We really want all of our notaries on the site to pass our certification test. So far, roughly 1700 people out of 7000 on 123notary (March 2013) are certified or elite certified by 123notary.com. The others are not, and they are not interesting in paying for any study guide or tests. So, my solution is to offer something more basic that is FREE.
We will have an online test eventually for minimum competency. In the short run, we will do an over the phone test. We don’t even have the programming for an icon for the minimum competency, but we will have one soon. In the future, we will set a requirement for how soon you have to pass our MC test to stay on the site. But, for now, there is no rule — only FREE study materials.
Here are the topics we are including in this test:
(1) Confirming the signing & confirming identification
Many signing companies do not want the notary to confirm the appointment. However, if you don’t, then the borrowers might not be ready for you when you come. If you have a busy night of signings, you can not afford to be kept waiting. Additionally, if a non-borrowing spouse is on three or four of the documents (which is typical), you need to make sure that they are there, or else you might not get paid. Be careful of companies that don’t want you to confirm unless they have a spotless payment record with you and on 123notary.com/s (i-phone accessible list of signing companies with reviews).
When confirming a signing, introduce yourself and let them know that you are the notary. Let them know what time you are going to see them, what their NAMES are on the documents, and WHO is required to show up.
Notary: Hi, my name is Charles Notarinsky, and I will be your notary public this evening. I will be showing up at 6pm. Peter J Selinsky, and Jane Doe will be signing documents this evening. Will both Peter and Jane be able to be at the signing at 6pm? Additionally, may I ask if Peter’s identification has his name typed exactly as Peter J Selinsky with the middle initial J, or a middle name starting with the letter J?
Borrower: Why do you care?
Notary: Legally, I will not be able to notarize Peter’s signature if there is no middle initial or middle name beginning with a J in his identification document. Additionally, I need to make sure that both signers have CURRENT government issued photo-ID.
Borrower: Oh, I didn’t realize that. Hmmm, let’s see. Yes, my ID is a current California Driver’s license expiring in 2017 and has the name Peter John Selinsky. It looks like we are in business. Jane’s license also has her name as Jane R Doe which is longer than the variation on the document. That is okay, right?
Notary: Longer on the ID works — shorter doesn’t. We are in business. See you at 6pm, and in the mean time — cross your eyes and dot your tees. See you soon.
Note: Some states will allow an expired ID if it was ISSUED within a specified number of years.
(2) What to say and what not to say
(a) Once assigned a signing, proceed to the signing at the appointed time.
(b) Don’t park in the driveway as that is considered rude — unless you have permission to do so. Don’t ask permission to park in the driveway unless there is a problem parking on the street. If the borrower has a one mile driveway that goes up a steep hill, or lives in a condo complex with assigned parking — ask for help.
(c) Don’t call the borrower a customer or client. The Title company is the end-user here hiring the signing company that hired you. You are the notary signing agent and they are the BORROWER.
(d) Answer the phone stating your name. Don’t say, “Hullo” and keep people guessing as to your identity. First of all it makes them ask who you are which is an unnecessary and aggravating extra step. Second, it is not professional. Third, they might confuse you with your daughter and start explaining the loan process to your daughter.
(e) Don’t let other people answer your business line. If your daughter uses the same line, then she must introduce herself when answering the phone.
(f) Don’t have background noise when answering the phone, and if there is noise, then apologize for the noise and move to a quieter location.
(g) Don’t answer the phone only to tell someone that now is a bad time to talk. If now is a bad time, then don’t answer the phone. If you answer the phone, give people at least 90 seconds of your time out of courtesy.
(h) Think twice before answering your phone at a signing. If you don’t, then you might miss the opportunity for your next job. If you do, then you will be being rude. Weight the factors before you answer your line.
(i) Tell the borrowers at the BEGINNING how long you can stay. Tell them that this is a signing appointment, and that if they need to read everything in detail, that they are welcome to read after the signing, and that they have (3) days to rescind if they don’t like what they read.
(j) This is a business meeting, so don’t talk about politics or religion as that might offend people. Even talking about the weather is off-topic. Your job is to get in, sign the documents, and get out to your nearest Fedex station as soon as possible.
(k) No drinks on the table — ever
(3) Signing as printed
Borrowers must sign their name exactly as printed — unless the lender or your contact person specifies otherwise.
If the name on the document doesn’t match the identification, then legally you can not notarize them under that typed name. In such a situation, consider using the Signature Affidavit to document the other names the person goes by and signing as the identification reads. In this situation you have a choice between satisfying the LOAN OFFICER, or your state’s Secretary of State. The lender can not put you in jail, but the latter party can. The law takes priority in this case.
If the signer’s name is James J Johnson, then they sign James J Johnson, and the middle initial J should ideally show up clearly. Otherwise the lender will have trouble selling the loan to a third party. Please take this into consideration as most loans are sold.
