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October 13, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Identification

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As a Notary Public, the most important thing you do is to identify a signer. Different states have different rules for what identification document you can use and how someone is to be identified. If a Notary fails to do a good job identifying a signer, that Notary can quickly end up in court as a witness or defendant. In my opinion if you don’t do a good job identifying signers, you might as well not be a Notary Public.

Identification Documents & Characteristics
Commonly accepted ID’s include passports, driver’s licenses, state issued ID cards, military ID’s. Green cards (permanent resident cards) are not necessarily allowed, so look that one up in your handbook. As a rule, an acceptable ID must be:

Current — (there are exceptions in California, Tennessee and perhaps other states that allow the ID to be issued within five years even if it is expired.)

Government Issued — Some Notaries think that a signature affidavit or gas bill is a good secondary form of ID, but those are not government issued and you don’t know what the source of the information for the names on them are.

Photo ID — An acceptable ID should have a photo. I do not think that many states allow social security cards as secondary identifications. However, you can look that up in your handbook.

Physical Description — the ID would say your height, eye color, etc.

Serial Number — the ID should have a number such as A58362D.

Expiration Date — the ID should have an expiration date somewhere. Normally there is an issue date as well somewhere.

Signature — the signature on the ID is important because you will need to compare that to the one in your journal and on the document made by the same person.



Different states have different rules for what the name on the ID should say relative to the name on the document. Some states do not require the names to match. Others require that the Notary be reasonably sure that the person in the ID and the person on the document are the same person. Reasonably sure is a wishy-washy term. You can never be 100% sure it is the same person because ID’s can be falsified and there could be multiple people with the same name as well as multiple people who look similar to each other. Identifying humans is easier than identifying squirrels, but there can still be confusion. The name on the document’s signature must be provable to the name on the ID, otherwise it would be questionable and risky to notarize that signature.



When you do a Notary act, you ask for the signer’s identification. You record that information in your journal and you keep a journal whether your state requires it or not as that is your only evidence in court. You compare the name on the ID to the name on the document. If the name on the document is not provable based on the ID then you are advised to decline the notarization, especially if it is for a Deed. Here is a summary of the ID and acknowledgment notarization process.

(1) Ask for ID.
(2) Record ID information in journal
(3) Have signer(s) sign your journal and the document(s)
(4) Compare the name in the document to the name on the ID. Make sure the name on the document is provable based on the ID.
(5) Make sure the signature in the journal, document and ID all match.
(6) Fill out the certificate, sign and seal.

Examples of provability in ID
ID says John Smith — document says John W Smith…. name is NOT provable.
ID says John W Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable
ID says John William Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable based on the ID.



Keep an eye out for fake ID’s. There are guide books that can yelp you identify a false identification. If there is peeling lamination or the signature is above the lamination then it is fake. You can ask the signer what his sign is or what his birthday or height is. If he does not know his sign or birthday based on the ID, then his ID is fake. If he does know his sign that is great, but does not prove the ID is real.



If you value your life, ask for journal thumbprints. They can keep you out of court. People might complain about being asked to be thumbprinted as it can seem like an invasion of privacy and a hassle — but a thumbprint is the only way an investigative agency can have a paper trail leading to an arrest of an identity thief. Thumbprints are the only unique form of identification a Notary can use at this point in time. No two thumbprints are alike, and they cannot be forged at a Notary appointment unless they wear a latex thumbprint on their thumb which would be easily detectable.


You might also like:
Is it legal to photo copy a military ID?


March 15, 2017

Questions to ask to see if an ID is fake

As a Notary, you might run into a fake ID from time to time, but there are not so many of them out there proportionally. Most Notaries don’t bother to take a closer look at ID’s, but perhaps you should inspect each one as if it was fraudulently created.

Always inspect an ID to see:

1. There should be a physical description, expiration date and signature. If these are omitted, the ID is probably fake.

2. Newer ID’s contain raised lettering, embedded images, holographic images and microprinting.

3. A fake ID might have letters blurred together, or print that appears above the lamination.

4. Peeling lamination is a bad sign

5. See if the person’s eyebrows match. Women change their hairstyle and color regularly leaving the eyebrows. mouth and nose as more reliable features for identification.

Questions you could ask

1. You could ask the person their address or zip code.

2. Ask them their sign rather than their DOB. You can memorize a DOB, but nobody memorizes a fake sign. I’m a Leo by the way.

3. You could use an ultraviolet light to see if the perforated image looks authentic compared to a real ID (like yours in your pocket.)


You might also like:

Notary Public 101 – Identification

Notarized document expired identification


November 15, 2016

How to spot fake ID at a notarization

Most Notaries study Notary law. But, do we keep handbooks that are up to date about spotting fake ID’s? Perhaps we should . Our primary task as a Notary is not to make people feel good, and is not to get the job done either. It is to identify signers and make sure that fraud doesn’t take place. It is better to say “no” rather than to get a Notary job done wrong — hence the name “no”–tary. Otherwise we would be yestaries and the world would go down the tubes.

ID Handbooks
The NNA and other vendors have books going over every state’s identification documents. They can tell you about distinguishing features, new watermarks, and other telltale signs that the ID is genuine.

Jeremy’s Solution — an online ID database
Personally, I think there should be a computer system to let the Notary look you up on a Federal or state database — but, that’s just me.


Things to look for one the ID

(1) Physical Description
Sometimes the physical description doesn’t match the signer. With ladies changing their hairstyle frequently, it is hard to tell their identity.

