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September 3, 2017

Common complaints we get about Notaries

Filed under: Notary Mistakes — admin @ 12:08 am

I spent some time with Carmen reading through complaints about Notaries. For years, the NNA, 123notary and others spent a lot of emphasis on educating people about loan documents. However, the complaints we get about Notaries are never about loan documents. Then, we learned that most Notaries listed with us do not understand the basics of how to be a Notary Public. However, we rarely get complaints about people’s Notary work. So, what type of complaints are we getting?

1. Leaving the customer high and dry.
Did you finish a signing and then turn your phone off? Did you not answer your emails because you did not have any notary jobs that week? Did you go on a camping trip where phones don’t work? Or did you get angry with a vendor and just decide not to answer calls. After a signing is over, you are responsible for being available for 72-96 business hours. If the Lender or Title company doesn’t get their documents back and needs a Fedex # and you conveniently are unavailable, what are they supposed to do other than write a negative review about you? If you made a Notary mistake but are not available to fix it what to do? If there is some reason they need you to go back, but can’t reach you then what can they do? If you are not going to be available for four days after you finish a signing, warn people so they know ahead of time.

2. Being rude
I realize from all the Notaries I talk to that many Notaries are just down right rude. And those are the people who call me rude. I am impatient, but not normally rude. I get upset when people either won’t answer a question or give stupid answers or when people don’t care about doing a good job. I learned to combat my own impatience by writing people up who are rude or uncooperative. That way I gain some critical information on the person being rude and often remove them from my database as they are a detriment to society and dangerous to hire despite their claims that, “I’ve been doin’ this for 20 years and therefor know what I’m doin’.” even though they scored 20% on my easy quiz.

3. Not following directions
Many Notaries who I quiz do even worse following directions than they do on loan document questions. If you don’t do what is asked of you, you will get in trouble. So READ instructions, call when you don’t understand something and obey the law and those who hire you in that order. Beginners tend to have a much more difficult time following directions than old timers by the way, and beginners make outrageous notary mistakes a lot more too as they haven’t been scolded (much) yet.

4. Notary mistakes
In the old days we had more complaints about Notary mistakes. Although our notaries typically do not know what they are doing, their mistakes and knowledge omissions don’t seem to get them CAUGHT which is the main thing. If you seal over wording you get caught. If you use your stamp wherever you see the word “seal” in a context where seal means signature, you will get repremanded. If your stamp is smudgy your local county recorder will get you in trouble. But, if you are unable to explain the difference between a Jurat and an Acknowledgment, or forget to do your Oath, then I am the only one who will catch you — and you can bank on the fact that I will, so study up!

So, the bottom line here is that it is good to do a good job as a Notary and even better to know how to distinguish between the various documents in a loan. However, being nice, cooperative, following directions and getting back to people in a timely manner count more than being a good Notary. As a directory owner, I am weeding my directory and weeding out the worst Notaries. The rude ones get weeded out much more quickly than people who are bad Notaries with good attitudes. Someone with a good attitude can learn, but an uncooperative jerk will never learn. So, be advised.


July 21, 2017

Uncommon ways you could be late to a signing

Filed under: Notary Mistakes — admin @ 9:00 am

It is good to be on time to signings. But, there are ways to be late to a signing to. Bad planning, failure to account for distance, traffic, or printing are common. But, here are some uncommon ones.

1. Your GPS doesn’t have the road you are going to because the road is brand new — or the GPS is quite old.

2. Your new tire got a puncture wound in the side of the tire coming in at a diagonal.

3. They were repaving a road on your way to the signing that you could not circumvent.

4. A UFO abducted you on your way to the signing.
NOTARY “Do you need a Notary?” GREEN GUY “No, but could you like us on Facebook?”

5. Your credit card is deactivated you and you don’t have enough cash to buy gas leaving you stranded.

6. Your Notary seal expires on April 24th and today is April 25th.

7. There is a terrible earthquake and the roads are closed down.

8. Anti-Trump riots force the authorities to shut the city down.

9. Pro-Trump riots force the city to open back up, but block your route to the signing, unless you live in California in which case refer to point 8.

