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August 23, 2017

Letter to the NNA about Notary Testing

Filed under: Popular on Linked In,Popular Overall,Social Media — admin @ 12:10 am

Dear NNA,
It has come to my attention that the focus that both of our organizations have put on loan document knowledge seems to be a somewhat wasted focus for two reasons. First, the people we both have certified don’t know their loan documents that well. Second, Notaries tend to know their loan documents better than they know their Notary procedures.

When we get complaints about our Notaries, the complaints are normally that a Notary was rude, left someone high and dry after a botched signing not returning emails or calls, or that the notary made a Notary mistake (more common with beginners) or did not follow directions.

To certify someone as a loan signer who cannot function as a Notary is a mistake we have both made. I can show you many examples of individuals who have an intimate and flawless understanding of loan documents who cannot answer basic Notary questions.

For example, if you called your members up one by one and asked them the difference between an Acknowledgment and a Jurat two things would happen. First, they would be offended that you called them and second, 90% would not give a thorough or correct answer according to my findings.

Notary knowledge trumps loan signing knowledge as the most common errors that happen at a loan signing are notary errors. Notaries commonly stamp where they see the word “seal” whether there is notarial wording or not. Notaries stamp over wording. Many Notaries decline legal requests for foreign language notarizations in California. The most common misunderstanding is that in 44 states, an Acknowledged signature can be signed prior to appearing before the Notary Public. There are many other issues as well.

The main point of this letter is to let you know that we are testing people on the wrong things. We need to know if someone is a good Notary and if they have a good attitude first. If they don’t know the difference between an Occupancy Affidavit and a Compliance Agreement, that will probably not come back to haunt anyone. But, if you identify someone incorrectly and notarize someone with an ID that says John Smith as John W Smith simply becuase you are “supposed to” have the person sign as their named is typed in the document, you could end up in court on an identity theft case for months without pay, and possibly be named as a defendent in addition to merely being a witness.

Last but not least, journal thumbprints are a hot topic of debate among myself and the Notaries. Many Notaries are being discouraged from taking thumbprints simply because it seems invasive or offensive to some Notary customers. However, the thumbprint has been the one piece of information that has helped the FBI nail some really scary ponzi schemers and identity thiefs. Not all states require journal thumbprints yet, but people who lead Notary organizations should do more to encourage people to take thumbprints as a measure to protect society from frauds.

Thumbprinting should be encouraged by scaring Notaries into realizing that without a thumbprint, they might be in court for a very long time, or named as a defendent and conspirator in an identity theft ring. Unlikely or not, the truth is that the FBI does treat Notaries like suspects as a matter of practice whenever anything goes wrong that requires their attention. Keeping good records is a way to wrap up situations quickly and without being blamed as a shoddy record keeper.

So, let’s both invest more in testing Notaries better on what really matters which is the fact that Notary knowledge takes precident over loan signing knowledge, and that following directions, getting back to people and being nice in the face of adversity are the most important things! Knowing the details of the Correction Agreement is actually the least important thing to know. According to lenders I know, the POA is the only document in a loan package which they stress that I test people on!

Thanks for your support, and I recommend your Notary educational products to all although I am out of touch with what the current names for your courses are as I studied from you in 1997. I think the Notary Essentials is what people have mentioned they were studying.


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  1. A few thoughts on your letter:

    As a matter of policy, I get a thumbprint from every person I notarize. It’s safer for all involved.

    I feel like your letter may have missed a few things. There is no replacement for experience. Just because you pass a test or two (easy ones at that) does not mean you will be a good signing agent or notary. Other important skills are needed as well. You need to be prompt, courteous, focused, self motivated, have planning skills, have people skills, experience, there are many others.

    It seems like most of the signing agencies hire the cheapest notaries they can find, often times keeping 60-75% of the signing fee for their “overhead”. I hate to tell you this but you get what you pay for. AKA garbage in = garbage out. If they paid more they would attract better quality notaries.

    I have been a self employed signing agent for more than 15 years. I am very good at what I do. In the early days of my career I worked with one signing agency to gain experience. Thankfully, they paid significantly better than most others. Over the years I enjoyed the relationship. There was loyalty and mutual respect. Many signing agencies give very little respect or loyalty to the notaries they use, often times treating them like commodities. I get many calls from agencies and I politely decline all of them because I don’t want to be treated like a commodity.

    In the last ten years I have shifted away from residential mortgage signings and have carved out a niche in commercial loan signings. It works well for me. I have all the business I want because I am good at what I do. Commercial clients want the best and are wiling to pay for it.

    My two cents worth.

    Comment by David B — September 24, 2017 @ 12:06 am

  2. Having taken the NNA test, many of the questions does not pertain to all states. Many questions are hard to understand and none of the 4 options don’t seem to apply. They never tell you which is the correct answer if you get it wrong. I have been a notary signing agent for 14 years and the last time I took the test it took several tries to pass. I also thought some of the answers they marked as correct, I thought were wrong. I don’t think person at the NNA that compiles the test is a signing agent. I have never been a fan of the NNA and feel they are greedy and only in it for the money they can scam from hard working notaries.

    Comment by Chris Quednau — September 24, 2017 @ 1:20 am

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