April 2012 - Notary Blog - Signing Tips, Marketing Tips, General Notary Advice - 123notary.com
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April 26, 2012

Can a notary also witness documents being signed?

Q. Can a notary also witness documents being signed?
A.  Any individual over the age of 18 can be a witness to a document signing or Will signing.
 
Q.  Can a notary charge for acting as a witness?
A.  If acting as a witness is an official notary act in the state where the notary is commissioned or acting, then they can charge whatever their state’s maximum appointed fee is.  In all other states where witnessing is not an official notary act, then the notary can charge whatever the client will agree to.
 
Q.  Should I hire a notary to act as a witness?
A.  You can if you like, but unless you need some special documentation done, that only a notary can perform, there is no real need to have a notary around.
 
Q. Can you recommend some more detailed reading materials about this topic?
A.  Yes, please read:  Can a notary be a witness?

Tweets:
(1) Any individual over 18 can witness documents being signed, including a Notary Public.
(2) Can a notary charge for acting as a witness? Yes, but your state might have a maximum charge.

You might also like:

Credible witnesses from A to Z
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=452

Fraud and Forgery related to the notary profession
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2294

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April 23, 2012

Sending loose certificates is illegal

Sending loose certificates is illegal! 

People who work at Title companies are notorious for breaking the law in so many ways.  Here are some common types of fraud that happen at Title companies daily:
(1) Many will deliberately and shamelessly forge initials when the borrower forgets to initial.  I’m not sure how bad of a crime this is, but I recommend against any type of forgery — no matter what! 
(2) Most will unstaple documents that have been stapled which makes the completed certificate which is attached (a legal requirement), no longer attached (illegal) and hence a loose certificate (gulp). I have had multiple Title companies complain to me that they didn’t like the industrial staples I used since they were so hard to unstaple.  They don’t have a legal right to unstaple those notarized documents because the certificate must stay attached.  Part of the problem with unattaching certificates, is that they could get reattached to some OTHER document creating confusion, havoc, and hence having a document notarized without having it presented to a notary public and going through the procedure and journal entry.
(3) Many will ask a notary to send them a loose certificate if a document needs to be notarized again for some reason. Sometimes the seal was smudgy, or perhaps they needed to replace the document and get a new certificate for the new document with a new date.  If you are a “loose notary” who has a loose interpretation of notary law in your state, you might be breaking the law!
 
It all starts out with a pad of loose certificates!
You start out with our pad of loose acknowledgment certificates and jurat certificates.  Any serious notary will have this type of pad on hand as if their life depends on it.  Sure, the certificates are loose now, but that is okay, since they haven’t been filled out or stamped yet!  When you notarize a signature(s) on a document(s), you have the signer(s) signer the instrument, and then you have them sign your official journal of notarial acts.  Then, you fill out the certificate wording embedded in the document, or if that boiler plate wording isn’t there, you can add a certificate form which has the identical, or hopefully very similar boiler plate wording.  You fill out the form, cross you s’s, and dot your t’s, etc.  The minute you sign the certificate, and affix your official notary seal, then you may NOT let that certificate out of your site until it is ATTACHED to the corresponding document. It is illegal to unattach a certificate from a document, and very unkosher to unattach the staple for a notarized multipage document. What are your intentions?  Are you going to swap pages after the fact?  I can smell fraud a mile away!
 
What should you the notary do when asked to send a loose certificate?
It’s easy.  Someone at a Title company says they need a new Jurat certificate for the Affidavit of Domicile you notarized for them a week ago otherwise their loan won’t go through (pressure technique).  They want you to mail the loose certificate to them!  Tell them:
 
“No problem, just send me the document and the original certificate — I’ll shred the old certificate and add a new one… You can not have two certificates for the same document. The signer already signed the journal for this particular transaction and doesn’t need to sign it again for a certificate which is to be dated the same date they signed the journal.”
 
