in which order would you source those three documents?


Dealing with errors in signings

Errors on Notary Certificates
From time to time in a signing, there will be an error in the notary certificates. Please keep in mind that handling an error in a certificate might be handled very differently from an error in the actual documents, or in the body of the actual documents, so please make the distinction.

If there is an error in the notary certificate — such as an acknowledgment or jurat certificate to name examples, there are various ways to rectify the situations. The problem is that each method has an upside and a downside.

(1) Cross out and initial
This is a messy way to solve a problem on a legally significant document such as an acknowledgment. If a person’s name is spelled incorrectly, crossing out an initialing could get the document rejected by a county recorder. One notary had to cross out wording on an out of state certificate that claimed that she personally knew the signer when in fact she did not know the signer. She crossed that out, and the document custodian was very upset. I told her to consider adding a loose certificate.

REMEMBER, it is the notary who initials changes on notary certificates and NOT the signers.

(2) Add a loose certificate and start all over
Legally, you can always add a loose certificate. However, the person or entity to whom you are submitting the documents to might not like it. Please distinguish between what makes your work legally acceptable and popular as the standards often do not match. The loose certificate has the advantage of having whatever name and wording you want it to have so you don’t need to cross anything out.

(3) Notarize the document twice?
Not illegal. You can do two journal entries and notarize twice. Notarize the original acknowledgment embedded in the last page of the document with the cross outs, and add a fresh certificate as well assuming you have a 2nd journal entry to match that one. Document this well in your journal for your protection.

(4) Redraw?
Redrawing documents is time consuming and expensive. It involves making new appointments and risking not getting paid. But, for an out of state that needs to be worded in a particular way, you can have them word it however they want it to be worded, so that no cross outs or illegal claims or acts are necessary.


Errors in the right to cancel
Notaries typically do not know how to fill in the dates of the right to cancel. From time to time a signing will be postponed a day, and you need to change the two dates in the right to cancel which are the transaction date (the date you sign), and the rescission date (the last day you can legally cancel). Please try to appear educated and don’t say the signing date, or the cancel date as these wordings are not educated sounding and are also not clear.

To fix the dates on the right to cancel you can:
(1) Cross out, right the correct dates and have both borrowers initial
(2) Pull a fresh copy from the borrowers copies and start all over. The borrower’s copies might or might not have the dates printed in the blanks. If you made a mistake correcting dates, then sourcing the borrower’s copies definately makes sense.


Fees on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement
If someone wants to know where their fees and closing costs are, please direct them to the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. But, which fees are on the HUD. There is a huge conglomeration of information on the HUD. Too much to teach. But, to impress us, you should be able to rattle off a handful of fees on the HUD without batting an eyelash. Here are a few fees typically on the HUD.

Services: Abstract of Title Search & Title Charges, Appraisal Fee, Attorney fees, Document preparation, Notary Fees
Transaction Costs: Assumption fees, Broker fees, Credit reporting fee, Escrow account deposits, Escrow Fees, Loan Origination fees, Points or commissions, Settlement or closing fees
Inspection Fees: Lead based paint inspection fee, Termite inspection Fee, Other Inspection fees
Insurance: Flood insurance Fee, Hazard insurance, Mortgage insurance application fee, Title insurance
Payments: Interest, Cash payments


There are no legal standards for initialing. However, the purpose of an initial is to have an abbreviated way of writing your name in a document.

Andrew B Clay Sr.
His initials could be ABC, or ABC Sr. Which is better?

Some lenders don’t want a Jr., or Sr., on an initial.
However, if it is part of the signers name on Title, then it is part of their name.
The initials for Junior would be Jr. Therefor in my opinion, it should be part of the initial representing the forth word in the name.

What about Andrew Hooper III
I would have him initial AH III

There is no way to shorten the III part. But we don’t want to confuse him with his father and grandfather who might have been on title, so we wil include the III unless asked by the lender not to. There are pros and cons in the different ways of initialing. Be thorough unless asked not to be by the lender.


