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August 22, 2019

He put crazy glue on his thumb

Filed under: Notary Mistakes — admin @ 10:48 pm

If you are in a hurry as a Notary to get the job done and get out, think again. Your job is to deter fraud. In fact, detering fraud is so critical in your Notarial profession, you should be called Fraud-Deteraries (not sure that is a word, I’ll Google it.)

A Notary went to a signing. The signer had put crazy glue on his thumb. Personally, I think that a more professional grade adhesive would have made more sense, but the borrower didn’t google “best adhesives for using during fraudulent notarized signings.” His loss! In any case, putting sarcasm aside, The Notary thumbprinted the signer in their journal (they were in California) didn’t notice that the thumb had no tire tread on it.

Later on, the signer, and the Notary ended up in court as the signer had impersonated a home owner and used fraud to steal or embezzle property from someone else. This would not have happened if the Notary had paid attention to the lack of tread and taken a look or felt the signer’s thumb and said, “something is up!”

However, please be advised that for the elderly, it is common not to have any tread, especially for the 80+ crowd. So, that is normal if there is no wear or tear left on their thumb. But for someone middle aged, that is not acceptable.

Putting crazy glue on your thumb is just plain crazy, but being a notary who is not on the ball is even worse. Stay alert and realize that your job is to prevent crazy people from impersonating others!

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April 13, 2019

How to deal with dogs, messes, and other signing nightmares

Filed under: Business Tips — admin @ 10:47 am

As a signing agent, you have to deal with more than identification, documents and signers. You have to deal with people’s unstable mental condition, dogs, guns, kidnappers, sexual harassment, anger problems and more. So, how do you deal with all of this?

1. Messes
If you are a Notary confronted with a mess, keep in mind that there are different types of messes. Some are just a nuisance. Others are dangerous because you might trip on something. There could be insects or vermin. What’s worse, a house might have diseases or bacteria in it which could prove deadly. It is not worth risking your health. If a house is too messy for you, meet the signers at Starbucks. Do the signing with a Jurat-accino, but no drinks on the table.

2. Dogs
Dogs can be annoying or dangerous. Yet the owners see the dog jumping all over you and licking you and see you extremely upset and say, “Oh, he’s okay.” If a human touches you that is molestation, but if a dog does it, “Oh, he’s okay.” You need to give them the lecture that just because they love dogs doesn’t mean that you gave permission for their dog to jump on you or come near you. Dogs need to be behind locked doors. I remember going to a signing long time ago. I had them put the dog away. But, the door never latched. Ten minutes later the dog came out of the room and was creating havoc again. Dog owners get really mad at me for not liking their dogs. Rather than being mad at me — keep your dog quarantined! I am a cat in a human body and cats don’t like dogs.

3. Children
If children are running through the house, you can tell the signers that they need to be fully focused on the documents and the children need to be somewhere else having quiet time. It is too distracting having children buzzing around.

4. Naked people
This doesn’t happen that often, but it is possible for you to go to a signing to have a naked person walking around. Perhaps someone got out of the shower, or perhaps someone is an exhibitionist. There are also children who don’t know any better. You could ask them to put on clothing or you could just pack up and leave if it is too disconcerting.

5. Guns
We have a Notary who did a signing for the Klan. The wizard guy asked, “Is that a gun you have in that there bag?” Our Notary said yes, so as to appear normal to the wizard, although she didn’t really have a gun. It’s moments like this you feel glad or relieved to be white (or hwite as the case may be, not sure why the h comes first… must be a Southern thang.) The important thing to understand about this situation was that it is good that the wizard did not say, “What did you say about my daddy?” Then you know you are in trouble.

6. Single Men
If you are a young lady in the house of a single man who shows interest in you, just understand that men cannot get married unless they express interest in ladies. Ladies always complain about men showing interest in them. In the last several years with all of the new technology and social media, men are ignoring women more and more. It is hard to get married now. Women were better off with men interested. But, if you are in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, or you just want to take precautions, here is a list of things to do:

(a) Let your husband know where you are so he can call the police if he doesn’t hear back from you.
(b) Carry pepper spray and brass knuckles
(c) Sit at the table closest to the door in a position where you can see the door as well. You never know who will come through that door.
(d) Don’t go to a part of the house where you could become cornered.
(e) Don’t respond to the interest shown in you if any.
(f) Learn self defense at one of those schools where you learn to elbow people and stomp on their toes.