And they will say:

“Oh, come on, why does this have to be so difficult. That takes extra time and money.  Why can’t you just (break the law) and send us what we want (and risk your commission and risk being sent to jail or being fined perhaps more than $1000) for our convenience?”
 
And then you should say:

“If you need notaries to routinely break the law for your pleasure, you should ask your notaries some prescreening questions.  Ask them if they are willing to break the law on a whim (your whim) and risk their commission and perhaps some jail time for your convenience. Ask them if they mind risking going to jail to save you from having to wait an additional 24 hours for a loose certificate… if they say ‘sure’, then they are the notary for you!”
 
My concluding advice
Don’t break the law for these rascals. They are not worth it.  You probably won’t get in trouble, but as a notary public, your position in society is to preserve integrity, and to safeguard transactions by making sure that the signer really signed the corresponding document in question.  If certificates get switched on documents due to fraud, or because you didn’t identify the document carefully enough on the certificate, then you are a liability to society and shoudn’t be a notary public. 
 
As a notary, you should be very sensitive to the fact that if you are notarizing multiple documents for a particular signer, those documents could get mixed up, and the signer could pull a fast one and reattach notary certificates from a document you really did notarize, to another similarly named document that you did not notarize. 
 
Multipage documents can be taken apart and pages switched.  Title companies ROUTINELY take apart documents as a matter of standard procedure, and if you don’t emboss every page of everything you notarize, it would be easy for someone to replace page 5 with another similar looking page 5.  Assume that people are dishonest and shady, so that you can protect the virtue and integrity of your work. Document everything to a tee, and don’t give in to pressure to do illegal notary acts even if it means losing a client. You don’t want that client anyway in the long run — trust me!

You might also like:

Signing agent best practices
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4315

Notary Certificates, Notary Wording & Notary Verbiage
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1834

Make your own certificate forms
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1759

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April 20, 2012

IP addresses and reviews: are you posting your own reviews?

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: — admin @ 10:49 am

Are you posting your own reviews? 

We have a New York Notary Public who keeps getting review after review.  After a while I became suspicious.  Hmmm. Was he writing his own reviews?  How can you get 58 legitimate reviews?  So, after a few months of wondering, I checked my files for an hour in detail. I went through all of his reviews and checked the IP ADDRESSES of where the reviews were coming from. Each review was from a different IP address – every single one.  I was very impressed with him from the moment I met him ten years ago, and now I’m even more impressed.  However, my suspicion was not unwarrented.  HE was playing by the rules, but many others were not!!!
 
I looked at about 15 notary’s reviews and the IP addresses.  I found that about five of the notaries were posting their own reviews.  That is a definate no-no.  Perhaps clients had emailed testimonials to the notary public, and the notary public published them on their own. 
 
Notary Public Pennsylvania – a problem situation!
I checked out an Ohio Notary Public profile and found his reviews to be legitimate.  I found that a Massachusetts notary had written their own reviews close to a dozen times.  But, the worst situation was with a Pennsylvania Notary Public.  This individual had used three IP addresses over and over and over. There were a dozen reviews from one which I will assume to be the Pennsylvania Notary’s home computer, and then a handful from another which I’ll assume to be their work computer, and about four from another, which could have been a relative or friend’s computer, or perhaps a laptop or ipad working from a different network.  On the other hand, this particular Pennsylvania notary had more than a dozen “legitimate” reviews too — so, I am still impressed.  The other notaries I checked had only “unique” reviews from unique IP addresses. 
 
A New Policy – only  one review per IP
Although I only check the high performers as far as reviews go, I will only accept ONE review per IP address otherwise I will assume that the notary is publishing their own reviews which is a fast way to look good online.  Google keeps track of who publishes their own reviews, and google will not reward us, or you for doing this.  Get real reviews and we all benefit.  However, if your client can’t figure out how to publish a review, and emails you the review; — if you publish your first emailed review from your home computer, your second from your work computer, and your third from your iphone, we will not know the difference, and you can get away with it!  That only buys you three reviews, which is not enough to really stand out, but is a great start. 
 
