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April 2, 2018

The ID Says John Smith

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: — admin @ 10:56 am

Q. The name on the ID says John Smith, but the typed name in the document says John W Smith… Can you notarize the signature under these circumstances?

A. You can have him sign John Smith and notarize him as John Smith. The might not wash with the Lender but looks legal. Or, have him sign John W Smith, but put only John Smith in the Acknowledgment. That way you are ONLY certifying the name he proved to you was really his.

Other things you could do…
Ask for other ID. If they don’t have it, if your state allows credible witnesses, use them to identify the signer. You can always notarize the signer based on his name on the ID regardless of the typed name on the document. The Lender might not like that, but your main job is to please the law.

For the most part, signers will have identifications that are thorough enough to use for purposes of notarization. However, it is possible that an ID will have a name that is either shorter, or that doesn’t match the name on the document. Notaries scramble the requirements for positive identification. There is the “you can have more than but not less than” rule. More than what? Less than what? This is a bad rule to learn because it gets scrambled more than not. Here are some basic principles:

1. You can always over sign (Lender principle)
This is a Lender or Title requirement, not a law. The law does not say anything about over signing in anything I have ever read. If the document says John Smith and the signer signs John W Smith, that might be okay with the Lender, but it might not be acceptable to notarize. Your job as a Notary is NOT to please Lenders, but to notarize people who you have positively identified. If the ID says John Smith then you can notarize the signer as John Smith prudently, but nothing longer than that.

2. The name on the document must be provable based on government issued photo identification.
I will not go over the particulars of an acceptable ID, and some of the particulars are state specific. As a general rule, a state issued photo ID card, driver license, passport or military ID are fine for a Notary to accept. If the ID says John William Smith and the document says John Smith, then you are fine, but if the ID name is shorter then you cannot prudently use it to identify the signer. If the ID says John Smith, but the signature on the document says John W Smith, you cannot prudently notarize that name even if the Lender says it’s okay. The Lender is not your boss, the laws of your state’s state notary division are, so obey the right entity, and stay out of jail.

3. You cannot use an AKA statement
A Signature Affidavit with AKA statement is not an acceptable primary or secondary ID. As a Notary you cannot use it to identify a signer ever. It is for the lender only.

If I ask you if it is prudent to notarize a signature that says John W Smith when the ID says John Smith, if you make me repeat myself, scramble the scenario, or quote some dumb rule that doesn’t apply in this situation such as point one in this article, you will not only get the question wrong, but get marked up for having poor communication skills. This is a yes or no question, please answer it accordingly.

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You might also like:

Notary Public 101 — Identification
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19507

The 30 Point Course – a free loan signing course on our blog
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14233

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February 24, 2016

Notarizing John W. Smith

Recently, I have been calling many notaries over the phone and asking them Notary questions. The Notaries on 123notary typically are fairly strong about signing agent knowledge, but weak on basic Notary skills. Many Notaries are unaware that you cannot Notarize someone unless you personally know them (allowed in some states) or can prove their identity based on satisfactory evidence. The state laws do not always give case studies of tricky cases as the states don’t make it their business to make sure Notaries are understanding or obeying the law.

The example I give is:

You are asked to Notarize a person whose ID says John Smith. The document says John W Smith. Do you Notarize based on the name on the ID, the document, or cancel the signing.

The types of answers I get are.
(1) You always notarize based on the name on the document because that is the name on title.
Commentary: Unfortunately, the Lender won’t be able to sell the loan if the name notarized doesn’t match the name on the document. However, your commission can be revoked if you get caught notarizing signers based on names not documented in their identification. If the ID says John Smith, you cannot notarize a longer name variation in any state that we have heard of.

(2) Get a 2nd ID.
Yes, in real life, you would ask for another ID or perhaps try to get some credible witnesses if your state will allow for that. However, in our question , it is multiple choice, and asking for a passport is not one of the choices. This error falls more in the category of listening and following directions which is crticial in any profession.

(3) You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the document.
Commentary: WRONG. You got the right rule, but in reverse! You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the ID — NOT the document. If the name on the document is longer than the name on the ID, then you have not identified the signer as the person named in the document.

On a more humorous note. I think it would be funny if one of the Notaries I called was named John Smith. On the other hand, we have a customer named Pocahontas. She’ll probably laugh when we talk about Notarizing John Smith. But, don’t worry, OUR Pocahontas is over 12 years old — or at least that’s what her ID says!

You might also like:

The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial
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Hospital signing issues
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20913

How would you notarize a document with no signature line?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20890

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March 31, 2018

The John & Sally Question Revisited

Filed under: Loan Signing 101 — admin @ 10:28 pm

This is a simple question that throws Notaries off that I like to teach. John and Sally’s names are inscribed in an Acknowledgment for a Deed that the Lender pre-filled out. Sally cannot make it to the signing because she works the night shift. What do you do?

