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May 17, 2013

Why do I have to sign with my middle initial?

Filed under: SEO,Signing Tips — admin @ 11:03 pm

Do you get asked this question?

If your name on Title has your middle initial, is that the reason? I think so. But, what if your drivers license doesn’t have your middle initial? Then, you can not prudently be notarized with your middle initial. When signing loan documents, if you don’t sign exactly how your name is typed in the signature section, then you probably won’t get your loan. So, inconsistent middle initials can create an issue.

But, as notaries, you need to watch your signers carefully. Remember, you are there to babysit the signers. Unfortunately, most notaries are so unprofessional that they need to be babysat as well. But, you should know what you are doing.

At a signing, you should tell the borrowers exactly how they are to sign and have them practice on a piece of paper that is not part of their loan. Watch them. Make sure they don’t leave out any initials and make sure they sign using the applicable name variation.

Good luck

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The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial
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Cross out and initial, or use a fresh form?
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Notarizing multi-page documents
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What if the signature or notarization is in the middle of the document?
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Notary Public 101 from 123notary
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January 25, 2011

The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial

Once upon a time, there was a man who didn’t want to sign with his middle initial.

This man was very uncomfortable using his middle initial and protested vehemently.

He wanted to use his regular signature to protect himself from identity fraud. He felt that signing in a slightly different way would make him succeptable to identity fraud.

During the initial signing, he was forced against his will to sign with his middle initial. This was during the time when he was doing a purchase on the property. Then, several years later on the refinance signing, the notary explained how he wouldn’t get his money if he didn’t sign with his middle initial.

No initial — No $200,000 — it’s that simple.

So, after a little coaxing, the signer did what the notary asked, and signed using his middle initial, and all went well.

And everyone lived happily ever after

The End!

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April 2, 2018

Cross out and initial, or use a fresh form?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 6:41 pm

Most Notaries like to cross-out and initial changes in certificates. Keep in mind that these are legal documents affecting million dollar properties. Cross-outs look like tampering. It is CLEANER to take a fresh acknowledgment form from your Notary bag, fill it out thoroughly including the additional information section with the name of the document, number of pages, etc., And then staple it on to the document. On the other hand, using a new form could change the recording fees for the loan which would affect the truthfulness of the information on the Closing Statement.

If there is a cross-out for a name on a certificate that is a quite serious legal issue. It could lead to complications should you ever go to court. It is your right to decide to use a fresh acknowledgment form and staple it on the document even if the Lender doesn’t want it that way. Lenders sometimes prefer to use the original form because it is inscribed within the document. But, also because a new form will be charged extra money from the county recorder. Lenders sometimes lose loose acknowledgment forms which is yet another reason many Lenders prefer to fix the original.

As a Notary, you may be faced with the unpleasant reality that the Lender may have already filled out your Acknowledgment form, and with wrong information. If the form says you are in Orange County when you are in Seminole, you cannot notarize that form as is. So, what do you do and what are the consequences?

I cannot tell you what your state laws allow or require, I can only tell you how to handle forms in a prudent way.

Fix the Existing Form
If you are going to fix the existing Acknowledgment, just cross-out the wrong information with a single line, write in the correct county, and the Notary initials. The borrowers can initial changes to documents, but should not initial changes to certificates unless your state says so in writing. Fixing the existing form has the advantage that there will not be any changes to the recording fee for the loan. If you start adding additional pieces of paper, that will change the information on the HUD or CD and open a can of worms which some Lenders don’t like. On the other hand it is cleaner to replace the form rather than to fix it as fixing it looks like potential tampering.

Replace the Form
To replace an Acknowledgment, just staple on a new Acknowledgment, fill it out, sign and seal. Please also fill out what is called the optional and additional information which is normally about the document such as number of pages, document date, etc.

Communication Errors
When I ask Notaries how to fix a wrong county on an acknowledgment, some of them tell me how to replace it. Fix and replace are not the same word, so please do not answer a different question from what I asked. Please also be aware of the benefits and costs of replacing the form rather than fixing it.

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October 21, 2013

Can you notarize someone’s initials?

Can you notarize someone’s initials?

It is fun to read all of the various notary questions that people have. But, a notary may only legally notarize a signature of a living person who appears before the notary public.