(2) Mispellings
Then, there could be misspellings in the name or a wrong name variation.

(3) Tampering
Obvious signs of tampering are almost a guarantee of a fake ID. I saw one of those once and only once.

(4) Watermarks
Finally watermarks are used in identification documents and currency to prove authenticity. It is possible, but hard for a fraud to replicate an authentic watermark. In China I’m sure they’ll figure it out as faking things is their specialty. But, for the rest of us it would not be so easy.

(5) Lack of raised lettering
Many of the newer ID’s have raised lettering. However, without a guidebook, you won’t know which states and which identification years of issue have raised letters.

(6) What’s your sign?
Ask the signer their sign. If they are using a fake ID with wrong DOB it will be very difficult for them to immediately recite their sign. You can also ask for their zip code to spot a fraud.


Most Notaries do not inspect ID’s carefully. They just record the information in their journal. Unless something fake is jumping out at them, they will not notice that something is wrong. It pays to get a handbook and become and expert. After all, the whole point of being a Notary is to deter fraud. In my opinion, each state’s Notary division should require all Notaries to be experts at spotting fake ID’s in addition to other critical related skills. Maybe one day technology and training will improve.

Smokey bear says — say no to forest fires. Notary Jer says — say no to fake notary identifications — if you can spot them.

You might also like:

Seven error free ways to identify a signer

Notarized document expired identification


December 3, 2018

Compilation of posts about lawsuits & legal risks

Here are some posts about Notaries getting in legal trouble.

Notary loses $4000 in legal fees because fraud adds name to Acknolwedgment

If you’re named as an identity theft conspirator, it could cost $20,000 in legal fees.

13 ways to get sued as a Notary

10 risks to being a Mobile Notary Public

A Notary gets sued because of a scrambled ID

You could get sued if you don’t have a business license

Help, I’m being sued and E&O won’t help!

The FBI is at your door and names you as a suspect!

Do you keep a journal to please your state, a judge, the FBI or 123notary?

What’s your sign? Tricks to uncover fake identification.

Who is the authority at a notary signing?

Don’t have unprotected notarizations!


March 31, 2018

Scenarios: The FBI is at your door

False Identification

What piece of information will the FBI want from you if someone gave you a fake ID?
A journal thumbprint. If you don’t keep journal thumbprints, consider starting now.

But, why keep a journal thumbprint if your state doesn’t put a gun to your head and require it?

Most Notaries disdain the idea of doing anything that isn’t forced on them. Doing the absolute minimum seems to be the gospel of many Notaries these days which is a problem. Laws are often too inconclusive to include safety measures that protect the Notary and society from fraud.

A few states are against journal thumbprints
Some states recommend against taking thumbprints as that information is highly sensitive and could be used for fraud. But, the police take fingerprints don’t they? Should society tell the police to stop taking fingerprints since the information could get into the wrong hands? My opinion is that a Notary Public is a member of a profession based on trust and integrity. If a state doesn’t trust a Notary with a thumbprint, they should not commission that Notary to begin with. Would you hire a policeman you don’t trust? Bad example, in Los Angeles there are many police I wouldn’t trust with a dime (but might with a peso since we are a sanctuary city). But, the point is that the position in society of an integrous Notary is based on trust. If you don’t trust someone, don’t marry them, and don’t appoint them as a Notary. If the Notary needs special training to safeguard a thumbprint, then give the training.

You could be named as a suspect
Without a journal thumbprint you do not have a paper trail sufficient in many cases for the FBI to nail the bad guys. It is a common practice for the FBI to treat the Notary as a suspect in identity fraud cases. So, if you don’t want to be pegged as a suspect, you should consider leaving a paper trail. You are notarizing for million dollar properties, and it behooves you to leave a paper trail using any legal methods you can.

Without a thumbprint
Without journal thumbprints, someone could sell a million dollar property to another party fraudulently and there would be no paper trail other than a fake identification serial number and expiration date in a notary journal as well as a falsified signature. Where will that fake evidence point the FBI? The signature might be mildly helpful to forensics, but it is a bum steer down a one way road to a cul de sac. It goes nowhere. It is good to be helpful to investigative authorities. States like Florida and Texas don’t care about investigations, they just don’t want you taking thumbprints. They don’t care if there are consequences to the Notary either. They only think about what bothers them, and not about the bigger picture.

Without journal thumbprints, society is not safe. If society is also not safe with Notaries having thumbprints, then society needs to choose more trustworthy Notaries. California Notaries have been taking thumbprints for years and I have not heard of an issue relating to that fact in my life. Therefore, I feel that the risk to society for Notaries to keep thumbprints is minimal, yet the risk of Notaries not keeping thumbprints will cause a problem in one of every several thousand transactions. The FBI has asked many of my customers for thumbprints over the years, and the California Notaries had the thumbprints and really helped investigations lead to arrests.


You might also like:

13 ways to get sued as a Notary

5 things a Notary must do.

If you’re named as an identity theft conspirator, it could cost you $20,000 in legal fees.


March 11, 2018

If you have 2 signers each signing 10 Grant Deeds

Filed under: Loan Signing 101 — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:20 am

If you have two signers each signing ten Grant Deeds, how many journal entries should you create and what should you put in the document section?

Wrong Answer
Just create one journal entry and enter both names of the signers and in the document section put ten Grant Deeds.