10. All the parking spaces are taken and you drive around the block for half an hour.

11. You have a reserved parking spot, but a black Jeep SUV with no license plates belonging to a dealer suddenly appears in your spot. You call security who says it could take up to two hours to remove the vehicle — yes, it happened to me and I was late to my blog writing appointment.

12. Your little girl hits her head and you go rushing home to make sure she is okay, but get fired by the Loan Officer. At least you don’t get fired as a dad! And yes, this really happened eight years ago to a client.

I think that sums it up.


March 17, 2015

Signing Agent Pitfall Avoidance by Mindset Awareness

Filed under: Ken Edelstein,Notary Mistakes,Technical & Legal — Tags: , — admin @ 8:16 am

Signing Agent Pitfall Avoidance by Mindset Awareness

No, I’m not going to present to you for the umpteenth time the same old “must do” and “must not do”. They have been covered – extensively, in blog articles and on the forum. If you don’t know how to properly request the initials of Mr. Red Green-Blue III, or the difference between a Venue and a Jurat – you won’t find the answers here. Rather, I will delve into the notary mindset, and related mindset awareness. Don’t worry, no rants or religious dogma will follow. But, I do hope to get you to think about you. You, not the docs, not the borrower, not even your fee – You, are the most important component. Your body may drive the car and carry the package, but it’s above the shoulders that really runs the show.

We do a lot of preparation. Commission renewal, stamps, forms, E&O, gas in the car, printing supplies, and the list goes on and on. The car will stop when it runs out of fuel, so will you. Our fuel is nutrition and sleep. Is taking care of yourself high on your priority list? Or, do you grab junk food and accept a 3AM “plum” – knowing you have an 8AM edoc appointment. Sure, you are “in it for the money”, but take the mindset of the broader view. Drowsy driving after minimal or no sleep abuses your body. Even worse, those fees you earned are nothing compared to wrecking the car and a visit to the emergency room, or morgue.

How do you feel? If you have been taking care of yourself, the physical part of you should be in reasonably good condition. But do you like what you are doing? Or, is it drudgery. Most of the successful signing agents really like what they do, and it shows. They tend to be open, friendly and cheerful. You attitude does not require you to be a doormat for others to trample and take unfair advantage of you. A cheerful mindset does not negate proper business practices and using caution when appropriate. There are many ways to request the kid’s TV volume to be lowered.

While your mindset must be focused on completing the signing without error, how you proceed towards that objective, how you interrelate with the affiants, defines you. Everything you do is a component of the impression you make. Being well fed and rested, docs reviewed, adequate travel time, and sensible scheduling are a good start. Rushing both yourself (no double-check), and the affiants is the mindset for disaster. You are there to lead them thru the completion of the forms; obtaining signatures, initials; and sometimes other paperwork. Your goal is to deliver perfection of both your work, and the work entered by the affiant(s). A zero defect mindset requires to continually check their entries. Are they writing in the margins? Have they reversed the dates back to their native format? Is their required middle initial in each signature?

Ours is very much a person to person service. No signings are conducted over the phone. You arrive in “proper condition” to do the job; but “they” are the exact opposite. Perhaps they are nervous; after all it is the biggest financial transaction in their entire life. It could be that the baby cried all night and they are exhausted. Clearly these conditions and many similar ones; call for a mindset of empathy and toleration. However, as they are “not at the top of their game” you need to be even more diligent in checking what they do. You are an expert at finding where they must enter; you also need to be an expert at verifying that the entry (where possible) is correct.

I assume you “know your stuff”, but technical knowledge of signing procedures is only the foundation. You need to be prepared to relate and adapt to affiants who change mood as the pages turn. A mindset of competence and helpfulness, staying in control, but not in any way being manipulative works best.


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June 12, 2014

When you goof

Any Vulcans or Androids reading this? As these characters on Startrek embody perfection; they have no need to read further. Oh? You’re human – then read on because as certain as death and taxes you will make a mistake when you notarize on a regular basis. Only do one notarization a year? Chances are that if you are reading blogs here on you will get those rare events perfect. But, for the rest of us; the many thousand details annually virtually guarantee some errors.