However, it is common for signers to be required (not required by the notary, but required by the document custodian or lender or other entity) to initial all of the pages of a Deed of Trust, Power of Attorney or perhaps a Note. There are other documents that are often initialed as well. It is never a legal requirement to initial a document, but it might be a business requirement for certain financial or business entities just to make sure that pages are not swapped after the notarization.

Initialing pages of a longer document is more of a “best practice” to deter fraud. It is harder to swap a page if there is an initial on it. However, Title companies are known to forge the initials of a signer just to save time — if the signer forgot to. Imagine that documents went to a borrower’s house, and the borrower signed the documents, and had them Fedexed back to the lender. If the borrower forgot an initial, it is a huge pain to bring those documents back. It is easier to commit forgery of an initial even though that is a serious crime!

Getting back to the main point of this article, no, a notary cannot notarize someone’s initials.

You might also like:

The 30 point course’s guide to initialing
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Why do I have to sign with my middle initial?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4452

Tutorial on initialing
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14463

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January 17, 2019

Notary Etiquette 104 — Humorous Edition

Filed under: Etiquette — Tags: , — admin @ 10:11 am

Here is a humorous version of our etiquette course for your laughing pleasure.
Return to Table of Contents for – Notary Etiquette 104

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1. Dress for success
Wearing a smile on your face, but if you are also wearing a polyester jacket from the 70’s with super wide lapels, you might be the only one smiling.

Ladies, if you’re dressed in such a way that on the way to the signing cars pull up to you and ask how much you charge and you say, “$50 for a signing and an extra $25 if it includes eDocuments. I don’t do oral Notary acts like Affirmations though.” — you might need a new wardrobe.

If you wear flip-flips to the signing, you might be able to flip through a lot of documents, but your business will eventually flop.

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2. Arrive on time
It’s okay to be fashionably late if you are going to a cocktail party, but not to a signing.

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3. Animals at the signing
If there is a parrot in the room that says, “Stop forging his signature — bock!” you might want to get out of there. You should avoid doing Oaths for dogs, they prefer to receive Affirmations (or wuffermations). Cats prefer to take a nap on the documents.

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4. Leaving a business card.
When you give clients your business card, if you crossed out the phone number and wrote in a new number in handwriting — it’s time to print out some newly designed cards. If the email address on your business card ends in “aol.com” it might be time to consider retiring.

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5. Answering the phone during a signing
Its’ a bad idea to have phone calls during the signing. It’s an even worse idea to have them hear your heavy breathing. It’s even worse if the phone call is from your borrower’s ex-girlfriend or mistress.

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6. Don’t discuss religion at the signing.
If you start the signing with, “Those damn Quakers, they’re not as friendly as they claim to be, and grey went ou in the 70’s.” — you might be in the wrong profession and should probably convert from Quakerism to Catholicism.

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7. If your signer’s mother tongue isn’t English
It is generally a bad idea to mimic your signer’s accent at a signing. Wait until after the signing. Unless you have a document that is going to the Russian Consulate… then read it with thick Russian accent comrade!

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8. Confirming the signing
When confirming the signing it is a good idea to ask, “Are you high? Are you going to be high at the signing? Can I have some, man?” But, only do that if you are in a state where marijuana is legal otherwise you might be sorry. If you are going over their ID over the phone ask, “Do you look high in your ID photo?”

9. Middle initials
If the signer doesn’t want to sign with their middle initial, give them the finger… the middle finger! Just kidding. Just explain why they need to sign with their middle initial, and then after you are leaving the house, then give them the finger. There is a proper order to these things.

10. Don’t give opinions about the loan.
When you are at a signing, don’t comment about their interest rate such as, “Wow man, that’s a great rate… My brother just got a loan and his rate was way higher than yours. I’m so bummed out about that. I wish we could have gotten 4.5%. I’m going to call my brother right now and tell him what a loser he is.” It’s also not a good idea to say, “Wow, look at those terms, you’re getting ripped off dude, totally ripped off.”

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January 15, 2019

Notary Etiquette 104 — Confirming the Signing & At the Signing

CONFIRMING THE SIGNING & AT THE SIGNING
Return to Table of Contents for – Notary Etiquette 104

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1. Call to confirm the signing.
First introduce yourself on the confirmation call. Then go over all pertinent points. Make sure the ID proves the name on the documents and that all the signers will be there. You should also verify that there is a clean table to sign on. You should go over how long the signing should take, if there is anything going back to the document custodian and if they have used morphine or Jack Daniels within several hours of the signing. Nothing beats a sober signer or a well-organized Notary Public.

