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April 30, 2020

Does a signature need a signature line?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 9:35 am

Does a signature require a signature line? Does a car need a road? Does a taco need a plate (or banana leaf?)

This question opens up a can of worms, especially since many signatures resemble worms. A signature does not require a signature line. But, it is customary to have a signature line that you sign upon. Many Notaries might be tempted to draw in a line in their own handwriting if there is no signature line on a document that needs to be notarized. Is this practicing law to alter a legal document? Or is the alteration such that it does not compromise the content or character of the document in any meaningful way? These are questions for an Attorney and I cannot answer them myself.

I have seen a particular document show up in many loan packages. It says, “This form must be notarized.” However, there is never any notary wording, or a signature line on the document. So, I would add an Acknowledgment form and have the person sign the document. If the borrower wanted to draw a signature line that is better – that way they are doing the tampering and not you.

A document that lacks a signature line is definitely unprofessional and not well thought out. But, technically, a document doesn’t require a signature line, strange or “misaligned” as that might sound.


February 20, 2019

Notarizing Multi-Page Documents

Should a Notary notarize every page of a document? How can a Notary or signer safeguard themselves from someone swapping pages in a document after the notarization has taken place? You need answers! Here they are!

1. A Notary Public notarizes signatures on documents, not pages on documents. A particular page or pages might have notary certificates within a document. Or, a certificate could be stapled to the back of a document. Ideally that certificate should identify the corresponding document. If you have a ten page document, there will most likely only be one, and possibly two pages with notary wording.

2. A prudent Notary Public carries what is called an inkless embosser that leaves a raised seal impression. This is in ADDITION to having the legally required inked seal that is used with blank ink. The embosser can be used to emboss every single page in a notarized document. I did exactly that on everything I notarized even if there were 100 pages. I did this for safety reasons. I did not want people to get away with switching pages after the fact and dragging me into court as a result of someone else not liking the idea that a page was swapped.

3. If a signer swaps a page from a notarized document, and that page was embossed, they can still swap the page. However, it will not be legal, and it will be very obvious to the Notary Public if investigated that the new page was not part of the original notarization as the notary embosses all pages — if the notary indeed was the type of notary who embossed all pages — like me!

4. Some people initial all pages. Initialing is a type of precaution. But, initials can be forged easily, and it is sometimes not easy to tell if they were forged.

5. If a document had a page swapped, the staple and staple area in the pages might show evidence of tampering. The degree of evidence depends on how skillful the fraud was at swapping pages. Luckly in my career of 6000 Notary appointments I did not have this issue.

6. If you need to add a page to an already notarized document. What can you do? You have to notarize the entire document all over again. I had that happen. What a pain. The signer wasn’t happy. Sorry — just following the law!


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November 8, 2018

Fixing certificates is a state specific nightmarish issue

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 11:44 am

I like to ask people questions about what to do if a certificate is wrong and you are asked to notarize using that certificate. The problem is that different states handle this differently.

MD does not allow a Notary to add a certificate — period.

CA does not allow Notaries to fix certificates. You have to start the procedure all over if there is any mistake.

OR does not allow Notaries to play Attorney and make decisions as to what can be crossed out, or added, so in Oregon a notary really has their hands (and stamps) tied.

There might be other states with odd rules about fixing errors, but those are the ones that stand out. Making changes to Notary certificates looks like tampering and could cause a nightmare in court. Adding new certificates can raise recording costs and alter the information on the HUD. You are damned either way. So, learn to deal with these issues without getting in trouble with your state.


June 26, 2018

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


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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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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April 1, 2018

Scenarios: What is the cleanest way to rectify an error on a certificate?

Notary Certificates

In this article I will address multiple points affecting fixing errors on certificates.


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 and there is always a small chance that your cross-out will cause a long and drawn out delay in a court case if an Attorney suggests that perhaps there was 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.

To be prepared for this type of situation, please do the following:

1. Keep Notary certificate pads on your person
Buy Acknowledgment, Jurat, and Copy Certification forms from the NNA. These forms come in pads and fit in your notary bag or at least in your trunk. A good Notary carries these and uses them regularly.

2. Ask for preferences, not for advice
Know when to ask the Lender or Title company for their preference. Please remember that as a Notary, it is your exclusive jurisdiction to be the expert and sole authority as to how Notarizations should get done and how Notarizations do get done. However, if there are two legal ways to handle a situation such as fixing an error on a certificate (does not apply to Maryland as I have heard that you may not add a loose certificate there — look it up in the MD Notary Manual to be sure) you can ask for a preference as to which legal way the Lender prefers. But, you must not ask a Lender if it is “okay” to do something in a Notary form, but only if they have an “issue” with it.

