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August 30, 2016

Self Notarization Landmine

Self Notarization Landmine

I’m referring to the form where you are the only person signing. Ignoring the fact that the form asks you to notarize your own statement, what it says can haunt you later. Yes, I know; you feel the statements are the absolute truth. What harm can it do? It’s not a filed document, nobody will ever see it *except* when it’s not truthful. Then can land on you like a ton of lawsuits.

Typically it has a venue, a statement (more on that later), and a place for Notary Public signature, stamp and commission number / expiration date. Sure seems like a “notary” act. But, as I said; let’s just ignore the illegality and get to the possible later grief.

I, the above described Notary Public, hereby certify that I have checked the identification of those parties who have signed before me and I have attached copies of their driver’s license(s) or other picture identification. I have verified them to be the same parties as those described in the instructions acknowledged by me. Witness my hand and official seal ……………

Lawyers love ambiguous verbiage. Here the two key words are “checked” and “verified”. Really? Just how did you do that? Are you trained in spotting a forgery? I’m not referring to a mess made on a copier. The “bad ones” just Google “fake driver license from china” and order from the site that rhymes with snowflake. I looked at their site – it scared me. For about a hundred dollars one can get a VERY good fake driver license from any state. Perhaps a police officer with real time access to police information can determine the serial number is not appropriate for the issue date or the birthdate on the document. But can you? I certainly cannot.

Thus, how can I make a statement that I certify and verify the identities? I know that is what notaries do – “check ID” – but there is a limit to our ability to detect forgeries. Some states have a specific “proof” list – the only items that can be used by the notary. Here in NY, it’s a bit fuzzy, the law requires the notary view “adequate proof” – seemingly a lower standard than verified.

I have followed articles and reviews of the “snowflake” – they have the technology to fool anybody who does not have police type access to driver license databases. It would easily pass my visual inspection. There are forgery detection manuals that go over “hidden” aspects of the various state issued licenses. I’m sure “snowflake” has a copy!

So, there is a good chance that, over the years; I have notarized by accepting a forgery. To me it was “adequate proof”; to you it was on “the list”. So where are we now? Well, I feel I followed my states laws, and so did you. The real issue is making a statement often entitled “Positive Proof Identification and Notary Signature Affidavit” that goes beyond my state requirements.

Recall the Miranda warning “anything you say can a will be used against you in a court of law”. The same admonition must apply even more strongly to things that you sign and “notarize”. I just return these forms untouched, with the exception of attaching a business card.

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2 Comments »

  1. I have always wondered about these forms that are usually attached to a refi package where I notarize my own signature. How can anything be legal when you notarize your own signature?

    Comment by Faye — September 13, 2016 @ 6:28 pm

  2. I wonder if the fact that appearing to notarize ones own statement is helpful to an enemy attorney when the notary is dragged into some litigation. It is not legal – so I don’t do it. Take a screen image of where your jurisdiction prohibits “self notary” and just staple that to the form – that’s what I do.

    Comment by Kenneth Edelstein — September 18, 2016 @ 12:59 am

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