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2. Introduce yourself at the door.
It is good to mention that you are Joe the signing agent and that it is your job to facilitate the signing. Mention that they can address all of your questions to you, but that you cannot answer specific questions about their loan, but only general questions about loan documents and Notary procedure.

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3. Small talk is good.
People like a friendly Notary who can talk about small talk. But, avoid any topics that could be controversial such as gender issues, sex, guns, and how born-again Christians should have a second birth certificate for when they were born the second time.

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4. Don’t discuss guns and religion.
Unless you are notarizing the Obamas, don’t bring up Joe the plumber, or religion. But, if you are notarizing the head of the NRA then you might reconsider guns. If you ask him to shoot you an email, don’t be surprised if he asks what you want him to shoot it with! Yee-haw!!!

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5. Don’t park in the driveway.
The driveway is for the residents to park in, not you. You are their humble servant who parks on the street (sorry).

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6. Call if you’re going to be late.
If you are going to be late, call and let them know ahead of time rather than keeping people hanging.

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7. Don’t rush the borrowers.
On the other hand, if you have another appointment to go to, let them know when you have to depart. If you are under a time crunch, you can discuss their right to rescind if applicable and remind them that they have borrower copies.

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8. No drinks on the table
Drinks can spill, so unless you want your Deed of Trust drenched, keep the drinks on a chair or a separate table — no exceptions.

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9. Know when to call the Lender.
If the borrower asks questions, you need to know in advance which questions you can answer and which questions to refer to the Lender. You should have the phone numbers for Title, the lender, and any other relevant party. You can answer questions about what information is where in the documents as well as Notary questions. You should not answer questions specific to their loan.

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10. Middle initials
If the signer doesn’t want to sign with their middle initial, politely tell them that they need to sign the way their name reads on title otherwise their loan might not fund.

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11. How long to wait for return calls
If you try to reach one of the contact people for the loan such as Title, Loan Officer, Lender, etc., and they do not answer, try to give them a reasonable amount of time to respond. Twenty minutes to an hour seems reasonable.

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12. Dress for success.
People get very put off if you do not dress like a business professional. Business casual or business formal is fine. Avoid jeans and definitely don’t wear flip flops, shorts, bathing suits, heavy makeup, short skirts, or night club apparel. Signers get in trouble all the time for not dressing for success.

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13. Don’t bring your kids.
Believe it or not, some Notaries will bring their family to the signing. This is very intrusive and rude. Either keep your family at home, or in the car, but don’t bring them to the signing.

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14. Don’t complain.
Don’t tell the customers how bad certain signing companies are or who didn’t pay you. Keep your personal business personal. It makes a terrible impression if you talk about this stuff.

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15. Don’t give opinions about the loan.
The worst thing a Notary can do is to give an opinion, especially a negative opinion about a loan. You can get fired, blacklisted or even sued because of this. Some borrowers might cancel their loan because you told them they were getting ripped off.

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16. Following instructions
If you were asked to sign in blue, then sign in blue. If you were asked to start at page four, just do it, don’t explain or make excuses, just follow instructions. If you are asked to fax back page 1 to 28, don’t complain, just do it.

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17. If you make a mistake
If you make a mistake as a Notary, you might have to go back out there and fix the mistake. So, don’t keep people waiting. Go back out there and clean up after yourself.

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18. The grace period
As a Notary, you might be asked to answer emails after a job is done. There might be a problem, error, or just an inquiry. If you don’t answer your email or phone because you are on vacation or just don’t feel like it, that can cause a big problem.

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September 12, 2018

Redaction – the legal Eraser

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — admin @ 11:39 am

Redaction – the legal Eraser

When something needs to be changed, typically the spelling of a name; there are many wrong ways. There is only one right way.

Wrong Redactions

If you wish to destroy, as in making it generally unacceptable for most filing and legal purposes, the surest way is to plaster on the White Out. Equally bad is to simply erase the error (not so easy with LaserJet printouts) but it still can be done with a white ink eraser. There is also the time honored method of obliteration via multiple cross outs. Neater, but equally inappropriate to simply overwrite one letter with a different one. The classic example is adding a second loop to the bottom of a capital P to make it a capital B. Less neat, but still wrong is to simply write a new letter on top of the old one. There are probably other wrong ways, I have not seen them all.