Wrong Answer
Notarize the form as is. Commentary — unfortunately, that is illegal, because you cannot perform an Acknowledgment for someone who does not personally appear before the Notary Public.

Another Wrong Answer
Just cross out Sally’s name and proceed. Commentary — unfortunately, forms have wording in the boiler plate section with he/she/they, capacity(ies), signature(s), etc. If you do not make sure the standardized wording and cross outs are consistent with how many people are there and of what genders, you have created falsified information in a certificate which is a crime.

A Messy but Acceptable Answer
You can cross out Sally’s name, check the wording below and make sure it is consistent with single man and a single signature if indeed there is only one signature on the document (better check to verify.) However, this is messy. Fraud could be suspected after the fact. If you cross out a county, that does not affect the transaction in any way because the loan would still be legal (I’m guessing & assuming) if you signed it in another county of the same state. However, if there is a debate as to whether Sally was there or not, or someone used the initial to add a third name fraudulently, you the Notary are in trouble. By having initials on legal documents and forms, you are opening up a can of worms and will have only your journal as evidence of what actually happened.

A Clean and Correct Answer
The best way to rectify the John and Sally issue is to either drive to the hospital where Sally works and get her to sign before midnight. That is not always possible. But, the forms could be stamped after she signs.

Or, use a fresh Acknowledgment form and just put John’s name on it, and notarize John’s signature as is. Another Notary can deal with Sally and do what James Bond calls — Notarize another day.
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Cross out and initial, or use a fresh form?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19933

Filling in your journal before the appointment?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=15354

The ID says John Smith.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19953

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February 17, 2019

Can a Notary get in trouble?

Can a Notary Public get in trouble? Can a Notary get in legal trouble? The answer is yes, but it might surprise you how it happens.

In my experience running a site where we have listed 55,000 Notaries to date, the only Notaries I have heard of who ended up in jail willfully engaged in very serious fraud involving real property. They falsified documents in order to steal property basically. This is the worst thing a notary can do and the penalties can be ten or more years in prison.

However there are other things a Notary can do where they might get fined, lose their commission, or get reprimanded.

1. A California Notary must maintain a journal to the standards of the state. The state of California audits Notary journals regularly by asking Notaries to mail in particular copies of pages of their journal If you are putting more than one document per journal entry, missing signatures, thumbprints (if applicable) or anything else, you can get a warning, get fined, or lose your commission for good. If you rely on your notary commission to make a living, obey the laws of the state — they will check up on you.

2. Falsifying a date in a notary certificate. Don’t do that. It is fraud. It might help your signer, and they might bribe you but you could lose your commission over that.

3. Omitting an Oath. Most Notaries think administering Oaths is a joke. If you get caught by a judge for failing to administer an Oath you could get fined, lose your commission, or possibly go to jail for perjury if you issued a written statement stating that an Oath had indeed been issued.

4. Goofing on your notary test with 123notary. The worst thing that can happen is that we might want you to study up and try again.

5. Sending a loose certificate in the mail. Very illegal, but people will ask you to do this. You can lose your commission over just one incident so don’t do it.

6. You might notarize someone who is John W Smith in the document but whose ID says John Smith and you might be notarizing the wrong person who is committing fraud.

But, there are other ways a Notary can get in trouble that are not the fault of the Notary.

1. Someone could give you a false ID and impersonate someone else. You might end up in court because of this, but as a witness not a defendant.

2. The FBI might investigate fraud that was done by a signer or someone impersonating you.

3. Someone can copy the impression of your notary seal and make a false certificate using it.

4. Someone you notarize might have a real ID, but have the same exact name as someone else and impersonate them.

5. An elderly person might be getting taken advantage that you notarized. They might not remember much in court so make sure your elder signers know what is going on. It is still risky if they know what is going on because by the time they get to court they might be completely senile.

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January 16, 2019

Notary Etiquette 104 — Answering Questions the Way They Were Asked

Filed under: Etiquette — Tags: — admin @ 1:30 pm

ANSWERING QUESTIONS THE WAY THEY WERE ASKED
Return to Table of Contents for – Notary Etiquette 104

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I often have to make over one hundred welcome calls per day to Notaries who cannot give straight answers to questions. I have to ask each Notary five questions, but because they give roundabout answers, I have to ask each question sometimes two or three times which leads to 1500 questions for 100 calls when no questions would be necessary at all if they had filled in their listing properly. People who hire Notaries are seriously annoyed with all of the nonsense they have to put up with. So, make their life easy and just answer questions the way they were asked. Below are some examples.