7. Kidnappers
I did a signing for a kidnapper. Or at least the people with him suggested they had been kidnapped. I don’t remember the details. This was in Monterey Park, CA. I think they were his family and didn’t want to go with him, but they had no money and no place to stay. So, what could they do? I don’t know what their real situation was. If you are notarizing people who are under duress, you might end up in court, so be careful.

8. Russian Spies
Don’t worry. We need them around to make sure Trump wins a second term. And if you ask them who they are, they always reply, “My name is Nicholai, I am Russian, I love taking walks and I play the violin.” If they ask you if you are the Notary, tell them, “I am, or at least… that is what people want me to think I am.”

9. People who resist being thumbprinted
Whether it is legal or not in your state to refuse to notarize someone who refuses to be thumb printed — it should not only be legal, but should be require to thumbprint your victims. In any case, that is a red flag if someone doesn’t want to be thumb printed. It means they might be shady or up to something. But, there is nothing you can do if the law in your state doesn’t protect you.

10. Hurricanes
If you are going to a signing in bad weather, consider that you might get stuck there. Do you want to spend eight hours with complete strangers and their signatures? On the other hand, if you get a signing and it starts raining ice, you need to think twice about whether or not you will get there at all. You might get fired if you cancel a job, but you might be saving your life as well.

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February 27, 2019

Notary Public Journal

NOTARY JOURNALS

Not all states require maintaning an official journal of Notarial acts, but 123notary requires it as that is the only evidence you have should you go to court or get investigated. There are identity thieves and cons all over the place. They might pretend to be a home owner to steal that person’s equity or con grandma into giving her fortune away to some crooks. If your notarization ever winds up to court, your journal is the only record of what happened and who signed what, etc. Most Notaries think keeping a journal is an annoying task that they do because their state requires it. It is the same attitude that children have towards doing their homework at age seven. But, your journal can save your neck, and I know many whose hides have been saved who ended up in court.

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ONE JOURNAL ENTRY PER PERSON PER DOCUMENT

Most Notaries think that you create one entry for each signer and then cram in the names of all of the documents you are notarizing in that transaction. This is a very sloppy practice. If you pick up five packages from FedEx, do you sign once or do you sign five times, each for a particular tracking number? If you keep one journal entry per person per document, then you have a signature proving consent to be notarized for each document you notarize. Additionally, you must name the particular and complete name of each document, and not just say “loan docs.”

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INFORMATION

In your Notary Public Journal, you need to record the:

Full name of the document, not an abbreviation.

Date & Time of Notarization – Just consult your iPhone for this one.

Type of Notary Act – This might be Acknowledgment, Jurat, Oath, Affirmation, or another Notary act allowed in your state.

Document Date — many documents have a document date inscribed within that is an arbitrary date created by the document drafter. It could be the date the document was drafted, or the date it was intended to be signed, or a random arbitrary date.

Name & Address of Signer – Write down the name as it appears in the identification card.

Identification – Record the serial number, state and expiration date of the identification card.

Other distinguishing factors — if you are signing multiple documents with the same name such as Deeds of Trust, Grant Deeds, etc., you need to differentiate them somehow. Escrow numbers, names of grantors, grantees, APN numbers, property addresses, number of pages, or anything else can help identify a document after the fact in case you end up in court.

Signatures — each line of your journal needs to be signed by the corresponding person. If John and Sally are each signing three notarized documents, then John gets entry 1, 2, and 3 while sally gets 4, 5, and 6. Each signer must sign their three entries otherwise the entries are meaningless.

Thumbprints — I am skipping mentioning more about the other things that belong in a journal as most Notaries get it, however, few Notaries keep thumbprints. Your journal thumbprint is the one piece of evidence the FBI will ask for when they come knocking on your front door. Additionally, it discourages fraud as fraudulent people do not want to be thumbprinted.

Other Information — Although I am skipping elaborating about the other journal fields, I will make a quick note about the additional information section in a journal. That leaves space for information about credible witnesses, subscribing witnesses, unusual facts about the signers, the location, or the circumstances in which you are signing. If the signer claims that they are being kidnapped, write that down in the additional information section of your journal, then call the police. If the signer has a weird neck tattoo, you might need to remember that in court. Put it in your journal. The judge will think you are a very thorough Notary.