Another Wrong Answer
Create one journal entry per signing and put “Ten Grant Deeds” where it says name and description of document. Don’t forget to create a journal thumbprint if you want to safeguard against fake identification.

Correct Answer
Create twenty entries, that is ten per signing. Write the term Grant Deed in the document section as well as some unique identifying information about each Grant Deed such as:

Document date, address of property, APN number, name of grantor, grantee, or anything else that is unique.

If one of the Grant Deeds you notarized for a particular client ends up in court and your journal is queried, you will need to let the judge know which of your journal entries reflects the one for the particular Grant Deed in question. If you did not keep your journal straight in this respect, there could be a debate as to whether you even notarized that particular Grant Deed or if an impostor did. Your journal is not for fun, but is to safeguard you the Notary, Judges, FBI agents, your clients, and society as a whole.

You might also like:

Notary Public 101 — Journals

Journal abbreviation keys

Do you keep a journal to please your state, a judge, the FBI, or 123notary?


December 5, 2017

If you’re named as an identity theft conspirator, it could cost you $20,000 in legal fees

If you are named as a conspirator in an identity theft ring or identity theft case, you might be looking at some serious legal costs. Being a Notary is not safe, especially when you refuse to keep your books correctly (oh, but my state doesn’t require me to.) Excuses will not get you off the hook when you are a suspect in an identity theft case and when your journal doesn’t has a fake ID documents and no thumbprint (oh, but my state doesn’t require me to). Your state’s shoddy lack of requirements could cost you $20,000, but only if you choose not to keep proper records. Your state is not forbidding you from keeping good records. They just don’t require good records. It might be fun to just stamp things without keeping a record of what you did. But, the fun will go away when you are named in a law suit.

Legal costs might only be a few thousand, but could be as high as $20,000 in a worst case scenario.

Keeping a journal properly with:
1. One entry per person per document… i.e. if two signers each sign five documents that is ten journal entries.
2. Keep journal thumbprints as that is the only way the FBI can catch frauds if a fake ID is used (in many cases.)
3. Keeping additional notes about the signers might help in court such as mentioning tattoos, a nervous twitch, or anything else noteworthy.

Keeping good records is your responsibility as a good Notary whether required by law or not. Your refusal is pure obstinate and I won’t tolerate it for a minute. If you don’t understand good record keeping, the NNA teaches journal filling procedure quite well. So, consult them or risk possible legal consequences! Keeping your journal correctly doesn’t keep you out of court — it just normally shortens your time dealing with investigators and the court system to a few minutes instead of a few months. Take your pick!


You might also like:

What’s your sign? Tricks to uncover fake identification.

Notary Public 101 – Identification

Do you keep a journal to please your state, a judge, the FBI or 123notary?


February 15, 2013

Signing agent best practices: 63 points

Here are a few tips about best practices. Maybe none of your clients will care, or maybe they will even adamantly dislike your best practices. But, if you have any self-respect, you will engage in best practices.


(1) Hand written documents.
As a notary, it is not illegal to notarize a hand written document. The issue is if there are cross-outs, or blanks. Blanks make it illegal to notarize, but cross outs are a question mark. Personally, if you care about best practices, and not ending up in court for some stupidity that the signer did, then require typed documents with no cross-outs or blanks.

(2) Don’t pick the type of notarization for your signer
That is their job. Legally, you can not choose for them.

(3) Blanks in documents
Put a line through the blanks or refuse the notarize. (that was quick)

(4) Cross-outs
I would avoid notarizing anything with a cross-out. If you can do a cross out, you don’t know if it was there before the notarization or not. If there is one before, what prevents there from being more after. You can forge an initial without being detected, so cross outs are an indication that you need a redraw.

(5) Affixing your seal over wording
This is illegal in many states. The notary seal should be placed in an area of the paper where there is no wording, and do not sign or write over the stamp impression or you void it. If there is no space, then attach a loose notary certificate and make sure you document all pertinent facts on it.

(6) Loose certificates
NEVER send a loose certificate in the mail or hand it to a client. Always attach the loose certificate to the document, preferably before affixing your notary seal. Always document the name of the document, document date (if any), number of pages in the document, document description on the certificate in addition to filling in the standardized state wording, signing and sealing the form.

(7) Journals
Keep thumbprints in your journal. If your state doesn’t require journals, write them a letter about how poor their standards are and then go and buy a journal from the NNA. Also, there is a section called, “additional notes” in your journal (hopefully). Please use this to write down anything unusual about the signer during the signing, or anything unusual about the circumstances. Write it so thoroughly, that when you are in court five years later about that signing which could have involved fraud on the part of the signer, that you will have your evidence handy! Impressive!

(8) Oaths
If you do sworn Oaths, make sure to have the affiant (know this term) raise their right hand. Make sure to study up on formal Oath wording. Oaths are serious, and you are a state appointed official, so keep it official, okay?

(9) Embossers
If you don’t have a 2nd notary seal, get one. Embossers create a RAISED inkless impression. Use it as your secondary seal, and you can affix it to all pages of all documents you notarize for security. There are many frauds out there who do page swapping after the fact. To avoid page swapping (which could lend you in court for something they did after the fact) use an embosser. That way when you get a phone call 2 months later to notarize that separate page they are adding, tell them that you have to do the whole thing all over again. Sorry Charlie, that is a best practice!

