Fraud and Forgery in the notary business
There are many types of fraud that a notary might run into in their notarial career, forgery being one of the more common types of fraud. But, let’s take a closer look at what specific types of things could happen.
(1) Someone could forge your seal and pretend to be you. It happened to me. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t forge my signature very well, and didn’t copy my style of embossing every page either. Putting technicalities aside, I bet they were not able to forge my quirky sense of humor. Notary seal forgery is not common. In my case, I think they used a really good photocopier. BTW, a photocopier can NOT copy the RAISED impression of an inkless embosser which is why I used it.
(2) Page swapping — the old bait and switch routine. I got called to notarize many multi-page documents. I put my embossing seal through all of the pages leaving a raised impression on each page. I usually did these individually. Sometimes it is better to do all pages together so the seal goes through the same location in each page. However, the seal comes out more clearly if you go page by page. In any case, if you see a ten page document where all of the pages EXCEPT for page four are embossed, that would raise my eyebrows. I have had many situations, where the signer wants me to give them another acknowledgment certificate for a new page they are adding to the document. I tell them that I have to notarize their signature ALL OVER AGAIN, and that is the law no matter how many times you say, “Oh, come on”. With that attitude you might as well notarize your own signature as a non-notary!
(3) Title companies have a common practice of initialing for the borrower if they miss an initial. It is “easier” than sending the documents back to the borrower. Whether it is signature forgery to forge initials is a matter for an attorney to decide, but it seems pretty illegal to me to engage in initial forgery. I don’t think that anyone audits loan documents to see if anyone is engaging in initial forgery, but perhaps they should — many Title companies might get busted or investigated at a minimum.
(4) Refusal to be thumbprinted? You must be up to something if you don’t want your thumbprint recorded. Maybe you have a fake identification card, right? You can fake an ID, but you can not fake a thumbprint.
(5) Signature forgery. If someone forged a signature on a document, they will have to have a fake ID and forge the same signature on the ID and in your journal. It would be a tough crime to pull off. I think that nobody in their right mind would attempt this. Normally, people try to do crimes of fraud in private, and wouldn’t be willing to let other parties see what they are doing, no matter what!
(6) Notarizing out of state? If you don’t have a commission in a particular state, you can not notarize there, with a few exceptions. Military notaries have special rules. A Virginia notary public may notarize out of the state of Virginia, but only for documents that are to be recorded within the state of Virginia. In any case, from time to time we will hear rumors that a notary public is operating illegally in a bordering state where they are not commissioned, and people want us to enforce the rule. I tell them to report the individual to the state notary division that is applicable.
(7) Charging more than the state maximum notary fees is illegal, and charging more travel fee than your state allows (roughly eight states have restrictions for travel fees) can get you in trouble too.
(8) Filling out an Acknowledgment or Jurat form when you never saw the signer and never had the signer sign your journal is a really serious act of notarial misconduct. You can lose your commission and get fined or jailed for this.
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