The gotchas come from far and wide. I always look at my watch to verify the date; every time. And, my watch is right “most of the time”. The date changes every 24 hours to the next number ranging from 1 to 31. But, alas, my watch does not know which months have less than 31 days. It’s not too hard to imagine an entry on a loose ack of Sept 31! Some names are lengthy and to many, difficult to spell. Even when copying directly from the driver license it’s easy to transpose a letter or two. Magicians use “misdirection” to direct your attention away from what they are really doing. In an “attention diverted” situation; resuming what you were doing requires extreme care.

You can defend against virtually all errors by learning how to double check your work. It’s not as easy as it sounds. An error made the first time; will probably look “just as correct” the second time. When it comes to double checking, the safety expression “Speed Kills” sums it up perfectly. You cannot really do that verification of your work if you go “more quickly” than when you did it the first time. Actually, because you tend to “see what you want to see” – you really have to go much slower to check your work, compared to the time it took you to do the work.

Let’s assume that one slipped past your most diligent double check, what now? It’s a widely known fact that the “fix it” fairy exists, and with pixie dust plus a stroke of the pen; often “makes it right”. Many “up the food chain” don’t want to go through the proper procedures to redo. Those un-named processors just fix it. Illegal? Sure. But as the kids often say “do do do happen”. You will never know if you submitted perfect work or had an “assist”.

However, eventually you will get the call. “There is a problem with what you sent us”. If you have a high speed scanner and bothered to make a complete copy of the file, you can take a look and see if it was indeed your error. There is a good chance they are referring to the page they forgot to send to you. To prove this you need to be able to look at the file that arrived in your in box. Hmmmm, no such document was sent to you –and- you can prove it. Perhaps they claim you did not notarize the Mortgage. For that you need to look at the complete scan of the file you shipped back. There is a good chance that someone on the receiving end just lost the page. Thus, you need records of your input and your output to determine if you actually did goof.

Looking at the file you submitted, it is clear you missed the initials on one page. True it was a subtle miss, as the field was in the middle of the page; a spot easily overlooked. You now can defend your actions by being silly, claiming that they did not highlight the unusual but required location. Or, you can show professionalism and offer to do whatever is necessary to make amends. The policy of is to make a “fix” my highest priority. It’s rare but when it happens I fix it very fast, and ship priority with a charge to my personal FedEx account.

It is times like this that many notaries truly “show their “tail feathers”” by making various lame excuses. They don’t want to hear anything other than how you plan to “make it right”. Telling them about the distractions from the howling dog, the bad lighting, or the cramped table is foolishness; and makes you look like a buffoon. Taking ownership of the problem and vowing to do whatever is necessary to make amends is the only correct response. If you have to take a taxi to the affiant, print at a Kinkos, and wait 2 hours for the signer who is in a meeting prior to going home; that’s exactly what you must do. And do it cheerfully; knowing your reputation is on the line.

Those who depended on you know that all errors cannot be avoided. Now it’s your attitude and zeal to make amends that will determine whether you keep or lose a client. Turn that “goof” into a “nice recovery” and be a hero.

(1) Chances are: if you’re reading blogs here on you will do your notarizations perfectly!
(2) You can defend against virtually all notary errors by learning how to double check your work
(3) When you scan your work to double check, do you know what to look for?
(4) You need to keep meticulous records to determine whose at fault if there’s a mistake!
(5) Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how willing you are to make amends for them that determine your success w/clients.

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November 15, 2013

Common Mistakes with: 1003, Crossing out, RTC, TIL & APR

The problem with the signing agent industry is that education is simply not taken seriously. Newer signing agents will take a certification course somewhere, pass by the skin of their teeth, and then say, “I’m done learning”. The effect is that their brain turns off, and there is no more curiousity to learn or thirst for knowledge.

123notary offers a lot of information in the blog which is free, not to mention a plethora of signing courses and new testing systems that are currently being experimented with. Please take advantage of the information that is out there for best results.

Here are some common mistakes that are really dumb that newer signing agents do.