(10) Learn the correct verbiage for power of attorney signings
But, there are four accepted verbiage variations. My favorite is Joe Doe, as attorney in fact for Mary Doe. Always call the lender to find out what type of verbiage they want at a signing. Remember, it is their loan, and just as long as you are not breaking the law — do it their way!

(11) Overseas documents
People overseas have bizarre standards. Some require the stamp to be on the document itself no matter what, but they didn’t put the verbiage in for your state. There is nothing LESS legal about attaching an acknowledgment form, but it is not about the law at this point. It is about whether or not THEY like it! So, find a legal way to handle their overseas the way they like. Once I manually wrote in the California Acknowledgment verbiage by hand and then sealed it. It was legal. Not exactly a best practice, but if they won’t accept best practices, then settle for “best practices under the circumstances”. Chinese are a tough crowd — you will find out!

(12) Initialing
Many Title companies don’t like suffixes such as Junior, or IV at the ends of names. But, if you are Louis Remy Martin IV, then the IV is part of your name, the 4th part of your name to be precise. Ronald R Rubin initials RRR. Get the initials to be correct and thorough. And if a lender doesn’t like it, should you break a best practice for their happiness? I don’t know of any laws about initialing, but making an initial of each part of the name is only logical, right?

(13) Signing for confused elderly people
If you sign for a person in a hospital, or someone who is just elderly. Make sure you have whomever calls you READ the identification over the phone to you including the expiration date. Have them read the name on the document too. Elderly people can never find their ID’s, and if they assure you that they have it, don’t believe it, they are lying. Trust me. I know! I am experienced and you are not! Otherwise you would be writing this blog. Do not notarize an elderly person if they can not move their arm on their own. Do not let their daughter drag their arm across a page that they are signing. You can use the daughter’s arm as a brace, but not a movement device. If the elderly person can not paraphrase what the document says, DO NOT NOTARIZE. And, by the way, the night daughter might be a con-artist who is pretending to help the elderly woman, only to be trying to cheat the old lady out of her money. Notaries beware!

(14) When in doubt, call your state notary division
Sometimes the handbook is just not enough. It doesn’t include all situations, and it is not written in English either. Legalese is not my mother tongue, what about you? Call them and bug them. Do it right or not at all. The NNA offers a good notary law hotline too, but get your information from the SOURCE and call your state notary division as your first choice!

(15) Safeguarding your seal and journal
Keeping it under lock & key is the rule of many states. A locking bag, a locking file cabinet. Keeping it in your car, etc. But, honestly, property DOES get stolen, and you need to protect yourself the best way. If your goodies are in your car, keep in in a place where it won’t get taken in a break-in. Keep it under the seat, or behind some large container in the trunk. I kept it in my trunk, but where the robbers could see it. Everything was in a little bag, and they probably thought it was a lap top and valuable. They were in a rush and didn’t inspect it before they took it. If it is at home, keep it in a locked file cabinet instead of hanging around in your locked bag. Go above and beyond the law for best practices. Keep your seal in a place where it is least likely to be “robbable”.

(16) Be an expert at your state notary laws.
Look them up in your state notary handbook. Keep this book with you. It is your bible when you are at work.

(17) Be an expert at credible witness procedure, and signing by X procedure in your state.

(18) Be an expert at all notary and signing related knowledge.
Don’t half know it or kind of know it. Be an expert, and it will show. You will be higher on people’s list if you are.

(19) Keep four phone numbers with you at signings.
In jail you get one phone call. But, as a notary you get many, and should have three phone numbers. The number of the signing company, the lender, the borrower, and the lenders’s wife. Just kidding about the last one. You need to call the lender half the time at a signing because they are such a careless bunch, that they will not have thoroughly prepped the borrower for the signing, plus there might be unexpected surprises on the documents as well. Be prepared!

(20) Using your seal on a blank piece of paper.
ILLEGAL. However, if you go to a jail, they require this for security. So, affix your seal, and then cross it out and write the words void. It is no longer illegal. It is the BEST way to clean up a WORST practice that the jail makes you do. I joked with them and told them that I thought it was funny that I was being forced to break the law by a guard at a jail. What is the world coming to?

(21) Check the signature on the identification
Does the signature on the identification match the one on the document? Did you check? Start checking.

(22) Bad identification?
Is the identification peeling? Is the signature above the lamination? Does it look like a fake identification document? Do you even have a reference guide to know if it is fake? It is your business to know. Get the NNA book on identification and drivers licenses. Also, take thumbprints. Standards for identification should be a government issued photo ID with a physical description, serial number, signature, and expiration date. Nothing else will do. Whether or not the government issuing the document need to be in the USA or not depends on what your state laws are!

(23) Thumbprints
Take thumbprints for all Deeds, recorded documents, power of attorney — as a minimum. Do this regardless of what your state requires. It could keep you out of court, and time is money. Get an inkless thumbprint pad from the NNA. Get this today. You should not be without it for one nanosecond. They can fake an ID, and fake a signature, but you can not fake a thumbprint.

(24) Don’t notarize for people who ask you to break the rules or who look suspicious.
Are you notarizing a kidnapper, or is the signer under duress? Stay away! It is not worth the money and you could get involved in a nightmare that just doesn’t end. What if someone asks you to notarize them under a different name variation than is what their identification says, and you tell them it is not legal. What if they say, “Oh, come on!!!”. What if they threaten to not pay your travel fee if you don’t? First of all your travel fee should be paid in cash at the door, or just leave. Avoid this type of people. They will make your life twisted.