(4) When to call the Loan Officer, Title or Signing Company
If the borrower has any SPECIFIC questions about their loan, call the Loan Officer or whomever you have been instructed to call. If your appointment is under time pressure because you have to go to your next appointment, let all parties concerned know that you have to leave at 8pm whether their documents are signed or not. If you are knowledgeable enough to answer general types of questions about documents, you might consider answering them yourself unless your state has a law against notaries opening their mouth such as in Attorney states.
If the your contact person(s) is/are not there, then leave a message and wait 20 minutes for a return call. If you don’t get a call back, then leave another message and wait another 5 minutes before you give up.
(5) Your job is not to coerce
If a borrower doesn’t want to sign something, call the lender or your contact person. If you left a message and they don’t call back, don’t take matters into your own hands until after you called twice leaving the appropriate amount of waiting time between both calls. If you don’t hear back after the second waiting time, then explain how the borrower has three days to rescind and that they can talk to their lender during those three days to have the situation explained to them. Additionally, explain that their loan might not fund if they don’t sign.
(6) Reading instructions
Many loans come with an instructions sheet called a letter of instructions. Read that before doing anything. Take note about oral instructions too. Each lender has their own rules. It is your job to follow the rules. Some lenders want you to call them about any little thing. Others allow cross outs. A few don’t want you to confirm the signing. Many want you to break the law. Don’t break the law — but follow all legal instructions. By the way, if you don’t know your state’s law, then you won’t know if you are breaking it, and you can end up in court or jail very easily. Know the law!
(7) Following instructions
A lender named Chad assigns the notary a signing. Chad says that if there is any problem, to call him at 333-333-3333 immediately, otherwise you are fired. The notary goes to a signing for Joe. Joe gets half way through the stack and finds that he doesn’t like the XYZ document which is not notarized. Joe says that he refuses to sign. The notary calls the lender and gets, “Hi, this is Chad, I’m not here right now…”
Q. What is the next thing that the notary should do?
A. Leave a message and wait for a response. In the mean time, don’t twist the borrower’s arm into signing.
(8) Listening and answering questions
I ask notaries questions, and it is like pulling teeth to get responses.
Q. How many loans have you signed?
A. I have been signing loans for three years… actually, three and a half years.
Q. I think you didn’t understand the question. How many loans have you signed?
A. Oh, well, I do about five loans per week.
Q. I think we are having a communication gap, how many loans have you signed in your career?
A. Hmmm, I never thought about that.
This is an easy question, where the notary is really testing the signing company’s patience.
Q. What are your hours of operation?
A. Well, I’m flexible
Q. I’m sorry, but that is not an answer. I don’t know what flexible means. Please tell me what hours you are available to work.
A. Well, I start at 8am.
Q. Thanks for the starting time, without an ending time, I don’t know when you can work until, and this is incomplete information
A. Well, it depends.
Q. You are not being helpful. Please just tell me what hours you are generally available for signing work.
A. Hmmm, I guess from 8am until 10pm, unless my daughter is staying late for softball practice in which case only until 9:30pm, and then if I’m feeling tired then perhaps 8:45 pm, but then I am rarely tired, and then…
Q. I’m sorry, but I am filling in a form that has room for numbers — not stories. Do you have an ending time? If not, then I have to remove you from my list permanently.
A. Just put 8am to 8pm.
Q. Wouldn’t it have been easier for both of us if you had just started out saying 8 to 8? It was like pulling teeth to get a simple answer from you.
Many notaries cannot answer simple questions. If they are this incompetent about answering simple questions, how will they handle complicated snags in a signing? Will they do something that endangers the loan out of stupidity? I think we all know the answer to that question.
Q. How would you explain the APR to a non-borrowing spouse?
A. Hmmm, well in my state, the non-borrowering spouse is not responsible for signing the documents, except for the …. (long explanation)
Unfortunately, this notary is anwering a DIFFERENT question than the one asked. They will most likely get fired even though they are very knowledgeable. Signing companies need notaries who follow instructions and answer questions — preferably the same question that was asked.
(9) The RTC
For a non-investment refinance, the borrower has (3) days not including Sundays and Federal holidays to cancel their loan. The day of the signing is NOT included in counting the days. If you sign on a Saturday, then Monday is day one, Tuesday is day two, and Wednesday at 11:59pm is the deadline for cancelling the loan in writing by the acceptable stated methods (stated in the Right to Cancel document). Sometimes the notary is expected to write in the dates, or change the dates in the Right to Cancel. If you make a mistake you could ruin someone’s loan. Learn how to count the three days, and memorize your Federal holidays in sequential order. Also, some lenders do not allow CROSS OUTS in the right to cancel, so make sure you know what you are allowed to do or not allowed to do.
If the borrower signs where it says, “I wish to rescind”, then don’t cross out, just grab a borrower copy and start all over. WATCH signers, as they seem to sign in the wrong place a lot these days.
