What if the document was forged.
Imagine that you are a notary public who just got in huge trouble for notarizing a forged document. It is not your responsibility to know that the document was forged. It is only your responsibility to know that the person who was documented as signing the document appeared before you, proved their identity, and signed the document before you notarized it.
Or what if the ID used for the notarization was forged? You can still take journal thumbprints and that can get you off the legal hook a lot faster if you keep a record of those thumbprints. But, what about a forged notary seal?
E&O won’t help unless you made an error.
Some notaries think that since they have Errors & Omissions insurance that they will be covered. But, does E&O cover legal expenses? The real problem is that E&O will probably say that the notary didn’t make any errors — it was someone else who forged their seal. Therefore it is a criminal matter, and the notary in question is not at fault — providing you can prove that the notary seal indeed was forged.
If your notary seal was forged, how would you prove it?
My notary seal’s impression was copied onto an Acknowledgment form. The notary’s handwriting on the form didn’t match mine at all and they didn’t cross out the his/her/their or the (s) on the certificate either proving that they were not me, and most likely not a notary (at least not a good notary.) If the borders on the seal don’t match yours, that is another clue. If you don’t have a journal entry of the transaction, that might void the notarization entirely in certain states — not sure what the law says about that one. But, it could constitute proof that you didn’t do the notarization in question if there is no journal entry, assuming that you always keep a sequential journal entry of all notarial transactions.
What if you are sued?
Unfortunately, as a notary, if you are sued for fraud, or being involved with fraud, you could lose $20,000 in legal expenses only to be proven innocent. You lose, even if you win. E&O insurance won’t protect you if you are not at fault. So, if you are falsely accused because someone else did fraud including a seal forger, a corrupt Title Officer, or someone else, you can get in big trouble. It is best to try to reason with the plaintiff and prove to them through whatever evidence that you have that you are not one of the parties to be blamed. You can also tell them that you will counter sue for legal expenses and time lost if proven not guilty.
Identifying the fraud
One of the issues in catching a fraudulent impostor notary is that they are hard to catch. The only people who have seen them would be notary customers. Those customers would have found the person’s number online or in the yellow pages or through a referral. Notary clients very rarely check the ID of the notary, so the notary could be an impostor and get away with it for a while without being caught. But, why would an impostor notarize many people. Chances are that the impostor notary would be well acquainted with the individual who forged loan documents, or could be the same person which means that nobody would see him or catch him. If he forged the signature of the borrower as well, then it gets very complicated. Three forgeries in one! If they forge a notary seal, the forged seal might have the name of a real notary on it. In such a case, the real notary would be able to prove through his journal that he never notarized that forged document. Additionally, the forger would have to not only forge the signature of the borrower, but also of that particular notary which would require quite some skill. I always used an embosser that left a raised seal in the document. A fraud would have to be pretty clever to forge my seal and my embosser and use it like I did — and in the one case where my seal was forged, they didn’t have the brains to do it correctly and got caught (but, not necessarily prosecuted – or at least I was not informed of what happened after the fact.)
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You could get sued if you don’t have a business license
Legally, you might need to get a business license
Did you just get your Notary Commission? Good for you! Do you want to start a business doing notarizations? unlikely unless you have gotten huge without a business license. However, there is a small chance that someone else might register that business name somewhere in your state or county and sue you for damages. After all, you were Legally, you might need to get a business license. But, most notaries don’t get one until they want to use a particular business name. Some even advertise in the yellow pages without having a registered business name. What is the risk in not doing so? Will the state government come crashing down on you? That is using THEIR business name and they could claim to have lost money!
Changing or removing your business name
The problem is that once you put your business name in print on the internet or in printed advertising, you might find it very difficult to get change it or remove it. Google keeps a cache of old pages for months as well, so that information you posted on the internet could haunt you long after you remove it!
Notary Business names that change every month?
We have notaries on 123notary who change their business name every month. Each time it is a different variation. In October it is MG Notary Service, and then it changes to MG Properties, and then in December it is Mary’s Notary & Apostille. Which one is it? Notaries cannot change their personal or business name on our site without my intervention. But, when I see that they are changing their business name every month, I begin to think that “perhaps” their business name is not really registered, and that they don’t have business licenses. Hmmm. Once I asked someone to send me proof of their business license and they sent me a copy of a newspaper ad they had used to publish their business name. The text was different sizes and on different lines, and I couldn’t tell which part of the name was commentary and which part was the name on their business license. Good God!
Be safe and get registered
It is better to think long and hard about what your business name should be. Then, register your business name, and get a company bank account. Then you can advertise, and do business as a DBA without “as much” risk of being sued due to your business name. There can always be some clown who still wants to make trouble with you who has that same business name registered in another county, but if you are playing by the rules, it will be harder for someone to question the legitimacy of your business name and probably less likely that they can sue you for “business name infringement”. Your name on your notary commission is registered, why shouldn’t your business name as well?
(1) Did you just get your notary commission? Good! You need to get a business license now.
(2) Once your business name is registered & in print, it is not easy to change it. Think it over first.
(3) We have notaries on 123notary who change their business name every month. Doesn’t sound very legal.
(4) You might be held liable for “business name infringement” if you don’t register your biz name.
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