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1. How many loans have you signed?
“Oh, gosh… hmm, let me think for half an hour, well I did one yesterday, and I’m on my way to one now…”

This is inconsequential banter and a real waste of the other person’s time. Just try to give them a number. You were asked for a number, so don’t tell them how many years you have been doing it or how you are NNA certified, just say how many loans you have signed.

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2. What counties do you cover?
“Well, it depends on what you are paying…” or “I go to Van Zandt for my normal fee and then Smith for a little extra, where is the assignment?”

There is no assignment. We are a directory and need to put you in the counties that you cover. If you can just tell me the names of the counties without the other rambling and questions, I would be able to fill that information in a lot more easily.

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3. The names do not match.
If the ID says John Smith and the name on the document says John W Smith, would it be prudent under the circumstances to notarize the signature?
“I would just ask for another ID.”

Obviously you would ask for another ID, but the question is a yes/no answer and you gave a “what would you do” answer instead. You will be marked wrong because once again, you did not answer the question as it was asked.

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4. What hours do you answer the phone?
“I’m flexible.”

That answer is really not helpful, and “all day long” is not either. If someone asks for hours, tell them hours.

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5. Do you have a dual tray laser printer?
“Well gee, I have a single tray printer but I have the software so that it can print letter and legal and my printer is very fast and …”

This answer does not answer the question. The answer is, “No.” You are bending the person’s ear with all of this rhetoric.

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6. What types of loans do you know how to sign?
“I have signed most of them before.”

This is a useless answer. Just list the types of loans and financial packages you have signed before such as: Refinances, Helocs, Purchases, 1st, 2nds, Reverse, Reverse Applications, Construction, etc.

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Vague communication is unacceptable
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19048

Clarifying vague claims in your notes section
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4675

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September 19, 2018

123notary’s quiz questions routinely accused of being state specific

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: — admin @ 11:03 am

The people who accuse us of having state specific questions are never specific about which questions are state specific. Such ambiguity over specifics. We change our questions over time and questions are now based on Notary Public 101, and not a particular state. We don’t even cater to California rules when we are in California. We test on good practicies, NOT state specific practices. It is up to you to know your state rules and I’m sure you do … (or not).

Here are some questions that might seem state specifics.

1. Proof of Execution — state specific
This act is done in about 45 states which is almost all. However, Notaries never do this act in real life. I don’t even know which states don’t have it. Some call it a verification upon proof or some other similar name. I ask this question not because of its practicality but to see if you even read my materials before the quiz. I think it is a waste of everyone’s time to quiz when you didn’t study.

2. John Smith — NOT state specific
We ask this question about good old John as a prudency question and not a legal question. Is it prudent under the circumstances to notarize the signature John W Smith on a document when the ID says John Smith.Most Notaries cannot give a straight answer — they change the circumstances to asking the signer for another ID. That makes it a completely different question. Whether your state requires an exact name match or not, it is still NOT PRUDENT if you can’t a prove a person’s identity. That is the whole reason for having notaries in the first place.

3. Fixing Notary Certificates — state specific
This one is very important and definitely state specific. We ask a question that California Notaries are not allowed to do simply because the folks in the other states still need to be tested on this. How do you fix a wrong county on a certificate? In California you have to use a clean new form or redo the notarization. In other states you can cross out and initial, but don’t have the borrower initial a notary form. This is critical information here. Maryland does not allow the use of loose certificates, and Oregon does not allow the Notary to make any changes to certificates or even add new ones as that might be considered UPL the way they see it in the drizzly state. Food for thought.

4. FBI Thumbprint Question — NOT state specific
If the FBI shows up on your doorstep investigating a notarization you did involving a fake ID, your fake info in your journal won’t cut it even if your state doesn’t require or permit thumbprints. The FBI is federal and has some bad guys to catch. They want a thumbprint whether your state allows you to have it or not. This is a Federal specific question as the FBI is federal and doesn’t care about your petty state rules. This question is NOT state specific because it does not ask what your state wants or allows or permits.

5. Journals – sounds state specific, but not the way we ask it.
Many states don’t require a journal, so my journal questions are not based on state rules, but on the rules of prudency which are universal. Your journal is your only evidence in court of what happened at a notarization. Not keeping one is like not wearing a seat belt on the freeway. Eventually something will happen and there will be injuries. This is a good practices question and once again NOT state specific.

6. Oaths & Affirmations – not state specific, but…
Oaths & Affirmations Universal — like God himself. But, the 2018 California Notary manual no longer has a set fee if you do these as separate acts not connected to a deposition or jurat. Hmm. So, you can do these acts in California, but what would you charge?