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FINAL NOTE

The purpose of journals is not only to please your state’s Secretary of State, but also to please judges, attorneys, investigators and FBI agents. Keeping a clean, correct and thorough journal will make a positive impression on the authorities and could keep you from being named as a suspect if God forbid you ever unknowingly Notarize an identity thief, fraud, or otherwise bad person. Notaries don’t get in trouble that often, but for those who make a career out of being a Notary, eventually you will be investigated at least once and perhaps end up in court, so keep your paperwork in order so the investigation is fast and smooth. Otherwise you might end up in court for a very long time — no joke! Roughly 1/7 of the Notaries on our site have had to spend time in court due to something that they notarized.

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Comparing Journal Entries to FedEx Signatures
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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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Credible Witnesses – the ins and outs
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Notary Public 101 – Identification
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October 17, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Journals

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

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NOTARY JOURNALS

Not all states require keeping an official journal of Notarial acts, but 123notary requires it as that is the only evidence you have should you go to court. There are identity thieves and cons all over the place. They might pretend to be a home owner to steal that person’s equity or con grandma into giving her fortune away to some crooks. If your notarization ever goes to court, your journal is the only record of what happened and who signed what, etc. Most Notaries think keeping a journal is an annoying task that they do because they have to. It is the same attitude that children have towards doing their homework at age seven. But, your journal can save your neck, and I know many whose hides have been saved who ended up in court.

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ONE JOURNAL ENTRY PER PERSON PER DOCUMENT

Most Notaries think that you create one entry for each signer and then cram in the names of all of the documents you are notarizing. This is very sloppy. If you pick up five packages from FedEx, do you sign once or do you sign five times, each for a particular tracking number? If you keep one journal entry per person per document, then you have a signature proving consent to be notarized for each document you notarize. Additionally, you must name the particular and complete name of each document, and not just say “loan docs.”

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INFORMATION

In your journal you write the date, time, type of notary act, name of document (the full name, no abbreviations or check boxes here please) and the document date. You need to record the name, address, and ID of the signer as well. Then the signature, thumbprint and notary fee. Let’s focus on the document information in this section though. You need to record the:

Full name of the document, not an abbreviation.

Document Date — many documents have a document date inscribed within that is an arbitrary date created by the document drafter. It could be the date the document was drafted, or the date it was intended to be signed, or a random arbitrary date.

Other distinguishing factors — if you are signing multiple documents with the same name such as Deeds of Trust, Grant Deeds, etc., you need to differentiate them somehow. Escrow numbers, names of grantors, grantees, APN numbers, property addresses, number of pages, or anything else can help identify a document after the fact in case you end up in court.

Signatures — each line of your journal needs to be signed by the corresponding person. If John and Sally are each signing three notarized documents, then John gets entry 1, 2, and 3 while sally gets 4, 5, and 6. Each signer must sign their three entries otherwise the entries are meaningless.

Thumbprints — I am skipping mentioning more about the other things that belong in a journal as most Notaries get it, however, few Notaries keep thumbprints. Your journal thumbprint is the one piece of evidence the FBI will ask for when they come knocking on your front door. Additionally, it discourages fraud as fraudulent people do not want to be thumbprinted.

Other Information — Although I am skipping elaborating about the other journal fields, I will make a quick note about the additional information section in a journal. That leaves space for information about credible witnesses, subscribing witnesses, unusual facts about the signers, the location, or the circumstances in which you are signing. If the signer claims that they are being kidnapped, write that down in the additional information section of your journal, then call the police. If the signer has a weird neck tattoo, you might need to remember that in court. Put it in your journal. The judge will think you are a very thorough Notary.

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FINAL NOTE

The purpose of journals is not only to please your state’s Secretary of State, but also to please judges and FBI agents. Keeping a clean, correct and thorough journal will make a positive impression on the authorities and could keep you from being named as a suspect if God forbid you ever unknowingly Notarize an identity thief, fraud, or otherwise bad person. Notaries don’t get in trouble that often, but for those who make a career out of being a Notary, eventually you will be investigated at least once and perhaps end up in court, so keep your paperwork in order so the investigation is fast and smooth. Otherwise you might end up in court for a very long time — no joke! Roughly 1/7 of the Notaries on our site have ended up in court due to something that they notarized.