Teach your clients
If you have a client who loves your work and tells you so, then teach them how to write a review.  Send them a link to your review page, or teach them how to find it using the search features. It is not rocket science, and if you put in the effort, you might get results that change your life!!!

You could also print out multiple copies of your listing page and use a red pen to circle the LINK to the review page above your name, and also circle the advanced search page, where they can find a way to locate your city, and then your listing.  Maybe this technique will help.  You could also offer a coupon for any client who writes you a review.  Write a review, get half priced travel fee on the next job! Can’t beat that!

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California Credible Witness Requirements

California credible witness requirements 

If you are a California notary public, and you are at a signing where the signer doesn’t have a current government issued photo identification document, (or EXPIRED is okay if issued within the last five years) you will not be authorized to notarize the signature of that signer without the use of credible witness(es).
 
When can a California notary use credible witnesses?
If the signer has no identification, or if it is going to be very difficult to obtain (perhaps it got misplaced and is very far away), then you can use one or two credible witnesses depending on whether or not you know the witnesses.
 
When can I use only 1 Credible Witness?
If the Notary in California knows the credible witness relatively well, and the credible witness knows the signer’s full name (without you having to tell them the complete name), then you can use just 1 Credible Witness
 
When can I use 2 Credible Witnesses?
If the California Notary Public doesn’t know the Credible Witness, then you need to depend on the Oath of 2 Credible Witnesses who know the signer’s full name.
 
Identifying the Credible Witness
You need to check the identification cards or documents of the Credible Witnesses. If they don’t have any, then you can not use them.  They need to have current, (or EXPIRED if issued within the last five years) government issued photo identification with a physical description, signature, serial number, and expiration date.
 
Oath of Credible Witnesses in California
The California notary needs to have the Credible Witnesses (one by one) swear under oath that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Then, ask them what the name of the signer is who you are pointing to.  If the answer is, “Joe”, then make sure to ask if “Joe” has a middle or last name that they are aware of. If they can’t answer this question, then perhaps they are not the ideal witness for you!
 
Documenting the Signature of the Credible Witness in your journal.
It is required by law to document the signature of the Credible Witness or Witnesses in your journal.  Have them sign in the notes section, NOT the signature section.  Have the document signer sign in the signature section.  It is optional but recommended that you also document the printed name, address, phone number, and identification information about the Credible Witnesses in your journal.
 
If the idenfication is expired – what is the issue date?
On California drivers licenses, there is an issue date documented at the BOTTOM of the card.  This date is not labeled as an issue date, but it is clearly several years before the expiration date, and you can logically deduce that that was the issue date.
 
Get a thumbprint? It is a stronger proof of identity than anything else!
If you are identifying a signer in California based on the oaths of credible witnesses, I would strongly recommend getting a thumbprint of the signer in your journal.  Although only required by law for Deeds and Powers of Attorney notarizations, the thumbprint is a much stronger proof of the identity of the signer than the Oaths of a few people who hardly know the signer.  Please keep in mind that in rural Tennessee, you probably know your neighbors well, and your family’s have probably known each other since not far after the Mayflower landed.  But, in urban or suburban-sprawl California, you probably don’t know anyone well because people tend to not know each other in California.  Credible Witness rules were created a long time ago when people used to know each other a lot better.

You might also like:

California notary issues
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3528

A new California notary law
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3054

California e-notary rules
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2077

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April 17, 2012

What is a credible witness notary or notarization?

What is a credible witness notary or credible witness notarization? 

There is no such thing as a credible witness notary.  Credible Witnesses are individuals who are willing to swear to the identity of another individual who is signing a document in the presence of a notary public.  The notary who is notarizing a signature may not act as a credible identifying witness.  However, some states allow a notary to identify a signer based on personal knowledge which is similar in nature (but not terminology) to being a Credible Witness.
 