If you have been asked any other annoying questions by us which you feel are state specific, please mention them in the comments section clearly and please be to the point without any tangents so that the readers can get to the point. And once again, none of our questions are based on California practices, but are based on best practices (which often overlap with what California practices are — but not always.)

You might also like:

Notary quiz of the day
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=21266

Fixing certificates is a state specific nightmarish scenario
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=21083

Thanks

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September 11, 2018

Logic errors can cost you as a Notary

Many of the mistakes that Notaries make are logic errors. Not being a logical person, or having a low IQ are dangerous in the Notary profession. I believe that state Notary divisions should require an IQ of 95 minimum simply because the misapplication of rules often happens because of incompetent or sloppy thinking. Additionally, not being meticulous can really cost you and your clients as a Notary. Missing items on forms, or missing items when you check forms can lead to court cases. One wrong number or one missing initial can ruin a loan. It is not safe being a Notary unless you are a very cautious and logical person. Let me elaborate how an illogical Notary can get in trouble.

1. Additional Information Sections in Loose Acknowledgements.
The illogical notary says, “This is not legally required, therefore I will not fill it out.” Unfortunately, a fraud can switch the acknowledgment from the document it was supposed to be on to another document signed by the same person which was not “notarized” and get away with it. The reason being that the Loose Acknowledgment was not labeled as to which document it belonged to.

The optional additional information section goes over the document name, document date, number of pages, other signers, capacities, and perhaps more. With all of that specific information, it would make it difficult but not impossible to find another similar document to swap the certificate to. If you want to be even more cautious like me, get a secondary embosser seal that leaves a raised impression and emboss all of the pages in everything you notarize. Then, if someone swaps pages or an Acknowledgment, it would be easy to catch the fraudulent act.

2. Not stapling forms together
If you do not affix, attach, or staple an Acknowledgment form to a document, or if you do not staple the document together, it is easy to swap pages after the notarization is complete. Swapping pages is illegal and unethical and dangerous, so you want to prevent this from happening. In California, not stapling Acknowledgments to documents is also illegal. An illogical person would not see the necessity of stapling forms as they do not bother to think of the reason why they should be doing it and what can go wrong if they don’t. Yet another reason why illogical people should not be Notaries.

3. The John Smith Dilemma
When I ask dumb Notaries this question, they normally get it wrong which is dangerous as you can end up in court for screwing this up regularly.

If the ID says John Smith, but the signature on the document says John W Smith, would it be prudent to notarize the signature under the circumstances.

The most common answers include:
You can always over sign — this is a title rule and not a legal rule. The legal rule is that you must prove a signer’s name/identity in order to notarize them. The meaning of “you can always over sign” means that if the name inscribed in the signature section of a document says John Smith, but the signer wants to sign John W Smith, that Title will not mind. Although in real life that is a matter of preference and Title might mind.
Just ask for another ID — once again, another illogical answer. Of course you can always ask for another ID, but in this circumstance there is no other ID. Having a second ID would be a different circumstance, and not the one mentioned. Additionally, in a yes/no question, you need to give a yes/no answer otherwise you are not being logical and also not proving you know the answer to the question which is NO.
The longer not shorter rule — this is not a rule and can easily be reversed. Never memorize a rule that can be reversed. The ID can be matching but longer than the name notarized. But, the ID cannot just be longer. The signature notarized can never be longer than the ID if you follow prudent procedure although some states have wishy-washy identification rules and might allow this.

My logical answer is that the ID must prove the name you are going to notarize the signer under. The ID can be matching but longer than the signature on the document, but not unmatching or shorter.

4. Understanding basic notary acts
You could get in trouble for not understanding basic notary acts. If a client asks if you can notarize an Acknowledgment when they ALREADY signed the document, most Notaries would say no. However, almost all states do not require the signer to sign in the presence of the Notary, but only to Acknowledge in the presence of the Notary — a distinction an illogical person often cannot make. So, by not understanding the rules, you will deny a valid request for notarization which is by definition — illegal. Many Notaries deny legal requests all day long and then accept illegal requests because they are completely ignorant of Notary law and procedure which describes most of the Notaries on our site which is appalling.

5. Omitting or scrambling required Oaths & Affirmations
The illogical Notary doesn’t realize that Oaths are administered in all states by Notaries and that they are required for Jurats. The illogical Notary makes the following mistakes.