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Notary Public 101 — Identification

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

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IDENTIFICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE NAME ON THE ID

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

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PROCEDURE

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

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

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

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FAKE ID

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

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THUMBPRINTS

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

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August 24, 2017

Letter to Donald Trump about the sad condition of American Notaries

Filed under: General Articles — admin @ 12:56 am

Dear Donald Trump,
I run a nationwide Notary Public directory called 123notary.com and have some sad commentary about the general state of affiairs in the Notary industry. The most pressing is the dismal quality of the knowledge of general Notaries about their rights and responsibilities as well as the poor level of screening that the state notary divisions engage in.

Since you have entered office, my personality has changed. According to feng-shui principles the members of an organization tend to take after the leader of the organization in some subtle or not so subtle ways. Since April, I have been preverbially draining the swamp of “fake notaries.” Some people with absolutely no Notary knowledge whatsoever are commissioned by states run by idiots who will commission anyone — sad! What the states don’t realize is that bad Notaries are a danger to society by empowering and facilitating identity thieves. An improper notarization or improper bookkeeping at a notarization done by a shoddy Notary can make it easy for an identity thief to drain a person’s equity from their property, steal their property, or defraud people in other ways.

In a nutshell, the real problem is that the states do not screen their applicants, do not educate applicants in all aspects of Notary education and do not have sensible testing either. California’s screening is far better than any other state, but still falls short of the mark as our local California Notaries do not always know how to explain notary acts, keep proper records, or which acts are legal versus illegal to do.

My solution is to suggest some Federal guidelines with Federal enforcement. Since the states don’t enforce proper notary procedure with the exception of California who audits journals (but, not anything else), it is necessary for the Feds to step in and add another thin, but intelligent layer of regulation to the industry. Here are my ideas.

1. Standardized Notary Education and Enforcement.
Many states have differing Notary Acts, and that is not a bad thing. However, if there would be a core of universal Notary Acts used in all states, territories, and military bases, that would make education and enforcement easier on a national level. The most critical elements to teach would include:

(a) Proper identification of signers
(b) Proper journal record keeping
(c) Oath giving (Notaries are required to do this but more often then not don’t know how or don’t bother)
(d) General understanding of Notary law, acts and procedures.

2. Reduction in the quantity of Notaries, with an increase in quality.
Judging the quality of Notaries might be hard for you to do, but I do it daily and have the art refined in certain ways. I will vouch for what I condsider the characteristics of a good Notary verses a bad one.

(a) An IQ of 100-120.
Being a Notary requires a certain amount of intelligence as a rudimentary knowledge of law, and applying the laws relating to Notary Public are required to perform the duties of Notary Public and faithfully discharge your duties lawfully while accepting lawful requests and declining illegal requests. Most Notaries do not correctly distinguish between what they are allowed to do and what is illegal and prefer to rely on what they feel comfortable with which is neither here nor there. Those unlawful Notaries need to be weeded out. Notaries that are too smart tend to leave the industry early and are not a detriment, but will not be likely to stick around.

(b) Attorney Notaries are not generally good Notaries.
Many states like the idea of having Attorneys do certain Notary functions such as loan signings. In my experience, Attorneys are over-priced, the least likely to be available, and also are the bottom of the bottom of the barrel in the legal world and are so incompetent that their average stupidity exceeds that of our average non-Attorney Notaries. I am not against Attorney Notaries providing they can pass a tough Notary test to prove their basic knowledge. Attorneys should also be declined any special privileges in the Notary world. In New York, I heard an Attorney can become a notary without a test at all which I feel is a mistake.

(c) A clerical background is desireable.
If someone has a background doing clerical work in a capacity which requires being picky and attentive to detail, that would be a good background for being a Notary Public. Notaries fill out certificates and journals and being nit-picky and anal precedes you as a good Notary. On the other hand a clerical background filled with clerical errors that have gone unnoticed for years would be a disaster.

(d) Being meticulous and having integrity.
Those who dot their i’s and cross their t’s are the types I would like to see as Notaries. Those who are ethical and care about safeguarding society are also idea. Having a generally good attitude matters too.