There is also no such thing as a credible witness notarization.  However, you could refer to a notarization as one that uses credible witnesses.  Credible identifying witnesses should not be used unless a proper identification document is not available.  Please also keep in mind that many credible witnesses these days do not know the full name of whomever’s identity they are swearing to.  For the sake of integrity, you might want to ask the proposed credible witness, “What is this man’s full name?”. If they say, “Joe?”, and then shrug their shoulders, then perhaps they don’t know Joe as well as they should to be a credible identifying witness.

You might also like:

Where do credible witnesses sign the notary journal book?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2508

Oath of two credible witnesses
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2405

Subscribing witnesses and Signature by X
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2278

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April 13, 2012

Do notary journals need to be kept under lock and key?

Do notary journals need to be kept under lock and key?
 
Notary rules differ from state to state. Many states don’t even require a notary to have a journal, or notary seal.  However, California requires the use of both a notary journal and seal, and both must be kept under lock and key.  However, there is a catch.  The currently used journal must be locked up and access must exclusive to the notary public that it belongs to.  Co-workers and bosses can not look at the journal without the notary being present.  USED journals that have been filled out to their completion can be stored at the notary’s home, office, etc., but don’t need to be locked up. 
 
When a notary’s commission is over, they must return all journals (California notary journals) (current and completed) to the county clerk’s office or whatever agency the notary division in their state appoints for them.
 
California notary journal rules might not apply to other states, but you should be careful with your journal and seal in any case as it contains really important information. Additionally your California notary seal, or seal from another state could be used for fraud, so you need to prevent that from happening if possible.

You might also like:

The dog ate my journal
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3368

Saved by the notary journal
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3353

I would need a new journal every week!
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2605

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April 11, 2012

New Hampshire Commissioner of Deeds Information

New Hampshire Commissioner of Deeds Information

The State of New Hampshire, a congenial state, still appoints Commissioners of Deeds for a fee of $75 for a 5-year commission.  The application can be done online and is submitted to the Governor and Executive Council.  In 4-6 weeks, you will recieve your appointment and will need to sign and take your oath before a judge, who will then sign your commission.  When your oath is returned and filed, you will be able to act as a Commissioner of Deeds.  In other words, you will have the right to:

  • administer oaths in New Hampshire and elsewhere for documents to be used in New Hampshire
  • take depositions and affidavits
  • take acknowledgments on deeds and instruments

It is recommended that you use an official seal, even though New Hampshire state law does not require it.   The Commisioner of Deeds may charge a fee of $10 for each witness, oath, or certifications, and may charge between $5 and $50 for depositions.  The general requirement is that you be a resident of the State of New Hampshire; no minimum age is given, but it is assumed to be at least 18, as for a notary.  The Secretary of State website information is clear and simple, and also includes an online handbook–at least for Notaries.

Please visit our New Hampshire Notary Public Search Results!

You might also like:

What is a Magistrate?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1887

What is a Justice of the Peace?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=103

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April 10, 2012

Can a notary sign on a different day?

Can a notary sign on a different day? 

This is a tricky question and a bit vague if you ask me.  The date of a notarization corresponds to the date that the signer signs the notary journal (according to me).  Some signers will sign for an acknowledged signature a minute, day, week, month, year, or decade before the notarization, and that is legal according to California notary law, and probably in most if not all other states.  For Jurats, the signature must be made while personally appearing before a notary public.  Oaths should ideally have an accompanying journal entry, however, there is no signature on a purely oral Oath (BTW… jurats are used with written statements that have an accompanying oath).
 
So, in all types of notary acts, the signer should ideally sign the notary journal, and the date and time when they sign the journal establishes the notarization date.  Please keep in mind that a signing where the signer signs the document at 11:59pm and signs the notary journal at 12:01am the following day could be dated either day, but I prefer my golden rule of dating the notarization when the journal is signed.
 