The way you think about asking Lenders questions matters as many Notaries think of Lenders as their authority and boss. As to completing the assignment, loan documents and shipping, they are your boss. For the actual Notary procedure, the Secretary of State Notary Division (or whatever they are called in your state) is your only authority and YOU are the authority over the Lender in this regard. You have the right to say no, and they do not have the right to boss you around about Notary issues, but only to voice preferences.

3. Recording fees & issues with adding forms
If you add a loose acknowledgment to a notarized document in a loan signing, that will change the recording fee which might be recorded on the CD, Closing Statement or HUD-1. You are opening a can of worms if you do that. However, in my opinion, the integrity of the notarization trumps any recording fee issues as you are not likely to end up in court because the recording fee went up by $10 or $50, but you might end up in court if someone thinks there is tampering due to initialing and changing information on a Notary certificate.


Lenders are particular to the fact that they might have trouble reselling their loan if there are too many abnormalities in the Notary section such as adding certificate forms. Additionally, recording fees can go up if you add a certificate to a recorded document, and that affects the information on the CD or HUD which opens up a can of worms. However, please consider that if there are any accusations of tampering, it is you who might spend a long time in court. Adding a fresh certificate that has its additional and optional information filled out, which identifies the document clearly, eliminates most possibility of suspicion.

Assuming the form is acceptable in all other ways other than the state, just cross out the state, write in the new state, initial, and you are done. Do NOT let the borrower initial Notary certificate forms — that is exclusively the jurisdiction of the Notary.

Having a cross-out in the county of the venue would probably not affect the nature of the contact. Whereas changing a date would affect rescission which could nullify the effectiveness of a loan if challenged in court. Crossing out a name on a certificate can really change the contractual significance of a loan document. I cannot recommend how to handle situations with any authority. However, please realize that changing a county is a small issue while crossing out and initialing a date or name on an acknowledgment for a loan document could cause havoc down the line.

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March 31, 2018

Who is the authority at a Notary Loan Signing?

Notary Public Authority

We often ask questions about authority to signing agents, and the results are horrifying. Most Notaries do not know who is in charge of what. So, this article will sum it up clearly.

Notary Public
A Notary Public is a state appointed state official who is paid by customers, but whose “boss” or authority is the state Notary division. Many Notaries Public seem to be confused as to who their boss is, the one paying them or the one commissioning them. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the ones paying them often pay them for more than just Notary services as travel, pick up, drop off, and supervision of non-notarized signatures and packages seem to be part of the deal if you are a Signing Agent.

The Notary is the sole authority regarding what goes in a Notary certificate such as an Acknowledgment, Jurat, etc., what goes in the journal, what is allowed or not allowed, and how a notarization should be done.

It is common that Notaries have questions during a loan signing and direct those questions to the Lender or Title representative. This is okay for Title or Lending questions, but not for Notary questions where the Notary may only turn for help to their state Notary division, official Notary handbook, or perhaps the NNA hotline.

Notaries should NOT ask the Lender for Notary advice because:
1. The Lender is probably not a Notary
2. If the Lender is a Notary they might be in a different state
3. If the Lender is a Notary and in the same state they might not be knowledgeable.
4. If the Lender is a Notary, in the same state, and knowledgeable, they might (are likely to) give you advice that would make the job go more smoothly for them, yet have tremendous liability for you.
5. You are the one appointed to the job, so even if the person you are asking for advice is a Notary, they are not the one whose commission number gets put on the certificate, and you are the one going to jail if something goes wrong. Therefor, you have to know your laws and what you can and cannot do, etc.

Who can initial and where?
Any initials on a Notary certificate are done exclusively by the Notary Public. It looks like tampering if the borrower or anyone else makes marks on a Notary certificate. The borrower may initial documents, but not the Notary certificate or Notary section in or attached to a notarized document

The Lender
The Lender is the “boss” of what happens with loan documents. If the Lender authorizes a change, initialing, cross outs, etc., on an actual loan document that is NOT in the notary section, that is up to them and they are the authority on that matter, not the Notary. The minute the issue becomes with a Notary certificate, then the authority swings over to the Notary (even if the Notary doesn’t have a clue what to do.)

The Title Officer
The appointed Title company might be a good source of information about how to handle any issues that might come up with Title documents or recorded documents. You can ask them if you have questions, but don’t let them answer Notary questions.