Omitting the Oath / Affirmation — It can be considered a felony of perjury to omit an Oath when you filled out a paper stating that an Oath was taken. Yet many Notaries are completely unaware that they need to administer Oaths and don’t even care until they get busted and have their commission revoked which doesn’t happen very often.
Giving an Affirmation instead of an Oath — Many Notaries who were asked to give an Oath used the word affirm because they don’t like the idea of swearing. That constitutes choosing the Notary act for the signer which is not allowed. The signer decides if they want an Oath or Affirmation, so you should probably ask if the law allows for either or.
Giving an Oath as to the identity of the signer — if you are giving an Oath about a document, having the signer swear their name is John Smith does not constitute an Oath about the document unless the document says, “My name is John Smith.” An Oath is incomplete or not administered unless it is topical to the subject matter. An Oath for a document should be regarding the truthfulness of the document.
Giving an Oath regarding that the signer signed the document — once again, by law a Jurat signature must be signed in the presence of the Notary, and the Oath should be about the truthfulness of the document and not whether they signed it.
Unique state laws — if your state requires more than just swearing that the document is correct, then by all means, fulfill your state requirements which we know nothing about here at 123notary. However, if you fulfill the other state requirements, but don’t administer an Oath regarding the truthfulness of the document and I caught you as a judge or notary division worker — your commission would be revoked on the first offense as that is perjury and undermines the integrity of the Notary profession and society.

In short, being illogical as a Notary can not only cost Title companies thousands and get you fired, or sued. Being illogical as a Notary can even get you jail sentence of up to five years for perjury which is a federal law which has no regard to the particular laws of your particular state. So, learn to be a correct Notary and keep in touch with your Notary division so you don’t goof on anything.

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You might also like:

5 books every notary should own and read
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3668

Oaths — how Notaries completely screw them up!
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19369

The grace period after your signing
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19465

10 risks to being a Mobile Notary Public
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19459

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June 26, 2018

Which rules are laws, Lender practices, or best practices?

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Notary Rules or Industry Rules?

It is confusing with all the standards in the Notary business. When 123notary teaches Notary practices, we are not teaching laws, but solid practices. Many Notaries argue with us about our practices because they are not required by law. That is the whole point — we are not teaching law because we are not authorized to, and because we don’t know it. We do know solid notary practices, and teach it as you can get into trouble for not knowing your basics. However, notaries have many misconceptions about the rules of the industry. So, let me clarify.

1. You can always over sign — industry practice (not a law)
Is this a Notary law, industry practice, or what? This statement means that you can sign a document with a name that is longer than the name typed in the signature line. However, that does not make it legal to notarize that longer name unless you can prove the name with an ID. Pleasing the Lender is one aspect of being a Notary. Obeying the law is a much more important one. If you displease the Lender you get fired. If you get in trouble with the law you can end up in jail. Pick your poison.

2. The name on the ID has to match
Please keep in mind that there are four names we have to keep track of:
(a) The name on the ID
(b) The name typed on the signature section of the document.
(c) The name signed on the document
(d) The name on the acknowledgment.

In theory these names could all be different variations, but it is cleaner if they are identical. The critical points are that:

(e) The name on the Acknowledgment must be identical or matching but shorter than the name on the signature line of the document. If the signature on the document says John W Smith, you can put John Smith or John W Smith in the Acknowledgment to please the law, but the shorter name might not please the client.
(f) The name on the Acknowledgment must be provable based on the name on the ID, but does not have to be an exact match. The ID could say John W Smith and you can put John Smith in the Acknowledgment if you like.
(g) The name signed on the document can be identical or matching but longer than the name typed on the document to please most Lenders, but legally notarizing the longer signature or shorter signature is dependent on proving all of the components of their name with an ID.

3. The Lender is the boss of the Notary Public (true for signings, but not for the actual notary work)
The Lender is your boss as to the general assignment, and what happens with loan documents. They are NOT your boss about Notary issues and you should not ask them for Notary advice ever as they might have you do something illegal out of ignorance or greed. You ask your state’s notary division if you have a Notary question and perhaps the NNA hotline and that’s it. The Notary can ask the Lender their preference in how something is notarized if there is more than one legal way to do it, but you can not ask a Lender how to do your job. You are the appointed Notary, not them. If they want to do it their way, they should come over with their stamp and do it their way which hopefully is legal — but, it is their commission at stake if it is not legal. Don’t risk your commission depending on the Lender or Title for Notary advice.

4. The Notary is the boss of the Lender?
The Notary is a state appointed official who represents their state, although the state is not the entity that pays them. If there is a discussion between the Lender and the Notary as to how a Notary act is done, the Notary dictates how it should be done. If there are multiple legal ways to do something such as fixing a mistake by crossing out and initialing vs. attaching a loose certificate — then, the Notary can ask for the Lender’s preference, but not for advice. However, there are liability issues with doing cross outs and initialing. It looks like tampering and you don’t want to end up in court. So, once again, it is the Notary’s discretion as to how problems are solved when there are multiple methods to solve. You can ask the Lender what they like or you can dictate to the Lender what you are going to do. But, the Notary is the boss of Notary work. If they don’t like it, they can find another Notary. It is best if you explain the reasons why you want to do something a particular way. If your reason sounds prudent, there is a chance you might get some respect for your decision. Most Notaries don’t think issues out carefully and do not have well thought out reasons for anything they do. Read our course more and become reasonable! Your commission might depend on it.