(1) Call the lender about the 1003
The 1003 is always wrong. It is not a final document by the way. The natural order of documents in terms of the finality of information starts with the 1003 which is an application. This application is typed up by minimum wage workers who systematically make mistakes, and the lenders as a group seem to think it is okay to make mistakes on loan documents for loans of half a million dollars. First of all it is NOT okay, secondly it upsets borrowers, and thirdly, it leaves signing agents in a perceived quandry. They think they need to call the lender if information in this document is wrong. This is the one document you can do cross outs on. It doesn’t matter. The next version of information about names and numbers would be the Good Faith Estimate. It is once again a preliminary document and just an estimate. The final document with numbers is the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. If there is an error here — then it is time to call the lender and perhaps even redraw the documents or just cancel the entire loan process

(2) Just cross out and initial
Many lenders have low standards. We live in a world where standards are pathetically low. Just because a handful, or more than a handful of the lenders you work with have low standards doesn’t mean that you should. There exists a concept called “Best Practices”, and that concept involves not making a mess unless you really are compelled to. If names are wrong on documents AND THE LENDER IS NOT AVAILABLE (which is the norm), you can initial under the last few letters of the last name. This is clean, and the processor can cross out after the fact or do whatever they like. YOU are not compelled to cross out. Just leave a voice mail for the lender to let them know what you did and why. If there are errors on the notary certificates, once again crossing things out is unprofessional and messy. Keep in mind these are LEGAL documents and making a mess on a legally binding document seems very questionable at best. It is cleaner to get a loose acknowledgment, staple it and start fresh without the cross outs. So, when do you need to cross things out? On the right to cancel if you need to change dates, and there is no borrower copy with the dates left blank — THEN, and only then in my experience are you compelled to cross out the old date and write in a new date and have the borrowers initial

(3) RTC
Guess what. The day of the signing is NOT included in the (3) days to rescind. Many newer notaries don’t know this. The reach for their rescission calendar because they can not think on their own. Learn to calculate, learn to count, and learn to think. Learn when the Federal holidays happen and learn to calculate rescission dates when a signing happens right before a Federal holiday.

(4) TIL
Many signers think that there is detailed information about the prepayment penalty on the TIL. Wrong. The TIL states that you will, won’t, or might have a prepayment penalty. That is not what I consider detailed, that is merely a tidbit of information.

(5) APR
Few if any newer signing agents, or even experienced signing agents can discuss the APR and sound professional doing so. Learn and memorize a professional sounding definition of this figure so that when asked, you will be able to answer FLUENTLY, even in your sleep.

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June 15, 2013

Hey, do you have a real story about cross-outs?

“Yes”, said one of our friends who works for a signing company.

I had a closing many years ago that created a huge issue with cross outs, because we lost the rate lock.

The notary crossed out on the legal docs and had no idea that this was incorrect. I can’t think of anything dramatic, but I’ve had so many of these over the years. That is a rare occurrence now with so many Short Sales that the docs are faxed prior to the notary leaving so you can catch more mistakes.

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May 15, 2013

Cross-out happy; Not a good idea

Some lenders allow cross outs. Others will fire you after the first cross out. Some signing agent courses recommend that you cross things out without a second thought. Others don’t. Even our loan signing course teaches you to cross out wrong dates in the right to cancel document. But, if you work for Provident or other lenders who don’t allow cross outs — you’re fired! Gulp?

Don’t worry, just read the instructions. Many loans have an instructions sheet. If there is no letter of instructions, then ask before you cross, okay? Don’t assume that you can just cross anything out. First of all, remember the golden rule of cross outs. Don’t cross out unless: (1) you have permission and (2) it is a last resort.

What about the 1003? The 1003 loan application has endless wrong information. It is my personal belief that the clerks they hire are required to make endless mistakes — otherwise they will be fired on the spot. If they get your social security number right they will be laid off immediately, right? In any case, the 1003 is not binding in the loan, but has to be sent back signed. Borrowers whine endlessly about this carelessly prepared document. What is the solution? Cross out and initial? Hmmm. Not sure…

My take on the 1003 is that you will cost yourself 30 minutes of wasted time if you call your contact person about anything, so don’t call unless you really need to. Otherwise you will never get out of the signing. If the lender allows cross outs, you will not endanger your loan by crossing out in the 1003 or for wrong dates on the right to cancel. If the lender doesn’t allow cross outs, then don’t do it.