(e) Willingness to study and learn.
My biggest complaint about Notaires Public is that so few of them read their state’s Notary Handbook. If you aren’t willing to read your state’s laws and Notary rules, how on earth can you possibly enforce them?

3. Regular auditing of Notaries
Notaries need to know someone is watching them as few uphold the law. If Notaries are audited by a mystery person who appears to be a client, that client can ask them to do something seemingly illegal to trick them into incriminating themselves. This is the only reliable way to catch large quantities of bad Notaries. Having Notaries come to the county clerk for a pop quiz once a year is another highly recommended idea. The quiz should be hands on Notary work in addition to multiple choice questions. To audit all Notaries twice a year requires there to be less Notaries to audit.

4. Higher pay for Notaries
To attract good Notaries, there needs to be a good minimum wage for Notaries. I suggest $40 per appointment minimum on the East and West coasts and $30 in the interior states. Additionally, many Notaries travel and states should have minimum travel fees of $40 for appointments that are 30-60 minutes away plus waiting time. Travel fees should be paid in cash at the door or by paypal to eliminate what I call “Beneficial Interest” which is a term that depicts a person who is named in a document who stands to benefit from the document being signed in financial ways or by gaining privileges. By being a Notary whose travel fee is contingent on a document being signed, the Notary will be swayed to accept non-matching identification or comply with illegal requests so they will get their measely travel fee so they can pay their rent. Notaries who are poor are likely to bend the rules to ensure they get paid. Having travel fees paid up front as a matter of law will safeguard the public from Notaries having any semblence of beneficial or financial interest in a document or set of documents being signed.

5. Universal Notary Acts
Most states have Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations, and perhaps a few other acts such as Copy Certificaiton Safety Box Opening, Attestations, Witnessing, etc. The problem is that the rules for these acts are not always consistent across state lines which causes a lot of confusion especially to those of us who run nationwide Notary directories. I suggest these as universal acts.

WITNESSING
Some Notary acts require rigid identification rules. It would be nice for those who don’t have identification or don’t have identification with the correct name variation on it to be able to get notarized on informal documents in any case. Having a witness notarization with optional identification would be convenient without being a risk for identity fraud since the documents being witnesses would not concern large sums of money by definition.

A signer could:

(a) sign in the presence of the Notary in a witness notarization.
(b) Identification could be a choice of a thumbprint, an ID with a non-matching name, or an ID with a matching name.
(c) The description of the ID should ideally be documented on the Notary certificate for this act as well as the Official Journal of Notarial acts.

Some states already have an official notarial witnessing act. But, having universal and flexible standards would be wonderful.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Formal documents such as Deeds, Powers of Attorney and contracts normally use an Acknowledgment. Acknowledgments in most states require:

(a) The signer to be identified by the Notary using state approved types of ID cards such as passports, drivers licenses, etc.
(b) The signer has to acknowledge having signed the document in the physical presence of the Notary in a non-verbal way by presenting the document to the Notary with the request for it to be notarized.
(c) California requires the signer to be named in the document
(d) There is an Acknowledgment certificate which must be embedded in the document in question or added as a loose piece of paper and then stapled to the subject document.

The first issue with Acknowledgements on a national level is that there are six states which specifically require an Acknowledged signature to be signed in the presence of the Notary Public while the act intrinsically does not require this. The second issue is that Notaries in states that do NOT require the Acknowledged signature to be signed in the presence of the Notary typically require the document to be signed in their presence because they feel uncomfortable with the alternative. Notaries let their petty comfort related concerns supercede the law which is a problem that needs to be dealt with and enforced. This constitutes the denial of a legal request which by definition is not legal as Notaries Public must provide the public with Notary work for all legal requests unless (in particular states) there is some legitimate reason why the Notary feels that it would not be safe to notarize the person. Standardizing the rules of Acknowledgments makes a lot of senses as that single act constitutes 80% of Notary work nationwide. For those signatures that must be signed in the presence of a Notary, there are other acts such as Jurats and Witness notarizations that require that.