5. Send me a loose certificate or jurat in the mail (illegal)
Acknowledgment or Jurat certificates must be stapled to the documents they are associated with. If there is one floating around, you cannot create another one until you destroy the original yourself. Some states do not allow creating new certificates for botched notarizations and require you to do the notarization all over again. Consult your notary handbook on this issue, especially in California where there are many new rules created in the last few years that I have heard about but not actually read to my satisfaction.

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You might also like:

The ID says John Smith
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19953

What is the cleanest way to rectify an error on a certificate?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20018

13 ways you might get sued as a Notary
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19614

5 books every notary should own (and read)
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3668

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May 1, 2018

Letter to California Notary Division

Filed under: California_Notary,Popular on Facebook (very) — Tags: — admin @ 10:46 am

Dear California Notary Division,
I am someone who runs a Notary directory and is acutely aware of the deficiencies in Notary knowledge throughout the state and the nation. California Notaries are better than those in other states on average due to the excellent training, but the training does not cover practical aspects of the Notary profession. Additionally, there are issues with fees that need to be addressed.

PRETRAINING
As there are so many ethical violations out there among California Notaries, and misunderstanding of Notary law, it is clear that a longer and more comprehensive notary training is necessary. However, I also think that due to the incompetence out there, a few other pre-measures should be taken.

1. A IQ test should be administer to applicants. It can be a ten minute quiz. Notaries with low intelligence often bungle and misinterpret Notary laws which can lead to illegal activity and wrongful explanations to clients of what can and cannot be legally done.

2. A meticulousness test should be administered to Notaries to see if they can be orderly about conducting tasks which require multiple steps. Being a good Notary means filling out journals and forms correctly in their entirety, and a meticulous person is less likely to make errors. The majority of your Notaries are far from meticulous.

3. Following directions and ethics are some other problems that are common with California Notaries. How you test this is hard. You have to find a way to trick them into doing something right or wrong while they are being watched.

4. Preference to those with clerical, police, military, legal, mortgage, or settlement backgrounds might help attract better quality Notaries as those are professions that are normally high in terms of integrity, and clerical skills which are both critical in the Notary profession.

TRAINING
A single day course on Notary Public knowledge is not enough. California stresses theoretical knowledge and does not test on hands on aspects of being a Notary. When a Notary is out there in the field, they need to know how to handle various types if situations. Here are my detailed comments.

1. Oaths & Affirmations
Administer Oaths correctly and roughly half of Notaries in California do not administer Oaths at all, or not in a relevant and acceptable way. Here are some examples of irrelevant or wishy-washy Oaths.

(a) Many Notaries have the signer to swear to their personal identity rather than to the truthfulness of the document.
(b) Many Notaries make the signer swear they signed the document but not to the truthfulness of the document.
(c) It is common for Notaries use Affirm in an Oath when they should ideally use the verb swear.
(d) Many Notaries do not understand the term “administer” in the sentence “Administer an Oath to an Affiant.”
(e) Many Notaries use a court Oath for a witness asking if they swear to the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth when the document does not necessarily reflect a whole truth.
(f) It is common for Notaries not to mention the document being sworn to when administering an Oath, hence administering an Oath that is regarding thin air.
(g) Most Notaries do not know the difference between a court Oath for a witness, a document Oath and an Oath for a statement that has not been made yet.
(h) Notaries need to be taught asking “Oath questions,” such as, “Do you solemnly swear this document is true and correct?” or “Do you solemnly swear that the statement you are about to make is true and correct?” Many Notaries will ask the Oath question about the statement, get a yes, and then not have the Affiant make the actual statement. This is why an IQ test should be mandatory and a result of 95 or higher should be required. Most of the problems I have with Notaries arises from low IQ’s and bad attitudes.

The handbook makes it clear that an Affiant must swear to the truthfulness of a document. However, there is no prescribed wording or guidelines. My solution is to have prescribed components of Oaths, but no official verbiage just to keep life flexible. At a minimum, in an Oath, the Affiant must use the word “I”, and then the word “swear”, mention the foregoing document, and make reference to the fact that they feel the document is authentic or correct. Using “affirm” was asked to administer an Oath means that the Notary has overided the client’s request to have an Oath which means that the Notary chose the notary act instead of letting the entity who is paying or swearing.

