You searched for thumbprinted - Notary Blog - Signing Tips, Marketing Tips, General Notary Advice -

Notary Blog – Signing Tips, Marketing Tips, General Notary Advice – Control Panel

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.

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?


You might also like:

Credible Witnesses – the ins and outs

Notary Public 101 – Identification


October 14, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Journals

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.



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.



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.”



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.



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.



October 13, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Identification

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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



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



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


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


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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.


You might also like:

Letter to Donald Trump about the State of the Notary industry

Is Trump to blame for a Notary slowdown?

If Trump hired you as a Notary, would you get fired?

Letter to California Notary Division


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.


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.


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.)


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.


You might also like:

The whole purpose of being a No-tary is to say No!

Are you a Yes-tary or a No-tary?

Just say no #3


February 6, 2012

Fraud & Forgery related to the notary profession

Fraud and Forgery in the notary business 

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

You might also like:

Backdating from A to Z

Notarizing multi-page documents

Penalties for notary misconduct, fraud and failure of duty


November 11, 2011

Notary Journal Thumbprints – they can save your neck!

Notary Journal Thumbprints
How adamant are you about taking journal thumbprints?  As a California notary public, you are required to take notary journal thumbprints for deeds effecting real property and power of attorney documents.  Notary thumbprint taking is a serious business and can keep you out of court.
Taking precautions as a notary
I have written other blog posts about precautions that notaries can take.  Notaries can use an inkless embosser in addition to an inked seal.  They can emboss every page of every document they ever notarize as a precaution against page switching which is a common crime that takes place after multi-page documents have been notarized. Taking a precaution of taking journal thumbprints is smart also, and can keep you out of court.
Suspicion of identity fraud
Let’s say that you notarized a signature on a document and that someone involved in the transaction suspects identity fraud.  The first thing they will do is to track down the notary who notarized the signature on the document and start asking questions about the signer. You will not remember the signer well, unless you took notes in your journal about what they looked like, how they acted, how old they were, etc.  But, if you have a thumbprint, that is absolute proof of the signer’s identity.  No two thumbprints are identical, and you can’t fake a thumbprint (forge a thumbprint) in front of a notary.
The investigation ended once I produced a thumbprint
If someone questions you about a particular notarization, and you say you have a journal thumbprint, the investigation might just end right there.  It happened to me as a California notary public during my first four year term. I saved myself from a potentially long visit to court.  I got a phone call from someone investigating fraud.  Someone had cheated some elderly people whom I had notarized.  One of the documents used to allegedly cheat them had been notarized by myself in my capacity as a California notary public. Since I had a journal thumbprint, the identity of the signers was no longer in question.  The person said they had no further questions the minute I told them I had a thumbprint. They didn’t even want a copy of the journal entry with the thumbprint.
Weak thumbprints with the elderly
The flaw of thumbprints are that elderly people often lose the tread on their fingers.  I am talking about really old people, perhaps in their eighties or nineties.  There is nothing you can do in that case, but at least you have a print, no matter how featureless it is. Personally, with signers over eighty, I recommend a retinal scan, which is not possible for a notary to take in 2011, but maybe in 2015… we can always hope.
Regardless of your state of commission
Whether you are a Florida notary public, a California notary, or notary in another state, if you are notarizing signatures on a power of attorney or real estate deeds, get a journal thumbprint whether it is required by law or not. That thumbprint could save your neck.  It is not a bad idea to require signers to give thumbprints for all documents and even oaths or affirmations.  It keeps them honest.  The minute they start making excuses why they shouldn’t have to be thumbprinted, that is suspicious behavior, and you might want to refuse service to them.
Bring wipes!
Don’t forget to bring wet naps or wipes of some sort.  It is polite to have something for the signer to wipe their hands off with.  Even with the NNA’s inkless thumbprinter which is a product I always had several backups in stock of, you should offer a wipe.  I strongly recommend having at least one inkless thumbprinter in your notary carry all bag!

Please visit our notary search page to see our notary public California page and notary public Florida page!


You might also like:

Thumbprinting in Texas

Multiple title companies told Notaries NOT to thumbprint?

Notary Public 101’s guide to Notary Journals

Thumbprint taking step by step


February 25, 2011

Borrower etiquette from A to Z

Filed under: Comprehensive Guides,Etiquette — Tags: , — admin @ 10:16 am

Borrower etiquette from A to Z

A year or more ago I wrote a blog about notary etiquette from A to Z. The topic arose from a very interesting and detailed discussion about where it is polite to park. The discussion went on and on, and everybody made really interesting points! But, a discussion on NR broke out about borrower etiquette, and I’m surprised that I didn’t publish this topic first, since I love the topic of etiquette (even though I don’t have very good etiquetee myself). In any case, there are many points to consider in borrower etiquette — so, here they are.


(1) Make sure you finish your meal and clean up your kitchen before the notary arrives. Make sure the smell of your cooking is somehow ventilated.

(2) Make sure you have communicated adequately with the LENDER before the notary arrives. You should be off the phone, and have listened to all of your messages before the notary arrives, especially messages (if any) from your trustworthy lender.