(10) Journal entries
Not all states require journals. However, your journal is your only evidence if you should ever have to go to court. Keep a THUMBPRINT of the signers in your journal just in case anyone suspects fraud. A thumbprint is the most potent piece of evidence about the identity of the signer. Keep in mind that identification documents can be forged. Additionally, women change their hairstyle a lot, so you might not be able to recognize them in their ID photo. Some states require journal thumbprints for documents effecting real property and powers of attorney. Since the notary’s primary job is to identify signers, why not use the most effective means of identification as a supplement to the identification? It is fast and easy and could keep you out of court!
Q. If two signers are signing three documents each, how many journal entries do you need?
A. A separate journal entry for each document per person, which equals SIX journal entries. Each entry needs to be completely documented and signed by the signer.
Please record any unusual circumstances of the signing in your journal if there is any blank space. Sometimes there is an additional notes section. That will be your evidence in court. So, write that information with the intention of understanding what you were talking about when you read it five years after the fact. Your memory will fade, so be as thorough as possible and include all details that will job your memory.
(11) Smudgy seals
New notaries don’t understand that certain documents get recorded with the county recorder. Each individual at each of the USA’s different county recorder offices has different standards. They have the right to be very picky if they like. They might not like cross outs, light seal impressions, seal impressions with missing corners, or smudgy seals. Be careful when you are notarizing a recorded document. If you smudge your seal, you can use a loose certificate, and attach it to the corresponding document. The lender might not like that, but the law likes that and recorders will not complain about that.
Deeds, Mortgages, Subordination Agreements, and documents with the term Lien are likely to be recorded in addition to some Powers of Attorney.
(12) Cross outs (Acknowledgments)
If there is wrong information on an Acknowledgment certificate, what do you do? Out of state wording that is not acceptable in your home state? Wrong information in the Venue such as a wrong county? What if the form says that two signers are showing up, but only one actually shows up? Should you cross out or attach a loose certificate? You can notarize a document twice if you have two journal entries in case you want to do both. If you add a loose certificate, make sure you LABEL the additional information section completely. A fraud could reattach your certificate to a DIFFERENT document signed by the same signer if you don’t document the name of the document, number of pages, document date, and any other information that your loose certificate might indicate.
(13) Don’t leave unsigned paperwork with the borrowers
If the borrower won’t sign one or more papers, then load it up into the outgoing Fedex. The borrower’s copies are for the borrowers, not the lender copies.
(14) Confirmation of completion
Confirming the signing before the signing
Just say, “Hi this is Frank, I completed the signing for the Mazzingos at 14 Cherry Lane, Twingsboro, MA. The Fedex tracking number is 3333-3333-3333, I repeat, the Fedex tracking number is 3333-3333-3333. Call me if you have any issues.
(15) Don’t backdate
If asked to put a date on a notarization different from the date you went out — that is illegal — just say no!
(16) Never use white out
(17) Fedexing the documents
As documents are time sensitive, get them in the Fedex drop box as soon as you can (or drop box of whatever courier you are using). If you need to hear back from your contact person concerning a signing, don’t delay getting the documents back while you wait, as you might endanger the lender from getting things processed before the deadline. If you wait until the next morning to send it back because you are waiting for the signing company to call you, you might get busy the next day, and forget to put the Fedex in the drop box. You might miss the deadline, the documents would get back late. The borrower could even lose their lock in the worst scenario and sue you for $20,000. Don’t play games with time sensitivity.
Also, use a drop box at a Fedex hub, or manned station. Drop boxes in remote areas are not always picked up on schedule, and you will be in big trouble if they are not picked up. Know your local stations by memory so you know where to go, and don’t procrastinate. Get the documents in the box the night of the signing. Don’t wait until the next day unless you are forced to.
(18) Don’t send loose certificates in the mail
Lenders are notorious about asking notaries to send loose certificates in the mail. That is illegal and can be used for fraud. If asked to do this, just ask for them to get the original document back to you with the original certificate. Then, destroy the original certificate and attach a new one. You do not need to see the signer again, just as long as there is only ONE well documented certificate floating around — attached to the document in question. Make sure to label the certificate with the document name, document date, number of pages, and any other identifying information you can think of to prevent the reattachment of that certificate to some OTHER document which would be frauduluent.
(19) Additional visits
You might be asked to make an additional visit to a borrower. Make sure that the company who hires you has a good payment record. You are much LESS likely to get paid for a second visit than you are for a regular signing as it might not be in the company’s budget. Be careful. On the other hand, companies will be very unlikely to use you in the future if you don’t make 2nd visits upon request — so also be careful.
(20) The 48 hour rule
Notaries need to be available by email and phone within 48 hours after the signing. If the signing company or lender needs to talk to you, and they can’t reach you, they will write a complaint on your listing on 123notary and that will stay there permanently. They might need you to go back to the borrowers, or they might need to clarify something with you.