Proper Redactions

Simply draw a THIN line (a Pilot Precise V5 RT pen does this well) thru the middle of the WORD (not a single letter) or phrase that is in error. Thus, “Kenneth A Ebelstein” becomes “Kenneth A Ebelstein”. Note that the thin line allows the underlying text to remain fully readable. Few can draw a thin straight line, use a credit card as a line guide. Initials (more on whose are used later) go at either end of the strikethru line or in the margin at either side of the text. Lastly write the correct value “Edelstein” as nearby as possible. It WILL look bad, you will think a discreet “overwrite” looks better. Perhaps, but that overwrite is never acceptable.

The Two Parts of a Notarized Document

Documents to be Notarized consist of only two parts. There is the document itself, almost always first. The document is followed by the Notary section. One tiny exception is the possibility of the Venue (State of xxx, County of xxx) residing at the top of the document. Even though it is “first” the Venue is always considered as part of the Notary section.

Who makes Changes Where

This is simple. Only the notary can make changes to the Notary Section (including a top most Venue). Affiants make changes as needed outside of the Notary Section. I have been told to “correct the name spelling everywhere it appears” and refuse to do so. I do not make any writing of any type outside of “my” area. Nor, do I permit others to make changes in “my” area. Any change to the body of the document should be made by someone who will be signing THAT document, and by nobody else. Thus, you MUST teach them proper redaction procedures.

Who Initials in the Notary Section

I’m sure you guessed this one. ONLY the notary. Correcting a misspelled name in the Notary Section is NOT initialed by anyone else. I have had “low IQ” persons tell me that the named person should initial a name correction in the Notary Section; sometimes they want me to ALSO initial the fix, I do not allow anyone other than me to write anything, including initials in my area.

Who Initials in the Body of the document

ONLY persons whose signature appears at the end of the document, never the Notary. Take care to check who will be signing. Often one spouse is on some documents, but not all; and that is the one needing name correction. If they are NOT signing – even though their name is in the body of the document they do NOT initial the correction.

This can lead to strange looking corrections with a split signing. The prior affiants will not be initialing changes made during the “second session” – that’s one for the attorneys to argue.

Some Parting Thoughts

Get the initials right. When I change a Venue it’s KAE as my middle initial is on my stamp. The same applies to affiants. If the signature line of the document has Jr. Sr. III or similar, those attributes follow the regular initials EG: KAE Jr. or KAE II. As the name attributes are part of the legal name, they follow into the legal initials.

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August 20, 2018

Notary – What would you do?

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — admin @ 11:17 am

Notary – What would you do?

Assume in most questions that nobody answers your frantic “what should I do” calls.

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A) The buyer side loan package is huge, 235 pages. You glance thru the package and notice that the borrower’s name was misspelled, dozens of times. You don’t discover this till “at the table”.

1. Plow thru all the necessary changes, figuring it’s your fault because you did not verify what the ID was and what the correct spelling was.

2. Dozens of corrections would probably void the package; you adjourn the session and call your employer.

3. Borrower has software that can make a quick “global change” to the PDF and reprints the package with the “corrected name”; so it’s possible to proceed with the signing.

4. Use the AKA (also known as) form to notarize the misspelled name and equate the proper spelling as a valid alias. You perform notarizations of misspelled name based on sworn AKA to make it legal.

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B) You accept a near “lowball” fee. There is no mention of FAX backs when you accept the assignment. When the Edoc arrives there is a full fax back requirement on the “notary instructions”. As usual nobody is reachable due to a 6PM appointment. You do not have a scanner and faxing the package would cost half of your pay.

1. There is still time to ship for next day if you do not fax, you ship without faxing. You figure they are getting what they specified and what was agreed.

2. You hold the package till next morning and call asking for a fee increase.

3. You leave the completed package with the borrower asking them to scan/fax then ship.

4. You take your lumps, fax it all at top dollar from Kinko’s and ship; wanting to save the account.

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C) Borrower calls you to change the meeting location, fifty miles more distant, over toll roads.