(25) Don’t backdate
Signing companies will put you under pressure to do this if a borrower will lose their lock. Just say no. Tell them that their lock is their business and that your business is obeying the laws of your state which say, “No backdating“. Tell them that the security of your commission is not worth their convenience. Just leave. Don’t deal with these frauds.

(26) Don’t use white out
White out is a worst practice and will get you fired. Cross outs are a bad practice as well.

(27) Name changes the kosher way
A processor I used to work with instructed me not to cross anything out. Just have the borrower initial under the last several letters of their last name and then sign the way the new name will be typed in the document. After the fact, the processor can type in the new name. The cross-out simply doesn’t help. They just need the initial. The processor can cross it out in a way that they think is professional.

(28) Don’t explain the specifics of the loan or when the loan will fund
Just explain the basic definitions of loan terms such as APR, or rate if your state allows that. Specific information particular to their loan is for their lender to discuss with them. You can get in trouble if you make any explanations or commentary about information specific about their loan. On the other hand, you should be an expert at looking up specific pieces of information. APR is on the TIL and perhaps the Settlement Statement, so tell them that and show them where it is. The interpretation of what the information on the Settlement Statement is up to them and their lender, not you!

(29) Don’t notarize for someone who you can not communicate directly with
Some states allow the use of interpreters. I say you should not as a best practice. The interpreter could be lousy, and misinterpret something that you said. You are leaving yourself open to communication gaps. If you speak a little Spanish and can get by, and the signer understands you and vice versa, that works. Don’t create opportunities for communication gaps. I have traveled to enough foreign countries to know that people in different cultures communicate differently, they say yes when they mean no, they lie, they misrepresent, they save face, and fail to explain things thoroughly (especially asians who do the quickie explanations that leave out 95% of the meaning). I am not knocking foreigners — I just don’t believe half of what they say — and I don’t believe half of what Americans say either since Americans are a bunch of liars too! Speak directly to your signers! Learn oath verbiage in Spanish, or whatever your rusty foreign language is. Learn how to ask if you understand the document.

(30) Have a registered business name
We have notaries on the site who change their business name on our site every month. Each month it is the name of the month. This is illegal. If you have a registered business name that is registered with your county, then that is your business name, and you should have a bank account that takes checks paid to that name.

(31) Don’t draft documents
Unless you are an attorney, or authorized to draft documents, don’t get involved. You can get into bad trouble.

(32) Don’t give legal advice
If you are not an attorney, do not give legal advice. Interpreting laws, or suggesting that a person take a particular legal action might be construed as legal advice or the unauthorized practice of law.

(33) Consult an attorney before doing modifications
Although modifications could be legal in some states under some circumstances, they are often done in an illegal way, and YOU are not knowledgeable to know the difference, or to know what you can or can not do. Consult an attorney or stay away!


(34) If you don’t get paid on time, contact the Title company.
They might fire or discipline the signing company in that case.

(35) Charging travel fee in cash upon arrival
It is ILLEGAL for a notary to have beneficial interest in the signing. However, many clients including Title companies will simply not pay the notary if the documents or loan packages don’t get signed, notarized, and funded properly. Unfortunately, that is illegal to put the notary in the position where they will only get paid if they notarize. It is actually a MISDEMEANOR in many states to ask the notary to do something illegal which could include having beneficial interest. If you don’t get your cash up front BEFORE you see the signers, documents or identification, you will be sorry. Get your cash, and THEN see the document. If it is incomplete, that is their problem. No identification, or the names don’t match? Their problem. Signer is in a coma and can not talk — their problem. Some situations will merit waiting time, and you will have no way to enforce your WAITING FEE if you don’t have your travel fee. You will not be in a bargaining situation as they will have the upper hand. If you have your $40 cash travel fee, you can say that you want waiting time when the clock strikes 20 minutes otherwise you are leaving. You have the power that way, and you DON’T have beneficial interest anymore (learn to define this term to be professional).

(36) Contracts with signing companies
Have your own contract that you make companies sign to get a better price with you. Make sure you indicate that if there is any ISSUE with the signing such as a last minute cancellation, no-sign, redraw, or anything unusual, that you get paid quickly. These are exactly the types of situations whre notaries typically get stiffed. So make them pay you faster in these situations so you don’t get stiffed. Even if you charge them a discounted fee. Make them pay within 10 days for these types of signings or charge them a penalty. No contract on your terms, then no discounts for you! Take the upper hand. You are a business person!

(37) Background check all companies who want to hire you
Check them on NR and the 123notary forum — OR ELSE… You will live to regret it if you don’t.

(38) Don’t put the Fedex in the drop box
Fedex is a great company, but they do hire human beings which is their downfall. Not recommended. If a driver changes routes, the new driver might goof (once in a long while) and that drop box in a remote area might not get picked up on time — or at all. Drop your Fedex at a staffed location. The deadlines are later, and it will be in the right hands 100%. Be safe.

(39) Printing on the road
This is a business best practice. If you can print on the road, you will be on time to more appointments, and can print last minute documents in a flash. You will be popular with lenders, plus gain people’s respect for being a prepared trooper. It is very expensive to have a comprehensive mobile office, so be ready to pay through the nose.

(40) Don’t go to houses that smell bad
You can end up in a hospital with a serious bacterial infection. If it is really filthy or smelly, tell them you will do the signing at Starbucks and that you have to leave at 5pm. Risking your lungs is not a best practice.


