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November 11, 2011

Notary Journal Thumbprints – they can save your neck!

Notary Journal Thumbprints
 
How adamant are you about taking journal thumbprints?  As a California notary public, you are required to take notary journal thumbprints for deeds effecting real property and power of attorney documents.  Notary thumbprint taking is a serious business and can keep you out of court.
 
Taking precautions as a notary
I have written other blog posts about precautions that notaries can take.  Notaries can use an inkless embosser in addition to an inked seal.  They can emboss every page of every document they ever notarize as a precaution against page switching which is a common crime that takes place after multi-page documents have been notarized. Taking a precaution of taking journal thumbprints is smart also, and can keep you out of court.
 
Suspicion of identity fraud
Let’s say that you notarized a signature on a document and that someone involved in the transaction suspects identity fraud.  The first thing they will do is to track down the notary who notarized the signature on the document and start asking questions about the signer. You will not remember the signer well, unless you took notes in your journal about what they looked like, how they acted, how old they were, etc.  But, if you have a thumbprint, that is absolute proof of the signer’s identity.  No two thumbprints are identical, and you can’t fake a thumbprint (forge a thumbprint) in front of a notary.
 
The investigation ended once I produced a thumbprint
If someone questions you about a particular notarization, and you say you have a journal thumbprint, the investigation might just end right there.  It happened to me as a California notary public during my first four year term. I saved myself from a potentially long visit to court.  I got a phone call from someone investigating fraud.  Someone had cheated some elderly people whom I had notarized.  One of the documents used to allegedly cheat them had been notarized by myself in my capacity as a California notary public. Since I had a journal thumbprint, the identity of the signers was no longer in question.  The person said they had no further questions the minute I told them I had a thumbprint. They didn’t even want a copy of the journal entry with the thumbprint.
 
Weak thumbprints with the elderly
The flaw of thumbprints are that elderly people often lose the tread on their fingers.  I am talking about really old people, perhaps in their eighties or nineties.  There is nothing you can do in that case, but at least you have a print, no matter how featureless it is. Personally, with signers over eighty, I recommend a retinal scan, which is not possible for a notary to take in 2011, but maybe in 2015… we can always hope.
 
Regardless of your state of commission
Whether you are a Florida notary public, a California notary, or notary in another state, if you are notarizing signatures on a power of attorney or real estate deeds, get a journal thumbprint whether it is required by law or not. That thumbprint could save your neck.  It is not a bad idea to require signers to give thumbprints for all documents and even oaths or affirmations.  It keeps them honest.  The minute they start making excuses why they shouldn’t have to be thumbprinted, that is suspicious behavior, and you might want to refuse service to them.
 
Bring wipes!
Don’t forget to bring wet naps or wipes of some sort.  It is polite to have something for the signer to wipe their hands off with.  Even with the NNA’s inkless thumbprinter which is a product I always had several backups in stock of, you should offer a wipe.  I strongly recommend having at least one inkless thumbprinter in your notary carry all bag!

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2 Comments »

  1. I really find it very useful. I get the photo of the person during the signature after I have ritten that he/ she accepts it. I think thumbprints are to consider because I use thumbprints only during the signing of a will and thats it.

    Comment by Edlira — April 8, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

  2. “The minute they start making excuses why they shouldn’t have to be thumbprinted, that is suspicious behavior, and you might want to refuse service to them.”

    That’s nonsense, refusal to be fingerprinted in no way represents suspicious behavior, since there are numerous valid reasons to wish to not be fingerprinted. First and foremost: PRIVACY.

    Furthermore, in fact it is illegal to refuse service if a person does not wish to be fingerprinted, and you open yourself up to greater liabilities if something goes awry because you refused service due to not fingerprinting.

    Think this through a bit more and think about people’s right to privacy, which includes not fingerprinting every innocent person in the country for spurious reasons.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 1, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

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