Trick question

Q. What is the only document the is in a completed loan package that REQUIRES cross outs?
A. Acknowledgment certificates require the notary to cross out the his/her/their, etc.


April 30, 2013

Help, I’m being sued, and E&O won’t help

Dinner was over and it was actually time to call it a day and get some rest when there was a doorbell. The family could not help wonder who inthe world this could be this late in the evening. It was approaching 10:00PM for god’s sake. The lady of the house went to the door and the gentleman standing on her porch asked if she was the Mrs. Xyz and she responded yes and then he proceeded to hand her an envelope. He stated; “You have been served”.

She shut the door curious but at this point not to worried.…she was thinking ‘oh this must be a request for testimony or something of this nature’ but as she began to read the documents to her shock and disbelief….she was being sued!. She was devastated to say the least.

It seems that back a few months she had done a modification and something had gone VERY wrong and now the person who’s signature she had notarized had hired an attorney and he as suing everybody that had been involved in his transaction including the notary. This particular client was claiming that there was intent to commit fraud with all the parties that had been involved with his loan modification. The notary contacted her bonding company and they looked over her evidence and found that she was in the clear. She had done nothing notarially wrong therefore they could be of no use. But what makes it worse is that they refused to represent her. It was basically out of their hands. For those of you that don’t know. Errors and omissions is just for notarial mistakes. It will not benefit you any other way. As in the case of this particular notary she was being included in a fraud case so now she was forced to figure out how she was going to defend herself.

She and her husband discussed it and he felt that she would need to hire an attorney and so that is what they did. But unfortunately they found out that it was not going to be cheap. The attorney kindly informed them that it would be about 30,000 when they were finished. Now as I listened to the story I was in shock. I thought that if that were me in this situation I would just be forced to take a different route. I would have to have to represent myself. I would not be able to afford this large sum of money at all. Personally, I would have made a copy of all work orders and correspondence of the hiring parties along with a copy on my journal entries and a signed and notarized affidavit that I did not know any of the parties involved and would have sent this to all the attorneys involved and hoped for the best. In my years as a notary I have a couple of signers on a couple of occasions that were suing the parties that hired me and this is what I have done and it seemed to suffice and I have never had to attend a court trial. Thank the man upstairs!

It might be naive of me but if you know that you didn’t do anything wrong I don’t feel that you need to spend exorbitant amounts of money to prove it…and if you don’t have it and cant get it then you are forced to defend yourself anyway. It is actually disheartening that we have to be drawn into other peoples drama….Which led to me into thinking that we should have some sort of release of liability document for folks to sign when we notarize their signature. The document should state many things for example,; one, that we are verifying identity and signature only on the document, that we did not have anything to do with the preparation of their document, that we do not know them or are we involved in their transaction in any way. Now, I don’t know if this would protect us totally from any lawsuits but I sure would feel a whole lot better having them signing it. And if unfortunately there was a lawsuit maybe it would offer some sort of protection. It would seem to me that in the situation our notary in the story finds herself if she had such document she would less likely NOT be involved in that lawsuit. I look forward to hearing what some of our attorneys her at 123 have to say about this and would love some input as to exactly what the letter affidavit should say.

I am very interested in what others have to say on this subject. I feel for this notary. The bad news is that she is seriously contemplating giving up her commission and her notary business all together. She has been a notary for over a decade and this ordeal has left a bitter taste in her mouth and I do understand. She and I talked for a very long time and she told me that I made her feel better and that at this point she didn’t feel as alone as she had been feeling. I was glad to be able to do at least that much for her. I wish it could have been more. Let me know what you think!

Until next time…be safe!

(1) The borrower had hired an Attorney to sue everyone who had been involved in the modification including the notary!
(2) It would cost $30,000 for the notary’s Attorney fees to defend her from a crime she never committed!
(3) E&O refused to cover the notary since she didn’t make an error or an omission. It was the Lender’s fault!

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April 21, 2013

Mistakes notaries make w/ Title Companies

Notaries all want Title Company business, but not all of them get it. Why?

Experience is half of the problem, and skills are the other half. But, what about the THIRD half?