JURATS
Jurats are notarial acts where the signers must sign in the presence of the Notary Public and swear under Oath to the document in some way shape or form. Whether they swear to the truthfulness of the document, or whether or not they signed the document using their own free will, or whether they agree to the terms of the document could all reasonably be sworn to. Most Notaries omit the Oath or give an Oath which makes no sense under the circumstances which is unacceptable.

OATHS & AFFIRMATIONS
Most if not all states have these acts. However, some states (such as Florida) require a certificate for an Oath. If a certificate is to be required, it should indicate the nature of the Oath. Florida’s documentation of Oaths does not require any indication of what the Oath was about. There is no point in keeping paperwork if the paperwork has no pertinent information on it. As a former Notary, I will vouch for the importance of issuing certificates as it is a record for the customer to keep of what happend. The more critical information the merrier (without going overboard.) Notaries need to be taught how to administer good and relevant Oaths and Affirmations as 90% do not know the difference. Oaths use the word swear and normally mention God while Affirmations use the word Affirm or state and leave God out of it which is something that ultra-religious and athiests both agree upon.

6. Thumbprinting
Journal thumbprints are a matter of contention. California is the only state to require it for Deeds affecting real property and Powers of Attorney. Several of the Notaries listed with us were able to provide critical pieces of information to the FBI which helped nail identity thieves, ponzi schemers and other fraudulent menaces to society. Many companies and individuals object to being thumbprinted which creates pressure for the Notary to not thumbprint unless required to by law. Therefor, the only way to safeguard the equity in your real property from being syphened by identity thieves is to require journal thumbprints nationwide.

Since journals are NOT required in all states, it would be necessary to require journals in order to require journal thumbprinting. I recommend a thumbprint requirement for all notarizations of Deeds, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Subordination Agreements, or notarizations where the identification did not completely match the signature on the document.

7. Proper Journal Entries
Most Notaries who I deal with keep a journal, but do not keep it correctly according to what I consider best practices to be. It is common for Notaries to enter multiple documents on a single journal entry which is signed once by the customer / signer. This is a bad practice because it would be possible for the Notary or someone else to add extra document names to the journal entry AFTER the signing was over which would constitute fraud. It would also be possible for someone to accuse the Notary of fraud when he/she did not engage in fraud with such shoddy bookkeeping practices. Therefor, it should be necessary by law to have one journal entry per signer per documents which would be six entries if you had two signers each signing three notarized documents at a particular appointment. The primary purpose of a journal is not to please the state where the notary is commissioned. The primary purpose is to please judges and investigators who use the journal as perhaps the primary or only piece of evidence in an identity fraud court case or investigation. The journal is the only evidence a Notary Public has of what Notary work they have done, so it behooves society to ensure that journals are filled out prudently, completely and correctly.

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Letter to California Notary Division
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August 6, 2017

Is it better to piss a few people off, or protect society?

The moral of the story is that it is good to look at situations in perspective, preferably a higher perspective. Most Notaries want to please their customers and the way they do their job is for that purpose only. As a Notary Public, your job is to serve the public and to obey the laws of your state. Additionally, you should follow best practices or prudent practices whether required by law or not simply to protect yourself and the public from fraud. The whole purpose in having Notaries is to deter and prevent fraud, so if you take short-cuts that make fraud easy, then there is no point in the existence of your profession.

Many companies discourage thumbprint taking
Many signing companies and title companies do not like Notaries asking for thumbprints because many borrowers don’t like being asked to give thumbprints. Nobody wants complaints. The state of Florida’s FAQ page stated that they did not want Notaries requiring thumbprints, however, they did not object to asking for thumbprints. Many Notaries in Texas claim that their state doesn’t allow thumbprinting. I’m not sure if this is correct or now. The fact is that many entities are against thumbprints since it takes private information from an individual and makes it available to others as well as the fact that many object to thumbprints as it is a pain in the neck (and wrist.)

Identity frauds get caught with thumbprints
Although many people are against thumbprints, many Notaries listed on 123notary claim that they assisted the FBI catch some heinous identity thieves, frauds, ponzi schemers (not to be confused with the Japanese ponzu sauce which is citrus and soy based.) and other bad guys. One Notary on our site help to get a guy nailed for 15 years of hard time who ruined the finances of presumably hundreds of unsuspecting victims. If it hadn’t been for that journal thumbprint that the Notary lady in question took, the FBI would not have been able to catch the fraud.