Parties involved in a loan
Many notaries don’t realize how involved the loan process is, and how many parties there are involved. So, if you make a mistake signing a loan, you might be inconveniencing more parties than you think. Here are a few:

Relatives of the Borrower
Signing Company
Settlement Agent
Escrow Agent
Insurance Companies
Loan Servicing Companies
Loan Holding Companies who purchase the loan from your lender (at great risk)
County Recorders
Oh… I almost forgot — the pets of the borrower

If your stamp was smudgy
If your stamp isn’t clear on notary certificate forms, recorded documents might be rejected by the county recorder. If there are cross outs, or anything that the recorder doesn’t like, they might reject the document as well which would mean that the notary would have to notarize the document all over again which is very time consuming and involves scheduling. Each county recorder is different and there are over 5000 different county recorders throughout the United States!


Attorney in Fact wording
If Sam Smith is signing in his capacity of Attorney in Fact for Sharon Smedley, how would he sign? There are at least two ways: Here they are.

(1) Sam Smith, as attorney in fact for Sharon Smedley (I like this way best)
(2) Sharon Smedley by Sam Smith, her attorney in fact (ambiguous as to who you are in the signature)

Memorize the wording including the commas if you want to pass our phone test!


Fraud & Journals
Not all states require you to keep a journal, but for your protection you need one regardless of what your state says. No state forbids you from having a journal. In your journal you record the date & time of notarization, type of notarization, document name, document date (if any), signers name and address, type of ID used, ADDITIONAL NOTES where you record anything unusual about the signing, or if you used credible witnesses, the signature of the signer, and a THUMBPRINT.

Quick Facts:
(1) If a signer is accused of committing fraud. OR, if a third party is accused of tricking a signer to sign something or of forging a signature, then the thumbprint in your journal could keep protect you.
(2) The thumbprint could stop an investigation in its tracks since you have evidence
(3) A thumbprint could drastically reduce the time involved in an investigation or court case. Imagine being stuck in court for 30 days with no income because you did a risky notarization for an elderly lady in the hospital who was on morphene and couldn’t think straight.
(4) Warning — beware of notarizing the elderly. Make sure they understand what they are signing and can paraphrase what is in the document for their protection and yours. You are not legally required to understand the contents of the document, but they can get into huge trouble, and drag you into the trouble if they are being tricked into signing something — especially a power of attorney or deed.


Spouse not on loan?
This question is very state specific. New York deals with spousal issues differently.

As a general rule, if the spouse is not on the loan documents, they might need to sign any Deeds including the Deed of Trust, (Mortgage), Right to Cancel, Truth in Lending, Correction Agreement, HUD, and perhaps a few others.


Define beneficial interest
If a party is a beneficiary to a document being signed, they would have beneficial interest. But, who else might have beneficial interest too? If you are a relative of the signer such as a spouse or child, you might benefit from the document being signed. If you are a notary who won’t get paid unless the document is signed, then you have beneficial interest in the document being signed which is illegal. To keep it legal, make sure you get paid regardless of if a document gets signed to keep yourself impartial and above board. A notary’s job is not to notarize, but to say NO when necessary. Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying NO!


What is the difference between e-documents, e-signings, and e-notarizations

e-documents are documents that are sent to the notary electronically via the internet. A password and various types of downloading software would be necessary for e-documents as well as a high speed internet connection and a fast printer with good ppm.

e-signings are signings typically signed on a laptop with a wireless card. Some of the documents are still physical, and the journal used is physical.

e-notarizations require a special enotary commission. Only about (9) states have such a commission. The signer is still required to appear before the notary in all, or almost all cases (varies over time and state by state — AZ at one point had some exceptions to the personal appearance law). ENJOA or an eJournal is used for e-notarizations. Unfortunately, county clerks offices are not always able to fulfill their legal obligation to be the custodian of ejournals after a notary’s commission is over. An interesting twist on some new technology that has many serious issues.


January 29, 2013

I say who, I say when, I say where

Filed under: Carmen Towles,Posts With Many Comments — Tags: — admin @ 10:13 pm

Look; I know the signing services provide a service and it is hard work but come on…. It’s almost 2013. Where did some of these folks come from? What is wrong with certain companies that hire us? They have all these rules and demands. Don’t answer your phone in a closing. Don’t call the borrower before you go, the appointment is all set. Then you get here then the borrowers didn’t have a clue that you were coming. In fact sometimes they don’t even know the loan is ready to be closed. Then they have the nerve to offer a whooping fee of $70.00 for printing, faxing back, travel and time. And whats with all the last minute cancellations? (After I have turned away several other jobs that may have went through) Who pays for this? But what is even more unsettling is that some of you are taking these $70.00 jobs. At this rate, believe me you are working for FREE.