1. You tell the borrower there will be an additional fee for them to pay “at the table”.

2. You decline the change mentioning your schedule does not permit the extra time involved.

3. You call Escrow, who sent the job, they refuse any additional fee; you dump the job.

4. Such is life, you cancel your subsequent assignment and comply with borrower demands.

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D) The borrower’s dog keeps “pawing” at you; thinking you are a source of Milk Bones. You ask that the dog be placed in a different room; borrower replies that they never lock their dog in a different room and refuses.

1. You ask the borrower to pay for new pants, if they will you will proceed.

2. You declare the situation a “hostile environment” and threaten to leave if dog not contained.

3. You call a “pause” to the signing and attempt to make friends with the dog.

4. You suggest moving to a nearby diner without dog; angry borrower asks you to leave.

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E) The docs are way late, the borrower keeps calling you asking when you will arrive. You don’t know when/if they ever will arrive as Title keeps (many calls) saying “we are working on final details, it should be soon”. This has been going on for three hours.

1. You keep trying to pacify borrower telling them the loss of rate lock would be very expensive to them.

2. You are not a fan of “heroic waits” and politely tell Title to put their job where the sun never shines.

3. You refused two other jobs during the wait – so you hang in there hoping to recoup some of your losses.

4. You give Title an absolute deadline, docs in half an hour or find someone else.

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F) You don’t have a racist bone in your body, you treat every human the same; and follow all rules. You are shown a passport from a country you never heard of. It’s all handwritten, even the passport number. It does not have a USA visa.

1. You accept the passport and include a photocopy with the statement that you have your validity doubts.

2. You decline the ID even though affiant claims to be from poor country and that’s how they do it.

3. You proceed but hold package till you can do some internet research to validate the passport.

4. You explain the situation to the Loan Officer and follow the advice given.

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G) This one happened to me. Identical twins, dressed and looking exactly alike. Both are on title and both need their signatures notarized. They joked when you met them how they enjoy substituting for each other.

1. The passport signatures are very similar, but you think you detect slight differences; you have them sign in front of you and determine based on handwriting which is which.

2. Mission impossible, you adjourn the session.

3. It really does not matter as they will be co-owners; you proceed relying on their sworn oaths.

4. You insist on a fingerprint next to each signature.

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H) The LO is adamant that you must backdate your notarizations to yesterday or they will incur financial damages and will sue you the notary to recoup their losses.

1. You insist upon a hand signed email (PDF) from the LO with the authorization to backdate. It actually arrives on your cell phone on their letterhead stationery and hand signed. You proceed to backdate it’s the LO’s problem.

2. You carefully spell your name to the LO stating that you hate to receive subpoenas with bad spelling.

3. You use the proper date and inform borrowers that it is improper for them to change the date in the notary section; then proceed to explain proper redaction procedures. What they do is not your problem.

4. You tell yourself perhaps the LO is right, your watch and cell phone might be showing the wrong date.

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I) Borrower looks at the package and states that they will be taking 3-5 hours to read every word. You explain the included Right of Recision, but borrower states they will sign nothing till reading every word. Also borrower wants to confer with their attorney while reviewing the pages. Nobody is available when you make calls.

1. You call out for pizza and ask for the remote to the TV.

2. You leave package and copy asking borrower to call when ready to sign.

3. You tell borrower you can stay for an hour and a half, and then must take docs whatever the progress.

4. You demand they sign quickly and threaten to cancel the loan if they don’t.

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J) Borrower has full middle name on docs but no ID that has more than middle initial.

1) You accept High School Yearbook entry as that has full middle name as part of ID – take pictures of all IDs, including yearbook entry and include with package.

2) Title says it’s OK to proceed and they will drop middle initial when issuing deed.

3) You redact the middle initial only in the notary section as that was the proven ID. Job proceeds.

4) You cancel the signing because there was insufficient ID.

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K) During the signing the borrower lights up a “joint”, offers you one (which you decline) – and proceeds to sign all of the documents.

1) As you did not “partake” it’s OK for you to notarize the documents.

2) At the first sign of illegal activity you adjourn the signing and take all paperwork, reporting issues.

3) Borrower claims “pot” helps them to concentrate and relax, you ask for windows to be opened and proceed.

4) Wanting to be accommodating you ask instead for a Scotch and Soda to stay legal

Please use the LETTER of the question in any comments so we all know what you are referring to.

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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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