Communication skills
Do you use bad grammar? Do you make spelling mistakes in your notes section?

I also make spelling mistakes. Fewer than I used to make ten years ago since I write more.

But, Title Companies will reject a notary based on these factors.

What if there is no useful information in your notes section?
Do you ramble when people talk to you, and go on and on?
Do you go off on a tangent during a conversation and not stick to the topic at hand?
Do you give dumb sounding answers to simple loan signing questions?
Is there background noise when a title company calls you?
Do you answer the phone by saying “Hullo?”
Do your children asnwer the phone?

Does your answering machine have unprofessional sounding music?
Does your answering machine state your name?
Is your message system full?
Do you have reviews on your profile?
Are you certified by 123notary?
Do you have a tone of voice that is uninviting?
Do you ask people to repeat what they said?

Notary: Hello?
Tammy: Hi, this is Tammy from Tammy’s Title
Notary: Who is this?
Tammy: TAMMY from Tammy’s Title
Notary: Tammy’s Title?
Tammy: Yes, Tammy’s Title! May I speak to Linda please
Notary: This is her.

Jeremy’s comment: Are you deaf? Tammy stated her personal and company name very clearly when she called you, what’s the problem. Are you not paying attention? Or, do you just not know how to respond, so you ask a stupid question? Tammy thinks you are very stupid by now. Did you know that roughly 15% of notaries ask me to repeat information that I stated very clearly? I am not sure what their problem is. If I ask a quiz question, then 80% of the notaries make me repeat the entire thing twice — but, that is more tricky, so it is allowed in that context.

BTW, it is bad etiquette to say hello when answering the phone. State who you are otherwise the other person will have to guess or ask you. Also, don’t say, “This is her” as that is bad grammar. “This is she” is correct even though it sounds strange.

To sum up the point of this article.
If you want Title companies to think well of you and hire you — don’t act stupid. Have your act in order, and be able to answer questions quickly. Be professional — otherwise they will hire someone else who is professional. Title companies pay up to $150 a pop and notaries line up for these types of jobs. Title companies have choices — you don’t!


December 24, 2012

I make mistakes too!

Filed under: Carmen Towles,Notary Mistakes — Tags: , — admin @ 6:57 am

The most dreaded thing happened to me after all these years. I get a call from one of my regulars of many years now asking me when I can come through. She has a fee notarizations for herself and her husband. The own an architect firm. We set up a time for the following day. I arrive about 10 minutes early which is what I always try to do. She pleasantly sits me down in our usual conference room, excuses herself and leaves briefly to get the documents. She comes back into the room and hands me one document in particular from a stack that immediately looks familiar. It was a document that I had previously notarized the week before. She goes on (while handing it to me stating that the county clerk had rejected it. I am thinking WHAT!?!?! Are you serious??…cant be so. But unfortunately is was so. It seems in my haste I had forgotten to put the ‘notary public’ after my name. (For those of you in other states this is now a mandatory requirement for all California notaries.) And of course the county clerk had rejected it. They had attached a nice little note with instructions for me to fix it. Which of course I did.

I was thinking ( and I told my client ) ‘I am so sorry, I cant imagine what was going on in my head’ to forget to do this, I assure her that after all that I certainly know better”. ‘But I am human’ as she told me. “We all make mistakes”. But this mistake in my eyes was unacceptable and now I have inconvenienced the client. They have to go back to the county clerk. So to make amends I adjusted my fee. I would have liked (at no charge) to offer to take it to the courthouse for them…but didn’t think of it until later in the day.

So remember to check your work. ALWAYS! Try not to let outside influences distract you. This can easily happen but It can cost you jobs and regular clients. I am sure they will call me back. But I really felt bad about my error. I know better but for me this was a wake up call. I was careless and did not check my work. And ultimately, I could have paid for it by losing a valuable client Or even worse yet it could have been a time sensitive document and because of my error they could have lost their valuable client and/or they could have missed a deadline and I could have gotten sued…god forbid. So don’t forget to check BEFORE you leave them. Doesn’t matter if it is one document or 20. make sure you have done your job. We can’t afford mistakes!

Until the next time, be safe!

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