2. Fill out their journal correctly
Many Notaries are unclear as to how many journal entries should be filled out if there are multiple signers signing multiple documents. The 2018 handbook does not make it clear HOW MANY journal entries are necessary if there are multiple documents per signer all using the same Notary act. This should be clarified as it is an area of common misunderstanding. One journal entry per person per document is how I was trained. Additionally, the use of arrows for repetitive information in appointments with multiple documents per signer are discouraged now from what I have heard, but the handbook does not mention this. There needs to be a SINGLE SOURCE of notary law information and that source should be the handbook and not some bulletin or blog article or other supplemental sources (although those can help teach the materials in the handbook.)

3. Understand the components of notary forms including the “Additional information” section of an Acknowledgment which might not be legally required, but deters fraud by making it very detectable if someone swaps an Acknowledgment and puts it on a different document than what was intended.

4. Many Notaries do not understand how to handle requests that are illegal or seem illegal. Many Notaries will accept illegal requests while declining acceptable requests. This is due to poor training. So, training needs to focus on handling questionable requests. Many Notaries feel it is illegal to EXPLAIN the various notary acts to clients while it is not. It is illegal to choose for them, but not to explain them as far as I know.

5. Foreign language signers are an area of misunderstanding as many Notaries are not aware that they are NOT required to understand the content of the document but ARE required to have direct communication with the signer/affiant.

6. Many Notaries are unaware that the ID does not have to exactly match the name on the document but must PROVE the name on the document. Many Notaries take liberties and will Notarize a signature that says John W Smith with an ID that says John Smith, etc. It is common for Notaries to refer to the “more than but not less than rule” which is a rule created for Title companies and not a law which states that the signer can over sign their name to include more middle initials or names, etc. However, the Notaries who remember this law often do not care if it is legal to notarize a name that is over signed. It is not clear whether you can notarized John W Smith as John Smith if the ID says only John Smith. This is another common occurrence that needs to be clarified.

7. Credible Witness law is a little bit complicated and perhaps should be simplified. Most Notaries are unaware that the handbook states that the credible witness is the entity who has to swear to the fact that he/she believes that the signer cannot easily obtain an ID. Since the Notary has OFTEN seen an ID with the wrong name on it, how can the Notary ACCEPT an Oath from a credible witness that the Notary knows to be based on false information or made fraudulently regarding how the signer cannot find an ID? This law about CW is convoluted and a source of a lot of trouble. Close to NONE of your Notaries would be able to recite these laws by memory. Therefor, I suggest simplifying it because most notaries cannot learn it properly and the CW rules are convoluted and make no sense. Here is my idea of a better set of rules.

(a) A Notary can use the Oaths of two credible witnesses to identify a signer.
(b) The credible witnesses must either be immediate family members or know the signer intimately enough so they know his/her middle names without being reminded. (The law for how well you have to know the signer to be a CW is convoluted, wishy-washy, and useless currently.)
(c) The Oath for the credible witness should be, “I solemnly swear that the signer in front of me is legally named _____.”
(d) A CW can be used regardless of whether the signer has ID or not as names on ID do not always reflect the whole, complete or current name of a signer.
(e) A journal thumbprint must accompany all Notary acts done involving credible witnesses.
(f) The CW must not have any beneficial or financial interest in the document being signed.

8. Acknowledgment confusion.
(a) Box at top of page
Many Notaries get confused by the information in the box at the top of an Acknowledgment. Many Notaries feel that the signer does not have to verify the validity of the document where it says clearly that the Notary does not have to. It is better to clarify this point as many Notaries are lacking the gift of logical thinking which can cause a lot of confusion.
(b) Perjury clause in Acknowledgments
Many Notaries feel that the signer is signing under the penalty of perjury in an Acknowledgment where it is clear that it is the Notary who is filling out the form correctly under the penalty of perjury. This point is widely misunderstood and needs to be elaborated since there are so many who cannot think logically about this point.
(c) Notaries are often unclear about whether the signer has to sign in their presence. Since the signer must personally appear, Notaries misinterpret this to mean that the signer must sign while they personally appear which is not true in California. The signer can sign ten years ago, but cannot be notarized until they appear.
(d) Notaries are often unclear about who is acknowledging what in an acknowledgment. Many thing that the Notary is acknowledging that a signature is correct. This is not true. The signer needs to acknowledge that they signed a document in the presence of the Notary. This point needs to be clarified for your notaries because there is too much confusion and misinterpretation going on out there.
(e) The additional optional information on NNA forms should be REQUIRED by law on loose certificates as it deters the fraudulent switching of acknowledgments to other documents by virtue that it identifies the name of the document, number of pages, document date, signers, and more…

9. Chain of Authority.
Many Notaries work with Title companies regularly and think of the Title companies as their boss. Wrong! The state is not exactly their boss, but is the entity they have to refer to if there is a legal question. It is common for Notaries to ask Lenders and Title what they can and cannot do as a Notary. This is wrong. They will get either a wrong answer or an answer that benefits the Lender or Title both of whom have beneficial and financial interest in the documents being Notaries. This point needs to be drummed into the Notaries heads. The State of California should ideally have a Notary hotline because there are so many times when Notaries have questions about what they can and cannot do, and often late at night when help is not available. The point of a Notary is to ensure the integrity of transactions done involving signed documents. If the Notary cannot find out what the law says, then the notarization will not have any integrity. This is a very serious issue.