The Notary is normally considered a suspect
When the FBI interrogates a Notary Public, the Notary is considered a suspect. If you do not take proper journal records, it might appear that you are FACILITATING fraud by your lack of record keeping. Proper journal entries help uncover what happened at a Notary appointment. If an ID was forged, the information in your journal is useless unless you have a thumbprint which cannot be forged unless you are wearing a latex thumb-cover which would be easily detected by the notary. By not keeping a thumbprint you are facilitating the possibility of fraud. Additionally, keeping journal entries with multiple documents per journal entry raises the possibility that the Notary added extra documents to the journal entry after the fact and used them fraudulently which is why we recommend one journal entry per person per document in all cases even if that means you will have to buy a new journal every two weeks. You could be named as a suspect by the FBI or have to appear in court for a long time if there is identity fraud facilitated by your notary commission. A thumbprint is the single most easy and effective way to get judges, FBI agents and other investigators off your back and keep you out of court. I have heard first hand of many examples from our Notaries where they were off the hook due to proper record keeping who would have been in court WITHOUT PAY for a month if they did not keep good records.

Would you rather piss people off or protect society?
Let me ask you a question as a group. Pretend that over the next four years you will notarize 10,000 individuals. Pretend that ONE and only one of these individuals will be a really horrible identity thief who has victimized dozens of people, cheating them ouf of their life savings. Assume that by thumbprinting them, that when the FBI knocks on your door, your information will be the critical piece of evidence that will be used to nail that sucker and put him away for good. By helping nail that scoundrel you saved 21 more people who would have been financially ruined because of that joker. Pretend that 500 people and some of the companies you work for will COMPLAIN that you are taking thumbprints when it is not required by law except currently in California (hopefully subject to change in those other negligent states that should have their heads examined.) Is it worth pissing off 500 people in a small way to save 21 people from financial ruin and emotional devestation resulting from their victimization? My answer is — don’t let petty concerns get in the way of safeguarding society. Be a good citizen and keep your neighbor safe at night. If they protest being thumbprinted, tell them that someone could fake an ID and pretend to be them and steal all of the equity in their home — and that without a thumbprint the soundrel might never even get caught. Your signers will whistle a different tune when they think of themselves as a potential victim.

Summary
(a) You will notarize 10,000 people
(b) 1 will be a bad identity thief who will victimize 21 more people if not caught.
(c) You will piss off 500 individuals and a few companies by requiring thumbprints.
Is it worth upsetting 500 people in a small way to save 21 people from complete ruin?

Your job is not to be the detective, but to keep good records that the detectives can use to nail really really bad people. IMO it is worth upsetting a million people to save even one person from a serious act of identity theft! Society needs to be safe and feel safe. Do your part!

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March 21, 2017

When to refuse a notarization: a comprehensive guide

Most clients you have will have legal requests, but from time to time, there will be someone who wants you to bend the law, or someone who doesn’t understand proper protocol. Here is how to handle the difficult requests.

Situations where a signer is not appropriate to notarize
(1) If you cannot prove the signer’s identity with satisfactory evidence. Some states allow personal knowledge of the signer, so please study your state rules. Satisfactory evidence normally involves current, or near current driver’s licenses, passports, or other government issued ID. Each state has different variations on what is acceptable, so know your state rules!

(2) If the signer doesn’t appear before you.
This means that they should be a few feet from you and fully visible.

(3) If you cannot communicate directly with the signer.
This means that the signer needs to speak the same language that you speak. If you speak the signer’s language as a second language, but don’t know it well enough to understand all of the communication necessary to give instructions and answer questions regarding the notarization, then you should decline.

(4) If the signer refuses to swear under Oath if an Oath is required as part of the notarization.

(5) If the signer is being coerced to sign or pressured to sign.

(6) If the signer is drugged (perhaps in a nursing home or hospital,) confused, or disoriented. If they can’t answer basic questions about the document, they are not in a clear enough mental state to sign.

(7) If the journal entry requires a thumbprint by law and the signer refuses to furnish you with one.

(8) If the signer refuses to pay the Notary fee

(9) If the signer is so incapacitated that they cannot sign their own signature.

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Situations where the document is not satisfactory

(1) If there are blanks, or omitted pages in the document.