(41) Don’t talk about the wrong things at signings
Don’t talk about politics or religion. Stick to the weather and traffic, but not in the context of complaining!

(42) Call back etiquette
Announce who you are when you call back. Don’t demand to know who they are until you are politely introduced yourself and explained that you received a missed call from that number. Also, don’t call people back only to tell them that you can’t talk. That is plain stupid and is a worst practice.

(43) Announce who you are when you answer the phone
Do you say, “This is Linda”, when you answer the phone? Or do you say, “Hullo?”. Be professional.

(44) When you confirm the signing, make sure all signers are there
If you do a signing where the wife is not on the loan, she might be on a few of the documents such as the Deed of Trust, Right to Cancel, and one or two others depending on what state you are in and who the lender is. Make sure you know where the wife will be during the signing, otherwise it might be a short signing. Remember, that you don’t know what is on the documents until you get the e-documents which is within minutes of the signing. Plan ahead and confirm the signing.

(45) Make sure your answering machine states your name!
Don’t make people guess if they dialed the correct number.

(46) Don’t ramble, make long pauses, or give opinions
Nobody wants to hear your life story, especially not me or my staff. Nobody wants long answers to quick questions. Nobody likes it when you ask them a question and you pause for 45 seconds to think. Don’t criticize others or give opinions either. Your job is to be a notary. Notaries don’t have opinions — or at least shouldn’t.

(47) Leave enough time between appointments
There is no point being late because you were delayed at your last appointment

(48) Determine how long your signing session will be.
Charge based on time. When you go to a massage therapist, you pay for a 60 minute session. If you go over 60 minutes, the next victim is waiting and they have to stop. Notary signings should be no different. Agree ahead of time how much time they want, and make them commit to that, or don’t work with them. If they want 90 minutes or 120 minutes, that is fine. Have them agree to that up front, and pay accordingly. Your job is not to be delayed endlessly. After all, your next appointment has the right to see your face showing up on time, right?

(49) Don’t have noise in the background when you talk on the phone
If someone calls you and there is noise. Apologize for the noise, and then walk to a quieter location. Don’t let the background noise continue otherwise you are unprofessional in my book.

(50) Don’t park in the driveway.
Your job is not to notarize, don’t put the Fedex in the drop box, and don’t park in the driveway. These are my three golden rules for notaries. Notarize only if it is legal to do so. Bring Fedexes to staffed locations, and park on the street unless there is a good reason why you should call the borrowers and ask if you can park on their driveway.

(51) Know your hours of operation
Never say that you are flexible. Tell people when you are available. I am available from 11am to 2am seven days a week unless I am already engaged, on vacation, or dead. That is a quick and professional answer. Don’t say that it depends. Don’t say that you sign anytime. People who say anytime have such restrictive schedules that they won’t sign any time other than 9-6. Flexible means 9-5:30. These terms mean absolutely nothing. Act like a professional and give people hard numbers when they ask a question — and don’t keep them waiting.

(52) Use your notes section to describe your service thoroughly
Don’t use empty adjectives like thorough and professional. Describe what YOU are like at a signing which is unique to you, so people can get to know you through your notes rather than reading something that looks like you copied it from 3000 other boring notaries who use exactly the same adjectives in exactly the same order. Talk about how fast your laser printer is. Talk about your exact counties or cities that you cover. Give people real information in your notes section, not some empty sounding sales literature that tells them nothing.


(53) Get certified by ALL listing agencies who you advertise with.
If you advertise with ten companies, do all of the certifications. You look like an idiot if you can’t even be a professional at your profession!

(54) Having reviews on your profile from esteemed Title Companies looks great.
It is not a crime to have reviews from “nobodies”, but it is a best practice to have the people who review you be as reputable as possible. Their reputation is your reputation when they write a review about you.

(55) E&O insurance looks professional
E&O insurance looks professional, but is it? It makes it attractive for a company to hire you. E&O doesn’t protect you that much though. You can still get sued if the lender makes a mistake and the borrowers sue all parties involved. This happened before. You will not be covered. It actually encourages lenders to make claims rather than reducing your liability! E&O insurance makes you look good, so get some! But, is it a best practice? Being covered is better than being not covered, so I will call it a “better than nothing practice”. Or, I can call it something that looks like a best practice to the uninformed.

(56) Background screening
If your state doesn’t screen notaries as well as California does with the FBI, DOJ and KGB, then there might be some merit in a background screening.

(57) Advertise on all major directories
Have a well filled out profile, amazing notes, and reviews if possible.

(58) Call all local title companies
Call them up and announce yourself. Call them every month to remind them that you are good, and that you want to work.

(59) Get on the list of all nationwide signing companies.
Fill out the paperwork each signing company requires ahead of time. Make it a best practice to be on as many company’s lists as possible.

(60) Read notary blogs
The more you know, the more impressive and knowledgeable you will be. Know as much as possible to be the best that you can be. 123notary has an interesting Facebook, Linked in and Twitter profile as well. The more you read, the more you know!

(61) Don’t lie about your number of signings
Keep a count. Look them up in your journal. When someone asks you how many signings you have done, don’t ramble about how many years you have been in business. Nobody wants to hear that. Tell them how many you did. 1012 signings, plus there will be another one tonight! Don’t tell them you did two yesterday and three the day before. Nobody has patience to hear you count. Don’t think — KNOW!