The document date can be the date of the notarization or before, but is generally not after.
The signing date for an acknowledged signature can be the date of the acknowledgment or before, but never after
 
So, there are three dates that might concern the notary.  It is a crime to backdate a notary certificate, but putting a previous date in the certificate wording. It is also a crime to post date the date in the certificate wording.
 
So, what does it really mean to ask, “Can a notary sign on a different day?”
 
If the notarization takes place on Monday, where the signer signs the document by Monday, and signs the journal on Monday, can the notary stamp and seal the certificate wording on Tuesday if the notary has possession of the document?  This is not recommended, and is neglegence. However, if the signing was a late night signing on Monday, and you sign and affix your stamp to the document in your possession early Tuesday morning, that is still unacceptable, but sounds less unreasonable than letting it slide 24 or 48 hours!
 
So, the official answer to the above question is — NO!  Sign the certificate within a minute or two of when the journal is signed if humanly possible.

You might also like:

Can you notarize a Birth Certificate?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2300

Can a notary perform a wedding?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1891

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April 8, 2012

Don’t put the Fedex in the drop box!

Please, no drop boxes!

I know a lot of you use drop boxes (Fedex, UPS, etc) to drop your documents. And before you say it, I know some of you have no other options that are close to you. In this case your options are limited. You are forgiven. Maybe you have had issues with this or maybe you haven’t. But, irregardless, it is something to consider, if at all possible please don’t drop your packages in drop boxes. Because, if it goes bad and the documents get lost; and you have no documentation; It can cause you a great amount of grief, stress and aggravation; and  in the end it could cost you a valuable client.

Loan package with a hefty cashier’s check thrown in a drop box

To give you an example, here is one story of several that has been shared with me. I had an Oregon notary just the other day call in to 123notary. From her tone she was obviously very upset. It seems she had completed a signing successfully and had dropped her documents on a Friday in one of those infamous drop boxes of Fedex. It was now Tuesday, and she got that dreaded call: the title company still hadn’t received the package.  I thought to myself, this is going to be bad. When this Oregon notary public and title went to track the package, there was no tracking information available. To make matters even worse there was a substantial amount in a cashier’s check also in the missing package. The assignment that had been given to the Notary in Oregon was for the paperwork that was to be used to purchase the property. So,  now everyone is upset and confused as to what to do.

Get your tracking — people!

Now in my mind, I’m thinking why in the world would you drop a set of documents in a drop box, especially with a large amount in a cashiers check. This to me this is a disaster waiting to happen.  The first thing I let our Oregon notary friend know is that unless absolutely necessary, you should always hand your packages to a driver and ask him to scan them or take them to hub or staffed service center, have them scan them and  get a receipt. This way YOU are off the hook. Which brings me to another point…

Hand fill the shipping labels

PLEASE remember when you are required to hand fill out the shipping labels with the client; title-escrow etc  account numbers you should always list the person that you are shipping to as the recipient and as the shipper. Do NOT use your information at all. This will serve two purposes. One-if the envelope is lost, it will not come to you it will just automatically go to the company that hired you. Two- if the company has not paid their bill you will not get charged for the service. Currently I have about 3 notaries battling with Fedex on this matter (cause they put their name as the shipper)and they are in collection status with them. Be careful! This can cause you a great deal of trouble with UPS, Fedex etc. and worst of all it will effect your credit if you cant straighten it out. You will have to pay it if you cant prove to their satisfaction that, you were hired by a 3rd party.

Now I understand that some of you may not be near a hub or have a location that you can go into to get a scan or receipt near by. But for those of you that do. It is better to safe then sorry. Always try to get a receipt or have driver scan your packages for you. This will protect you. For me, I need to know where my documents are at ALL times.

Now,  unfortunately as of today I haven’t heard back form the notary in this situation so I cant give up an up to date  but I am confident if those documents didn’t turn up everything would have to be redone…and all I can say is what a mess. If and when I hear from her I will let you know….Just remember: No drop boxes if you can help it…

Thank for reading and be safe…until next time!