Issues of Preference can be asked to the Lender
Sometimes there is more than one legal way to handle a situation. If there is an error on a preprinted Acknowledgment, and your state allows a choice of crossing out & initialing vs. using a fresh Acknowledgment form, you have a choice. The Notary has the right to make that choice on his/her own and choose the option that he/she feels is more prudent or ask the Lender. However, this is a situation where the Notary can ask the Lender not for advice, but for preference. If the Lender would prefer a loose Acknowledgment stapled on to the document rather than crossing out & initialing the original form, the Notary can proceed accordingly.

The Borrower
The borrower has the right to sign, not sign, tell you where to park and more. Their preferences matter as well.

Your State
Your state Notary division decides what the laws are in your state, how they are explained or document in your official Notary handbook, etc. They are your boss, so you do whatever they say. Additionally, if you are weak on your Notary knowledge, that can lead to ending up in court as a witness, having your commission revoked, suspended or terminated. Additionally, it is possible to be convicted of a crime if you are thought to be involved in property related fraud, or if you filled out a form stating that an Oath was taken when in fact it was never taken which is a daily fraud that most Notaries engage in that is unacceptable.

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January 30, 2018

The one Notary who used an embosser was the one notary that…

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:06 am

A week ago was the first time I ever talked to a Notary who used a secondary embossed seal. Notaries are required to use an ink seal for notarizations. However, many states will allow for a secondary non-inked embosser seal that leaves a raised impression in the paper you notarize.

The raised impression cannot be photocopied.
The raised impression is not easy to forge
The raised impression can go on each page of every document you notarized.

The purpose of the embosser is to deter people who want to swap pages in a document after it has been notarized which is tampering and illegal. Some Notaries emboss several pages all together, while other Notaries emboss pages one by one. There is always a danger the document custodian could swap pages with another document you notarized so it might make sense to emboss a different part of the page each time you emboss. Not sure how to coordinate that. Would you emboss on the left of the page on Mondays or use a random way to figure out which part of the page to emboss.

The irony is that someone did swap a page on a Deed embossed by this Notary. One of the people in the transaction contacted an Attorney since the dollar amount on his copy was different. The Notary had to appear in court, however, since the swapped page was not embossed, the lack of embossing was another layer of evidence used to nail the culprit two or more times over.

The one Notary in the East Coast who uses an embosser to deter page swapping was the one Notary that page swapping happened to in my experience talking to tens of thousands of Notaries. How ironic. I never would have guessed. I guess the Notaries who aim to catch frauds are the ones who karmically do. Another Notary in California routinely catches identity thieves by handing over thumbprint to the FBI. I guess she is tuned in to catching really really bad guys too.

Maybe one day you will catch a bad guy, but it won’t happen unless you take precautions such as keeping a good journal with thumbprints, full names of documents, document dates, other info about the documents, use an embosser, and the list goes on.


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November 1, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Real Life Notary Scenarios

Return to the table of contents of Notary Public 101

Knowing how to be a good notary is all fine and good. But, if you don’t know how to handle scenarios, you might get into some sticky situations.


1. Confirming the signing
When you call the borrowers, go over the:
Date, Time, People Signing, Location, if there is a check or wired funds, if they have 90 minutes to complete a signing, and any fees that seem critical in the CD or HUD. Additionally, you should have them read the names in their ID to make sure they match, …read more…


2. The name on the ID says John Smith
Q. The name on the ID is shorter or not matching the name on the document? What do you do?
A. 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… read more


3. Rectify errors on Notary certificates
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 … read more…


4. The signer would not sign the flood disclosure.
If you go to a signing at 11am and the signer signs everything except the flood disclosure, what do you do? You call the contact person or people in title or lending. If they do not call you back, you cannot stay at the borrower’s house all day long. Let’s say you leave …read more…


5. The green pen scenario
You go to a signing, open the package and the instructions read:
Sign in GREEN, don’t call unless it is an emergency, get it to Fedex on time or you are fired.
It is 5:30, last pick up is at 6:00pm. Nobody has a green pen. There is a stationery store in the same complex …read more…


6. Ten grant deeds.
If you have one signer signing ten grant deeds, you need to do the following:
Create ten journal entries, one per person per document. Put thorough information about who the grantor and grantee is, a thumbprint, and …read more…


7. The FBI is at your door.
What piece of information will they want from you if someone gave you a fake ID?
A journal thumbprint. If you don’t keep one, start now… read more…