(3) Have all dogs, cats, snakes, birds, cockroaches, vermin, and other creatures behind a securely closed door at least 30 minutes before the signing — for good luck. Many notaries do not like dogs jumping on them. Additionally, if there is an angry or over-zealous dog in the driveway, the notary might be afraid to get of of his/her/their car.

(4) Tell your children not to come into the room of the signing. If they must come, then make sure they are quiet, dressed, and don’t make any sudden movements. Please find a way to deal with screaming babies too as that can be very distracting during a signing.

(5) The TV, radio, and all other noise should be silent during the signing so that people can focus and not make mistakes

(6) There should be a clean surface for the signing, preferably a dining room table. The ENTIRE surface should be free of any clutter and have been cleaned with 409, or Fantastic, etc., immediately prior to the signing.

(7) Make sure that all of the parties involved in the signing are there 30 minutes in advance and have their ID’s ready.

(8) Make sure you know what your rate and APR are supposed to be BEFORE the notary shows you the corresponding pages with that information.


(9) Leave your outside lights on for night signings, so the notary can intuitively know which house to go to.

(10) It is polite and helpful to let the notary know where to park


(11) Offer the notary a drink right away. Most borrowers are cheap and inconsiderate — it takes them 30 minutes to figure out that, “Oh, did you want something to drink?” And then, they offer you tap water. Why not offer the notary something of a higher quality such as fruit juice, soda, or coffee? Unless you are so poor that you are dying of malnutrition, it is cheap behavior to only offer tap water.

(12) Keep drinks off the table. We have had in-depth discussions about spillage, and what happens when you spill your latte on the deed of trust. Check our forum and blog for older discussions on this topic. Keep the drinks on a chair, or an adjascent table.

(13) Don’t read documents for two hours. The notary came for a signing appointment, not a reading appointment. Your borrower’s copies are for reading. Behave in such a way that the signing will take 45 minutes or less. Read the key points, and the rest can be read on your own time.

(14) Don’t blame the notary for the faults of the lender doing the old bait and switch, or for other problems you have with the lender.

(15) Don’t make phone calls or leave the room during the signing except to go to the bathroom.

(16) Smoking during the signing shouldn’t happen. If it is a really long signing, and after an hour you need a smoking break, perhaps one quick smoking break might be reasonable.

(17) (State specific for MT and TN) It is poor etiquette to expose a gun or other weapon at the signing, or to discuss guns. Notaries usually don’t feel comfortable around guns — at least the notaries that I know!

(18) Don’t discuss politics, gender issues, or anything else controversial at the signing.

(19) Don’t have an argument with your spouse, kids, or anyone else at the signing.

(20) Sign your name as it is typed below the signature line — don’t argue with the notary about this. This should have been discussed with the lender a long time ago.

(21) Don’t make a fuss about being thumbprinted

(22) After it is all said and done, visit the notary’s page on and write a very glowing review about how wonderful and capable the notary was.

You might also like:

Notary etiquette from A to Z

Compilation of posts about Notary etiquette


February 20, 2011

A Seinfeld Episode about a Notary

Filed under: Sit-Coms — admin @ 12:26 am

Jerry – Hey George, lets go get a bite to eat down the street.
George – Hey Jerry, I’d love to, but I have to go.
Jerry – Why? What’s the rush?
George – Ah… I gotta get something notarized.
Jerry – Notarized? Wow, that sounds important.
George – Oh, it’s nothing really, just some stuff for work…. I do it all the time.
Jerry – Work? You don’t have a job.
George – Well, I sort of do now. Gotta go.