I mean, lets face it, everything is going up but our pay. Gas, paper ink, advertising, etc. But the fees are constantly going down. I was doing signings for $75.00 over 6 years ago. Today some of these signing companies are offering even less than that (and they want more duties from you) and it costs us way more to operate but they still are insisting we take lower pay.

Now, I’ll be first to say that it is your business and you are calling the shots, and making all the decisions for what best for your business. And it may sound as if I too am telling you what to do. But, I just don’t see how anyone can make a decent living taking this type of low paying work. I think that if you crunch the numbers you’d see that you are more likely than not operating at a loss. I truly believe that if we collectively stand our ground and refuse these low paying jobs it would make it better for all of us. But unfortunately, this probably will happen. There is always someone that will take these jobs regardless of what I or anyone else tells them. Some feel that they need the work so badly that ‘some’ work is better than ‘no’ work.

Personally, I want to work smarter not harder. As most of you all know I believe in making what I am worth. Remember that without us most of these loans WOULDN’t get closed. Now, before anybody starts up, I am NOT talking about price fixing. I am talking about getting paid a fair amount that matches the work being performed. Many service orientated businesses have guideline as to what to charge and they are pretty close to others that are of the same profession. If we don’t stop and think about the effect of what we do not only has on us but on others and this profession ….very soon it wont even be worth the effort.

Until next time! Be safe!


January 11, 2013

Hold Harmless: Good idea or not?

In a previous blog I discussed the need for us to protect ourselves from lawsuits that really have absolutely nothing to do with us. And, although thank god they are infrequent, when they do hit one of us they interrupt our lives and place great stress and hardship on us and our families. I feel that a hold harmless agreement is a great idea and it seems a few of you are using them. I had planned to work one up and post it here on 123notary but after discussing it with a few of you primarily to get your thoughts and feelings, I have now decided since we are all over the county that it would be in the best interest for everyone to draft up thier own or better yet prepare a rough draft and have an attorney go over it and make sure that it is legit and legal binding for your state and covers you as best as it can.

Things that you might consider in it would be that they are signing of their own feel will, that you a acting as an independent contractor and are not responsible for the content of the document, just to name a few.

Undoubtedly, if you do use it, It wont totally prevent you from being dragged into court and/or sued but I am confident that it will be helpful and have some sort of impact and hopefully deter the notary being dragged into court so readily,. And, if ever your duties and the role that you play are called into question you have a document that has been signed by the borrower/signer. And if the borrower is doing the suing (which so often is the case) their retained attorney might think twice before putting you into the equation of who they will be trying to sue. .

In closing, if you do decide to prepare and use this document make it 100% clear what your are duties are and what legal responsibilities you bear in notarizing one’s signature. Our signers and the public need to know.

Until next time…

Take Care and be safe!


January 2, 2013

Two-Faced… Duplexed

Filed under: Carmen Towles,Posts With Many Comments — admin @ 7:07 am

I get a call from a notary public that it is clear that she is rather upset. She is a new notary public / notary signing agent and she is trying to put forth her best effort. And, it is a challenge to say the least.

She gets her first call and she is so excited. I can remember how that feels. I am sure most of you old timers can as well. 🙂 She takes the assignment and all goes well from start to finish. She returns the documents and a few days later she gets the most dreaded phone call that we all have received at one time or another. The folks that hired her had called to say that she would have to go back to the borrowers house at her expense because she had printed the documents front and back (printer duplexes) and the lender had refused them. It seems that they wanted them printed on single sheets. I’m thinking someone dropped the ball on this one and I suspect I know who. But I need more information.

It was clear she was very upset because she had felt that she hadn’t don’t anything really wrong but was not sure. ONLY one thought came to mind and I asked only one question. Did they give you specific questions to NOT print front and back? Her answer was no. I asked was she positive, she was. So, I told her that although she would inevitably have to go back that this was not her fault and it should NOT be at her expense. I told her that if they hadn’t given her specific instructions NOT to print the documents front and back that that was on them not her. Some of our printers depending on the model (and once set up properly and if they have the duplex function as in this case) are going to print they way they were SENT. I told her to call them back and let them know that she had carefully checked her records and found no evidence that she was not to print this way (single sheets) and if thye had wanted them printed on single sheets they should have sent the PDF in single sheets. And last but not least, if they wanted her to reprint and go back then she would need to be compensated for both trips. (Keep in mind people that were are not mind readers. We are not here to play guessing games. We should be given specific instructions and then we need to follow them to letter.