8. What types of pads of forms should a Notary keep in his/her bag?
Acknowledgments, Jurats, Copy Certifications. Skip the POA forms. Have them consult an Attorney. I carried permission for minors to travel. I created my own very thorough form with room for thumbprints. The Mexican authorities loved my form!… read more…


9. Chad assigns a job to you. He says if there is a problem, call him and only him. If you can’t reach him, then email him. You get to the signing, the signer signs half the documents and then has a question. What do you do? Call Chad and if he doesn’t answer then email him. Many Notaries just don’t follow directions… read more…


10. Frank does a loan signing on Monday and drops the package in the drop box at 3pm, calls in the tracking number and then wants to go camping. How many days should Frank wait before embarking on his camping trip and why? I think that Frank should wait until he confirms with the Lender that the package has been looked over in its entirety or… read more…


11. What entities might want to see your Notary journal?
I have gotten in hundreds of arguments with notaries from states all over the county. Those who live in states where journals are not legally required think they will not get into trouble if they don’t have one. If you end up in court, your journal is your only evidence of what happened. You might become a witness for a long case or a defendant if … read more


12. Hospital signing issues
Have you ever done a signing in a hospital? You should be prepared, because one day you might do it. There are many issues that come up in hospital signings. First of all, it is common to have to decline service because the signer has been medicated, or has lost their mind. As a Notary, you should be aware that you can easily be subpoenaed for hospital signings as it is common … read more


13. How do you notarize a document with no signature line?
If you have been instructed to notarize a document that doesn’t have a signature line, that is a cross between a quandary and a conundrum. You cannot notarize a document without a signature. Notaries notarize signatures on documents, not documents, and especially … read more


14. Sixteen year old Samantha calls a Notary to notarize an Affidavit for her mom who does not speak English. The Notary arrives only to find out that he/she cannot communicate directly with the signing who is the mother. Samantha offers to translate as she does that on a daily basis for her mom. What do you tell Samantha? In 49 states, direct ORAL communication with the client is required REGARDLESS of whether the document is in English, has been translated, or whether the Notary understands the document. You cannot use an oral translator except perhaps in Arizona (check AZ handbook for an accurate answer). Refer Samantha to find a Notary who speaks their language.


15. John appears before you to sign a loan as an Attorney-in-Fact. He knows two verbiage variations for signing as an Attorney-in-Fact and wants to know which one to use. There are no written instructions. What do you do next? In this situation you have to call for instructions because POA verbiage is a matter of preference as there are eight legal verbiage variations for signing as an AIF. So, call the Lender or Title company in this case as the loan will not close if you did not use the verbiage of their choice!


16. Credible Witnesses.
Jim appears before you to sign an Affidavit. But, he has no ID. What do you do? Many states allow for credible witnesses. Some states require two CW’s who must both know the signer while others allow for one that must know the notary and the signer. You can read up on your state specific rule on this convoluted subject of credible witnesses.

Also read –


17. Name two situations where you might need subscribing witnesses. Subscribing witnesses are witnesses that watch someone sign their name on a document. They are used for Proofs of Execution (look this one up in our Notary Acts section) and for Signatures by Mark or Signatures by X which is allowed in certain states (look up in our glossary.)


18. The document is written in a language that the Notary does not understand. All states except for AZ require direct oral communication with the signer. However, written comprehension is a different ballgame and is very state specific. California only cares that the Notary notarizes the signature and doesn’t care if the Notary understands the document although the signer must understand what they are signing. However, other states can vary. Does your state require you to be able to read the language the document was written in? Look this one up in your handbook as we cannot help you in this matter because we don’t know!


19. You have been instructed to notarize a form that does not have a certificate.
You are at a notarization and the instructions say, “Notarize this page.” However, there is no certificate wording on the page. What do you do now?

The Notary may not choose the Notary act as that might be construed as UPL. So, just ask the client or signer what act they want and then attach the corresponding certificate to the document. That’s all.


20. Deeds of Reconveyence.
You go to a signing and one of the documents is a Deed of Reconveyance. Under the signature line has the word Trustee. Who is the Trustee, and do you notarize this document?

The Trustee is normally the Lender, but could also be the borrower if he has a company and is lending money to himself in another capacity. The Trustee could be anyone, so without specific instructions you should probably not have this form signed or notarized.


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November 15, 2016

How to spot fake ID at a notarization

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

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

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


Things to look for one the ID

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

You might also like:

Seven error free ways to identify a signer

Notarized document expired identification

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