(62) Guarantee your work
If you goof, go back and do it again for free. Make this a policy.

(63) Send complete bills regularly.
You need to know exactly what information goes on the invoices you send out. Name of borrower, loan number, address, date of signing, name of lender, etc. Bill regularly and keep good records, including the CHECK # of incoming checks. Otherwise you won’t get paid.

(1) Is it legal to notarize a hand-written document? What if there are cross outs?
(2) Blanks in documents? Put a line through it buddy!
(3) It is illegal to use your seal on a blank piece of paper. Yet jails usually require this! (cross it out)
(4) Notary topics: Hand-written docs, Blanks in docs, seal over wording, loose certificates, overseas docs.
(5) Don’t go to houses that smell bad #mobilenotary
(6) Notary contracts, fees at the door, background screening signing co’s, call Title if not paid on time.


You might also like:

Notary Public 101 – a free notary course

The 30 Point Courses – a free loan signing course

Notary Marketing 102 – a free marketing course for Notaries


February 6, 2012

Fraud & Forgery related to the notary profession

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 either.  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 embossed seal which is why I used it on all of my notarizations.
(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 the borrower misses 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 where the Notary in question is commissioned.
(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.

You might also like:

Backdating from A to Z

Notarizing multi-page documents

Penalties for notary misconduct, fraud and failure of duty


August 14, 2018

Title Companies: 123notary Certification – what you need to know about it.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:54 am

What does 123notary Certification mean in 2018 and 2019? A letter to title companies.

123notary teaches, screens, and certifies Notaries on:
Notary Basics
Loan Documents
Unusual Scenarios (that can lead to damages)
Clear Communication
Following Directions

We go to this trouble to make your title company’s screening and hiring procedure for new additions to your roster more streamlined, and lessens the chance of serious legal complications in the long run due to improper notary work.

We know that many of you would like to hire better quality Notaries. Are our current certified members up to your standards for being a “good Notary,” and how much extra do you feel they merit per signing? Would it be too much trouble to call a handful, talk to them for a few minutes and size them up and see for yourself how much better you feel they are compared to an average signing agent?

Our 2002 through 2017 tested mainly on loan documents and a little bit on Notary procedure, but involved mostly online testing which was taken advantage of by Notaries who found ways to game the system. As of 2018, we cleaned up our certification, removing those who cannot demonstrate a certain level of still on oral & email quizzes to ensure reliability to your hiring parties. We reduced the quantity of certified members from about 1600 to about 160 and will continue to screen certified members every year or two for quality control purposes.

Our 14 point certification process generates Notaries who are generally polite, responsive, cooperative, and technically competent. I can go over our process in as much detail as you like, but first I would like to let you know that most notaries will not aggressively pursue education on their own. They will only study hard if those who hire them recommend, require, or offer preferential treatment to those that do.

If you have Notaries who you would like to send over who you use regularly who would benefit from a tune up — or those who are not good enough to put on your list due to a lack of basic knowledge, we are happy to tutor, train, or enroll them in one of our courses. This collaboration of our forces will benefit both of us and does not cost title companies a penny. Our work on 123notary is for the greater benefit of title companies. However, we charge the Notaries for advertising and education and never charge title companies for anything.

If you would like to see our sales literature, just visit our loan signing courses page on If you like the reliability of our screening we would like it if you can endorse our certification. Additionally, a few dozen of our notaries have our elite certiifcation which is a much more refined version of our certification.

We would like referrals and endorsements from agencies and individuals who work at agencies that hire Notaries in exchange for us helping you to refine the quality of your signing agents.


a. 123notary certification starts with reading our educational materials. We have loan signing courses that we sell. We also have free Notary basics materials in our blog at Notary Public 101 which we are in the process of adding to our sold materials for the convenience of the buyer. However, that material on the blog is open to the public, so our students can see it at any time.

b. We also offer Q&A by email and even tutoring to those who want it. Sometimes the technical aspects of Notary procedure can be complicated and a one on one session can be the best way to learn.

c. Testing is done online, but also as a follow up by phone. Testing by phone is more reliable as a measuring stick as we can ask open ended questions, multiple choice, fill in the blank, etc. Additionally, we know that we have the correct entity taking the test and can adjust our questions to exactly what we want to ask. We can also more easily monitor how many times and when the person took the phone test than with online tests many people abuse the privilege and treat it more like a video game that they keep playing until they win.

The knowledge required to pass our test as of 2018 includes:

1. Notary Acts. We require Notaries to know when particular notary acts are used, how to explain these acts, and what the requirements of each basic act are including Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations and Proof of Execution. We do not teach other acts as they are uncommon and not necessary. We also require Notaries to know how to administer Oaths as they are required by law when executing a Jurat which is done on Affidavits as a matter of custom.

2. Notary Terminology. We require Notaries to know basic Notary terminology such as Venue, Affiant, Certificate, terms relating to Power of Attorney, etc.

3. Certificates. We go over how to fill in the additional and optional information in certificates which deters the fraudulent as well as accidental swapping of certificates to other documents.

4. Journals. We teach prudent journal entry procedure using the one entry per signer per document principle.

5. Power of Attorney. We teach Notaries to follow instructions to a tee on AIF signings and to call in if instructions are omitted or not clear as to how an Attorney in Fact should sign in their capacity.