PS — Jeremy did a signing ten years ago that was put in a drop box.  The documents were missing for a week.  The signing company eventually called Fedex — and you will never guess where the documents were.  They were still down there at the bottom of the drop box, and getting very cold by this point!  The driver who was assigned that drop box had quit and his replacement wasn’t given good instructions as to which drop boxes to pick up from every day!

Tweets:
(1) You could lose a client if you put a FedEx in a drop box on the off chance it never gets picked up.
(2) Sooner or later, the FedEx you put in a drop box won’t get picked up. Be safe & take it to a hub!
(3) If you put a FedEx containing a cashier’s check in a drop box, that is a recipe for disaster!
(4) Once I put a FedEx in the drop box that never got delivered. FedEx found it a week later still in the box!

You might also like:

Are you a man or a mouse? – a story about Fedex drivers and how they knock!

What tasks can you do which are worth $1000 per minute?

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April 5, 2012

Your purpose is NOT to notarize?

You DON’T go to Notarize

Many notaries have lost sight of their primary responsibility, and feel it is their primary mission to go to the assignment to notarize the signatures. This is not the case. The primary mission is to determine if the documents / IDs – qualify for notarization. Only then can the client’s desires be accommodated.

A recent situation that I experienced will illustrate. And, as you will see the affiant DID have “Government issued Photo ID” but did NOT qualify for notarization. In the example that follows, for privacy purposes; the last name has been changed.

I receive a “piggyback” assignment from a very reputable Title Settlement company to process a very high dollar refinance. They stressed that the client appointment was difficult to arrange and that they were willing to pay a higher than usual rate for very careful processing of a large number of documents. In other words: It had to be done right the first time. I had requested a borrower contact number, but was asked to NOT call; just arrive on schedule.

When I received the appointment confirmation the names of the borrowers were Susan and Moe Rice. I immediately replied that Moe was more commonly used as a “nickname” and they should verify that indeed was the true borrower first name. I received no response other than an immediate pre-payment of the full amount to my PayPal account.

The document set was truly huge, over 500 pages (counting the borrower copy), and required many notarizations. It arrived barely in time to print and dash to the signing location. Still literally hot from the LaserJet printer, copies in hand – off I went with 2.5 hours allocated to process.

On location, after greetings; I requested the borrowers IDs. Hers was fine, his was a showstopper! The docs had “Moe” but his NY driver license had “Mortimer”. “Mr. Rice” I asked, “What is your legal name”. He replied that “that is a complex issue”. He said that his birth name is not translatable into English. Further discussion revealed that his legal name (at least in the US), came from his Naturalization document, and that Mortimer Rice was also on his passport. He offered me several other New York issued IDs, with photo, that had the name “Moe Rice” on them. I again asked him what was his legal name. He replied “Mortimer Rice” but prefers to use “Moe Rice” and that virtually all of his dealings are in the “Moe” name. He did have a prior driver license in the “Moe” name; however as it did not have his true legal name (per his statement) I could not accept it.

The documents all had “Moe Rice” everywhere. I thought about the “Name Affidavit” but that requires me to notarize “Moe Rice” and enter “Mortimer Rice” as an AKA – the reverse of the Name Affidavit function. Furthermore the existing Name Affidavit would have required me to notarize “Moe Rice” and, of course; that not being his stated legal name, is impossible.

I took a picture of his New York State Driver License “Mortimer Rice” and sent it to the Settlement Company explaining that I had no option but to adjourn the session. In email correspondence with Settlement; they determined that a legal procedure will be necessary to change his Title. The first thought was having me notarize a Quit Claim Deed, but I pointed out that I would have to notarize the seller “Moe Rice” to transfer the property to “Mortimer Rice” – also impossible.

You might also like:

New York Notary Public Search Results

Power of Attorney at a nursing home

Two notaries assigned the same job?

Illegal notarizations due to bad identification

When not to notarize

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