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April 23, 2012

Sending loose certificates is illegal

Sending loose certificates is illegal! 

People who work at Title companies are notorious for breaking the law in so many ways.  Here are some common types of fraud that happen at Title companies daily:
(1) Many will deliberately and shamelessly forge initials when the borrower forgets to initial.  I’m not sure how bad of a crime this is, but I recommend against any type of forgery — no matter what! 
(2) Most will unstaple documents that have been stapled which makes the completed certificate which is attached (a legal requirement), no longer attached (illegal) and hence a loose certificate (gulp). I have had multiple Title companies complain to me that they didn’t like the industrial staples I used since they were so hard to unstaple.  They don’t have a legal right to unstaple those notarized documents because the certificate must stay attached.  Part of the problem with unattaching certificates, is that they could get reattached to some OTHER document creating confusion, havoc, and hence having a document notarized without having it presented to a notary public and going through the procedure and journal entry.
(3) Many will ask a notary to send them a loose certificate if a document needs to be notarized again for some reason. Sometimes the seal was smudgy, or perhaps they needed to replace the document and get a new certificate for the new document with a new date.  If you are a “loose notary” who has a loose interpretation of notary law in your state, you might be breaking the law!
 
It all starts out with a pad of loose certificates!
You start out with our pad of loose acknowledgment certificates and jurat certificates.  Any serious notary will have this type of pad on hand as if their life depends on it.  Sure, the certificates are loose now, but that is okay, since they haven’t been filled out or stamped yet!  When you notarize a signature(s) on a document(s), you have the signer(s) signer the instrument, and then you have them sign your official journal of notarial acts.  Then, you fill out the certificate wording embedded in the document, or if that boiler plate wording isn’t there, you can add a certificate form which has the identical, or hopefully very similar boiler plate wording.  You fill out the form, cross you s’s, and dot your t’s, etc.  The minute you sign the certificate, and affix your official notary seal, then you may NOT let that certificate out of your site until it is ATTACHED to the corresponding document. It is illegal to unattach a certificate from a document, and very unkosher to unattach the staple for a notarized multipage document. What are your intentions?  Are you going to swap pages after the fact?  I can smell fraud a mile away!
 
What should you the notary do when asked to send a loose certificate?
It’s easy.  Someone at a Title company says they need a new Jurat certificate for the Affidavit of Domicile you notarized for them a week ago otherwise their loan won’t go through (pressure technique).  They want you to mail the loose certificate to them!  Tell them:
 
“No problem, just send me the document and the original certificate — I’ll shred the old certificate and add a new one… You can not have two certificates for the same document. The signer already signed the journal for this particular transaction and doesn’t need to sign it again for a certificate which is to be dated the same date they signed the journal.”
 
And they will say:

“Oh, come on, why does this have to be so difficult. That takes extra time and money.  Why can’t you just (break the law) and send us what we want (and risk your commission and risk being sent to jail or being fined perhaps more than $1000) for our convenience?”
 
And then you should say:

“If you need notaries to routinely break the law for your pleasure, you should ask your notaries some prescreening questions.  Ask them if they are willing to break the law on a whim (your whim) and risk their commission and perhaps some jail time for your convenience. Ask them if they mind risking going to jail to save you from having to wait an additional 24 hours for a loose certificate… if they say ‘sure’, then they are the notary for you!”
 
My concluding advice
Don’t break the law for these rascals. They are not worth it.  You probably won’t get in trouble, but as a notary public, your position in society is to preserve integrity, and to safeguard transactions by making sure that the signer really signed the corresponding document in question.  If certificates get switched on documents due to fraud, or because you didn’t identify the document carefully enough on the certificate, then you are a liability to society and shoudn’t be a notary public. 
 
As a notary, you should be very sensitive to the fact that if you are notarizing multiple documents for a particular signer, those documents could get mixed up, and the signer could pull a fast one and reattach notary certificates from a document you really did notarize, to another similarly named document that you did not notarize. 
 
Multipage documents can be taken apart and pages switched.  Title companies ROUTINELY take apart documents as a matter of standard procedure, and if you don’t emboss every page of everything you notarize, it would be easy for someone to replace page 5 with another similar looking page 5.  Assume that people are dishonest and shady, so that you can protect the virtue and integrity of your work. Document everything to a tee, and don’t give in to pressure to do illegal notary acts even if it means losing a client. You don’t want that client anyway in the long run — trust me!

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