What I believe happened is that the lender probably sent the documents with instructions how to print and then the information was sent to title and then to a signing service. Somewhere in there somebody dropped the ball. Which is why things get messed up so often. There are way to many people involved in these transactions.

But, in the end it is the notary public that gets blamed. It is unfortunate but true. So so often when they screw up they want the notary public to go back or fix something with no compensation…This is totally unacceptable. They do this because it eats into their profits. But if they got it right in the first place then things would go a whole lot smoother for them and for us.

Now I told our notary public what I felt she should do and so far I haven’t heard back…so I will assume no news is good news. If I hear anything new regarding this incident I will write another blog…. in the mean time please get and READ those instructions and ask questions if not sure. And get EVERYTHING in writing. It will save your you know what! 🙂

Until next time be safe!


August 5, 2012

Power of Attorney and Verifying Capacity

Powers of Attorney and Verifying Capacity 

Recently, we had two notaries that had situations where they felt obligated to stick their head into other people’s business.  Both notaries were doing signings for an attorney in fact, and both notaries wanted to see the power of attorney to verify if the signer indeed had that capacity.  But, this seems to be going above and beyond the job of a notary public.  A notary’s job is to identify a signer, and make sure the signer really signed the document, keep a journal, and fill out certificate forms.
So, does the notary need to verify the capacity of the signer: i.e. as an attorney in fact?  In California, notaries are prohibited from identifying a signer’s capacity.  But, what about other states?  I have no idea!  Maybe our readers can comment. We will have a facebook discussion on this topic as well to stimulate dialogue.
I feel it is only the notary’s job to notarize the signature of the signer, and acknowledge that that particular person signed a document.  If that person claims to be an attorney in fact, that is their business. Whether the signature on the notarized document will be recognized in court as an official siguature of an attorney in fact is another story, especially if the “missing” power of attorney form doesn’t show up. I saw let the courts worry about authorization, it is beyond your job as a notary!

(1) When you notarize for an Attorney in Fact, is it your job to verify the signer’s capacity?
(2) It’s only the notary’s job 2identify the signer, not to determine if they’re authorized to sign in a particular capacity.

You might also like:

POA — proceed on alert

Notarized Power of Attorney


July 8, 2012

Do criminals deserve to be notarized?

Do criminals deserve to be notarized? 

Notarizing Criminals
In my opinion — It is anyone’s legal right to be notarized, and no member of the public with a legitimate request for notarization should be turned down.  But, our notaries have a range of their own opinions based on a Facebook discussion. 
One notary says that criminals deserve a loss of privileges. Another notary doesn’t work for sketchy people and refers them to someone else (how nice of her).  Another notary married a couple at a jail.
One notary was confused by what I meant by the term “criminal” and asked if attorneys fell into that category.  We had a notary who saw a lot of people at their local jail who looked like former mortgage brokers!!!
The bottom line is that criminals who are incarcerated are much more easy to deal with.  They are not going anywhere unless the “system” moves them.  But, ones who are free who come to you even with legitimate requests can be a bit uncomfortable to deal with and make you feel uneasy.


June 11, 2012

Which states allow e-notarizations?

What states allow e-notarizations or e-notaries?
The status of being an electronic notary is a very new and very misunderstood profession or office.  To be an e-Notary, so you can do e-Notarizations, is often a completely different type of commission in many states.  Another fact to understand is that e-Notarizations can not (or can not always) be done for Deeds or other documents that effect real property.  The biggest issue that bothers notaries about e-Notarizations is that the signer doesn’t always have to appear before the notary to receive an e-Notarization.  The first time a signer is notarized, they should appear before the notary, but in some states, the subsequent e-notarizations  may or may not require physical presence. 
e-Notarizations require the use of an electronic journal (ENJOA).  The signature of the signer would go in that journal.
An e-signing is normally done with a physical journal and done in the presence of a notary public.  The documents might be signed online, or at least most of them signed online. However, the signer woudl still appear before the notary public and sign a physical journal of notarial acts.
Here are the states that currently allow e-notarizations. The rules for e-Notarizations might be very different from state to state.
California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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