(2) The document lacks a notary certificate and the signer refuses to tell you which type of notary act they need done.

(3) The document is a vital record, or a type of document that may not be notarized or be copy certified.

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Situations where the Notary cannot notarize due to conflict of interest

(1) If the signer is your parent, spouse, child, or other close family member. It might be okay to notarize for cousins and more distant relatives although it is generally better to avoid notarizing anything important for a family member due to conflict of interest.

(2) If you are named as a beneficiary in a document or have any type of financial interest in the document being signed.

(3) If you are the signer of the document, you may not notarize your own signature (contradictory to popular belief.)

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I created this blog because of a discussion I had with a Notary who went to another Notary at a UPS store to get notarized. The Notary refuseed to notarize because the signer (also a Notary) refused to be thumbprinted. I had to look this up. California state law did not discuss the issue, but did say it was illegal for a Notary to refuse service. I researched what NNA had to say about this issue and they concured with California in an article about when to say no. In any case, I hope this article was helpful.

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February 6, 2012

Fraud & Forgery related to the notary profession

Fraud and Forgery in the notary business 

There are many types of fraud that a notary might run into in their notarial career, forgery being one of the more common types of fraud. But, let’s take a closer look at what specific types of things could happen.
 
(1) Someone could forge your seal and pretend to be you.  It happened to me.  Unfortunately for them, they didn’t forge my signature very well, and didn’t copy my style of embossing every page either.  Putting technicalities aside, I bet they were not able to forge my quirky sense of humor either.  Notary seal forgery is not common. In my case, I think they used a really good photocopier.  BTW, a photocopier can NOT copy the RAISED impression of an inkless embossed seal which is why I used it on all of my notarizations.
 
(2) Page swapping — the old bait and switch routine.  I got called to notarize many multi-page documents. I put my embossing seal through all of the pages leaving a raised impression on each page.  I usually did these individually. Sometimes it is better to do all pages together so the seal goes through the same location in each page.  However, the seal comes out more clearly if you go page by page.  In any case, if you see a ten page document where all of the pages EXCEPT for page four are embossed, that would raise my eyebrows.  I have had many situations, where the signer wants me to give them another acknowledgment certificate for a new page they are adding to the document. I tell them that I have to notarize their signature ALL OVER AGAIN, and that is the law no matter how many times you say, “Oh, come on”.  With that attitude you might as well notarize your own signature as a non-notary!
 
(3) Title companies have a common practice of initialing for the borrower if the borrower misses an initial. It is “easier” than sending the documents back to the borrower.  Whether it is signature forgery to forge initials is a matter for an attorney to decide, but it seems pretty illegal to me to engage in initial forgery. I don’t think that anyone audits loan documents to see if anyone is engaging in initial forgery, but perhaps they should — many Title companies might get busted or investigated at a minimum.
 
(4) Refusal to be thumbprinted?  You must be up to something if you don’t want your thumbprint recorded. Maybe you have a fake identification card, right?  You can fake an ID, but you can not fake a thumbprint.
 
(5) Signature forgery.  If someone forged a signature on a document, they will have to have a fake ID and forge the same signature on the ID and in your journal. It would be a tough crime to pull off. I think that nobody in their right mind would attempt this.  Normally, people try to do crimes of fraud in private, and wouldn’t be willing to let other parties see what they are doing, no matter what!
 
(6) Notarizing out of state?  If you don’t have a commission in a particular state, you can not notarize there, with a few exceptions. Military notaries have special rules. A Virginia notary public may notarize out of the state of Virginia, but only for documents that are to be recorded within the state of Virginia. In any case, from time to time we will hear rumors that a notary public is operating illegally in a bordering state where they are not commissioned, and people want us to enforce the rule. I tell them to report the individual to the state notary division where the Notary in question is commissioned.
 
(7) Charging more than the state maximum notary fees is illegal, and charging more travel fee than your state allows (roughly eight states have restrictions for travel fees) can get you in trouble too.
 
(8) Filling out an Acknowledgment or Jurat form when you never saw the signer and never had the signer sign your journal is a really serious act of notarial misconduct.  You can lose your commission and get fined or jailed for this.

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Penalties for notary misconduct, fraud and failure of duty
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