6. Identification. We teach Notaries how to make sure the ID proves the name on the document. This may or may not be a legal requirement in their state, but it is a prudency requirement that helps reduce the chance of ending up in court.

7. FAQ’s. We teach the basics of FAQ’s at loan signings such as:
(a) When is my first payment due?
(b) Where can I read about my prepayment penalty (if there is one)?
(c) Why is my APR higher than my rate?
(d) Where does it say where my payoffs and fees are located?

8. We teach the basic loan documents. Our emphasis used to be mainly on documents while our current emphasis is on issues that can cause financial damages to companies involved in transactions which are normally Notary issues or issues pertaining to negligence in business matters.

9. RTC. We teach how to date the Right to Cancel in a Refinance for an owner-occupied property.

10. Errors on Certificates. We teach the various ways to deal with errors on certificates, but this gets into state specific areas and also in to areas pertaining to the preference of the Lender or Title company involved.

11. After-Service. After a Notary signs a loan, they still might be needed for several days to clean up errors or answer questions. Notaries are not normally aware of how long they need to be around, so we tell them what types of situations can arise after the fact and how being unresponsive by phone and email will not make them popular with Title companies.

12. Elder Signings. Issues involving the competency and state of mind of signers is critical with elder signings. Elder signings normally take place in the hospital, but it is possible that for loan signings, especially Reverse Mortgages, that elders could be there. If an elder is on morphine, they are not in a position to sign. And if they cannot paraphrase a document, it might be dangerous to notarize them for legal liability reasons.

13. Foreign language signers and foreign language documents. We address these points a bit. A Notary must have direct communication with the signer in all states but AZ where oral translators are, or were allowed. However, for safety, you should not rely on a translator, because if they make a mistake, you could end up in court and you would be ultimately responsible as the Notary Public involved in the particular transaction.

14. Omitted Information. Sometimes a Notary will go to a signing. The instructions might say, “This page must be notarized.” However, there might not be a notary certificate. In some cases there might not be a signature line. We teach how to handle these situations gracefully.



1. Oaths. If you hire a notary who does not administer Oaths, your loan could be questioned, or perhaps even overturned in court by a Judge once the judge finds out that an “incomplete notarization” has taken place. Omitting an Oath makes a Jurat notarization on a Signature Affidavit, Occupancy Affidavit, Identity Affidavit or other Affidavit incomplete and therefore a Judge could declare the document not notarized, and perhaps declare a loan as invalid as a consequence. This would cause serious legal and financial damages to many parties involved. 90% of Notaries we talk to do NOT know how to administer an Oath correctly and most do not administer Oaths at all… ever, because they think it is not “required” in their state. It is required nationally.

2. Dropping Packages on time. If you hire a Notary who holds on to packages when they don’t know what to do in a particular situation, or because they just are not in the habit of dropping documents quickly, you might not get your important documents back on time. This is dangerous and can cause delays in funding, missing the lock in an interest rate, or your loan getting cancelled. Often times several days later, the documents will be found in the trunk of the Notary’s car. Each incident of forgetting to drop a package can cost you hundreds or thousands.

3. Identification. If you hire a sloppy Notary who does not make sure the name on the ID proves the name on the document, it is possible for your loan to end up in court costing all parties thousands. The lack of thumbprints in a Notary journal also makes it hard to identify someone who used a fake ID.

4. Journals. If you hire a Notary who does not keep a journal, you might not experience trouble for years. The minute your notarizations are called into question by an Attorney, the lack of evidence (namely the notary journal) would come back to haunt you and cause a nightmare. Without evidence, you have no way to prove who notarized what, or if a fraudulent notary impostering a real notary did the work. You have no idea who did what or when or what type of identification was used, or even if the signers consented to being notarized.

Additionally, if your sloppy Notary uses the “cram it in” style of journal entries where one line in their journal accommodates all documents in a loan signing (legal in some states but not prudent) your borrower could claim that they never had all of the documents notarized, but only one, and therefore the loan is void and the transaction must be cancelled, etc. This happens once in a blue moon when a borrower wants to get out of a transaction, and legally it is hard to prove if they consented to be notarized on five documents in a transaction when there is only one signature in the journal for five documents. You could claim that the Notary was in cahoots with the lender and added four additional documents after the fact.

5. Confirming. Improper confirming of signing can lead to a lot of wasted time. If the name on the ID does not prove the name on the document, there is no point in going to the appointment. There are many other critical points to go over when confirming the signing. The majority of Notaries either do not confirm signings, or don’t do so thoroughly enough which can cause a lot of loss of time and perhaps delays in the loan process.

6. Following directions. Many Notaries do not follow directions well. This can cause a huge loss to companies that hire them assuming your directions are critical to the success of the the signing. We screen for following directions when certifying signing agents. None of them are perfect, but we weed out a lot by asking a few following directions questions.

7. Notarizing for non-English Speakers. If you notarize for non-English speakers, this can lead to liability if you cannot communicate effectively with them. Any misunderstanding could come back to you.

8. Dating the RTC. You would be surprised how many Notaries cannot date a Right to Cancel. That can cause financial damages to any company that hires them.

9. Elder Signings can be a source of liability. The elders don’t always understand what they are signing. A competent Notary makes sure the signer understands the document, especially if elderly or in the hospital.

10. Being responsive after the fact. Many Notaries disappear or play hookey after a signing. Notaries are needed to answer questions before, during and after the signing. If they are not, this could cause grief to the hiring party.


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