10. Hands On Training
Notaries take a written exam, but this is not really as important as practical matters. What is important is to have someone do hands on training and testing to see if the Notary can fill out forms, journals, administer Oaths, take thumbprints, use credible witnesses, and decipher between legal and illegal requests. A written test cannot do this.

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SUMMARY

1. Notary training should be two, three or four days long for new Notaries with a refresher every year to keep everyone serious.

2. Notaries should be trained by hand to see if they can handle requests, explain terminology and fill out forms, etc.

3. Notaries need to be audited regularly. Not only journal auditing which you are already doing (super!!!) Auditing people by pretending to be customers and asking them to do Oaths, or asking them if such and such a notarization would be legal under particular circumstances will let you know which of your Notaries are acceptable and which are criminals. It takes work, but you are a prudent organization that values integrity and I believe you will do the work.

Thanks
Sincerely,
Jeremy Belmont
123notary manager

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You might also like:

Letter to Florida Notary Division
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19896

Logic errors can cost you as a notary
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20110

Letter to Trump about the sad condition of American Notaries
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19403

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January 23, 2018

What’s your sign?

As a Notary, there are various aspects to our job. The most important according to Carmen is identifying people. But, most Notaries just look at the name, and photo, and if it is close enough, that is good enough. If the name is missing a middle initial on the ID that exists on the document that is bad news. But, most Notaries just say, “close enough.” If you say “close enough” too many times, you might end up in court on an identity fraud case which could end you up in court for weeks with no salary, and you might lose a lot of your regular customers as well.

So, how can Notaries make identifying people more reliable? Here are some quick points.

1. If the name don’t match, you must not attach.
Most Notaries say you can over sign but not undersign. This is a Lender preference not a law. If the ID says John Smith and the document says John W Smith you are taking your commission in your hands if you Notarize the signature.The Lender might not mind, but you might end up in court over this if fraud is involved and once in a blue moon it will be.

Most states make sure that middle initials are in ID’s, but not all people are from one of those states. There are out of state people, foreigners, and people who changed their names due to marriage or some other reason, not to mention people with name variations. People from Mexico culturally have two surnames on a regular basis.

So, you have to be prepared for this type of situation even though it only happens 1-6% of the time. If you are going to notarize anyway, what can you do?

(a) Ask the signer what sign he is while holding the ID. If the fake ID has a fake birthday the signer will not know his fake sign. He might be a Leo that is pretending to be an Aquarius. On the other hand, the fake ID might have a real birthday but a fake name.

(b) Get a thumbprint from the signer in your journal. That way the investigators can catch him after the fact if there is any funny business. Thumbprints also deter frauds as they often would prefer not to be notarized than risk being thumbprinted.

(c) Ask their height or birth date.

(d) Ask for a birth certificate if they have one. That doesn’t have a photo, but does have the DOB which is something you can use to cross-check information.

(e) If they have a Social Security card, that is not an acceptable ID, but the first three numbers are part of the zip code where they were born. You can cross check check the info by asking them where they were born.

(f) A gas bill is NOT generally an acceptable form of ID for notarization. However, if you want to verify a middle initial, it is better than nothing.

What you can’t do.
Do NOT accept a signature affidavit AKA statement as a form of identification. That is a document for the LENDER and the source of the information is unknown and not official. Sources for government ID’s are official which is why you can normally trust government issued photo ID’s.

Summary
You need to know your state laws on identifying signers. Many states do not require the name on the ID to exactly match the signature on the document or even for the complete name on the document to be provable based on the ID. Many states leave it up to your judgement. Just because you are following the law does not mean you won’t end up in court as a witness or conspirator to identity theft which is why you as a Notary must take as many precautions as possible.

If you are notarizing for a long term customer and want to take liberties to ensure that your business relationship does not end prematurely, then you might use the above techniques. If the customer means nothing to you, I would strongly consider JUST SAYING NO to any request that is at all questionable, especially those involving ID’s that have names shorter than that on the document.

But, the fastest way to verify if an ID is fake is simply to ask — what’s your sign?

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You might also like:

Credible Witnesses – the ins and outs
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19634

Notary Public 101 – Identification
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19507

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