George – Hi, I brought the document…. and my ID. Here it is.
Notary – Great George, you’ve finally got your act together, no spending half an hour fumbling through your briefcase anymore.
George – Well, you live and you learn, hah!!!
Notary – So what kind of document do you have today?
George – It’s an affidavit that I agree to do some deliveries for my employer.
Notary – Deliveries, you’re moving up in the world.
( notary opens his journal )
George – Hey, what’s that, you notarized a document in Chinese? You don’t understand Chinese.
Notary – I can do that … hey! Why are you looking at my journal, you’re violating MY privacy. Do you mind?
George – Sorry, it’s just that you opened it and I couldn’t help noticing. It was in my “range of vision”, right?
Notary – Okay, please sign the document. Please raise your right hand. Higher… that’s good. Do you solemnly swear that you agree to the statement in this document?
George – I do.
Notary – Okay, here’s your Jurat.. Let me staple it.
George – Ummm… could you use the round seal.. I was just thinking.
Notary – This is the seal I use, okay? Hey, whose business is this anyway?
George – Okay… but, could you thumbprint me?
Notary – Thumbprint?
George – Yeah, you know… a journal thumbprint. I heard that was supposed to be good. You know.. Deter fraud.
Notary – I’m sorry, but you’re not… thumbprintworthy.
George – What? Not thumbprintworthy?
Notary – It’s running low on ink. I only have a dozen or so impressions left in the pad, I’m SAVING it for a Deed or something important.
George – Hey, I have people who can vouch for me. I’m thumbprintworthy baby!
( George calls Elaine )
George – Elaine – I’m at the notary, and I want him to thumbprint me, but he says I’m not thumbprintworthy?
Elaine – What? Not thumbprintworthy? I would thumbprint you any day. In fact. You are as thumbprintworthy as they come. Give the notary the phone…… Hello? Mr. Notary? I formally vouch for George — he is the most thumbprintworhty person that exists.
Notary – You and your friend are a lot of trouble. George — You’re BANNED!!!
George – Banned? You can’t ban me, you’re a PUBLIC notary, you are obligated to serve the public
Notary – How do you know that? Public Schmublic. You’re banned from my services. Pay me my fee…thats $10.. and get out!
George – Hey, look out the window!
Notary – What?
( George SWIPES the thumbprinter and leaves while the notary is looking out the window )
Kramer – Clarissa, Clarissa, how can I describe my love .. for you… oh… Clarissa.
Clarissa – I told you before, I don’t date guys from Brooklyn.
Kramer – But, wait a second, you think I’m from Brooklyn. No, no… you’ve got it all wrong. I’m from Manhattan. I just hang out at
a friend’s house there. He lets me use the house while he’s away. He gave me key privileges.
Clarissa – You expect me to believe that? Key priveleges. Nobody gives their key to anyone in New York, not even their own parents.
Kramer – Oh,… he gave me the key. My friends are like that. Look, I even have Jerry’s key. I go over there whenever I feel like it. You see, Jerry and I… we understand each other. And he’s cool about it too. He doesn’t even mind if I eat his FRITOS once in a while.
( phone rings )
Jerry – Hey Kramer
Kramer – Hi Jerry, how’s everything? I’m with Clarissa now.
Jerry – Oh…. Clarissa. I remember her (unenthusiastically). Hey, by any chance, you didn’t happen to have eaten any of my FRITOS, did you?
Kramer – Fritos, oh, yeah, I didn’t know you needed them.
Jerry – If I didn’t need them I wouldn’t buy them. You’re violating your key privileges. Keep this up. and I’ll de-key you.
Kramer – No… not that. I need my key.
Jerry – Well, I’m going to have to draw up a “covenant of the key.”
Kramer – A covenant? Nobody does that.
Jerry – They do now. Keep this up, and you will be in violation of … the covenant of the key!!!
( Jerry hangs up )
Kramer – Clarissa, Clarissa, what can I do to win your love.
Clarissa – Okay, you seem like a nice guy, so I’ll give you one chance. Get me a notarized affidavit stating that you live in Manhattan and give me your address. I’m leaving at 7pm for France, so get it to me by then!
Kramer – Anything for you.. my Clarissa.
( Kramer calls George up.)
Kramer – George, you gotta help me. I’m in trouble, It’s urgent.
George – What, are you having appendicitis or something?
Kramer – No, its not a health emergency, its a … a LOVE emergency.
George – Oh… Love.
Kramer – Clarissa wants an affidavit saying that I live in Manhattan. She doesn’t believe me. You know that notary guy on the West side, right?
George – Oh, yeah, yeah.. But, um.
Kramer – What?
George – There’s a small problem.
Kramer – What?
George – I’ve been banned.
Kramer – Banned? No, you can’t be banned. You can’t be banned by a notary.
George – Oh yes, I’ve been banned.
Kramer – Well, he doesn’t know me, you gotta help me.
George – Okay, I’ll give you his number. But it’s 4pm now and he leaves at 5pm.
Kramer – I need to get it to Clarissa by 7pm… It’s … an emergency!
George – Okay … here’s the number. Call him now and make an appointment.
Kramer – Thanks … you’re wonderful.
( George drives Kramer to the appointment because there is no parking there )
Kramer – Hello, are you the notary?
Notary – Yeah, how did you hear about me?
Kramer – Oh, the yellow pages.
Notary – Yellow pages, eh.. Well I don’t advertise in the yellow pages. Only by word of mouth.
Kramer – Oh, maybe it’s the OTHER notary I found in the yellow pages.
Notary – Alright wise guy, what do you want?
Kramer – I need an affidavit notarized. Can you squeeze me in?
Notary – Okay. Be here at 4:15.
Kramer – Okay
(kramer arrives at the notary office)
Kramer – Hi, I’m Kramer
Notary – Paul…. let me see your ID.
Kramer – ID? I don’t think I brought it with me.
Notary – No ID, no notary, pal…
Kramer – Hold on, I think I left it in the car.
Notary – You got a parking place here? You must be a genius. Where did you park?
Kramer – I got lucky, I guess.
( Kramer runs down the stairs and comes back huffing and puffing with the ID )
Notary – I looked out the window. You didn’t park. You’re WITH someone.
Kramer – Oh, that’s just a friend.
Notary – Okay. Where’s the document
Kramer – Here it is.
Notary – An affidavit swearing that you live in Manhattan. What kind of a nut would want you to sign this?
Kramer – Oh, she’s a nut alright. You should see her.
Notary – I’ll pass.
Kramer – Hey, by the way, my friend usually has this done with a circular seal, do you have one?
Notary- (thinking out loud) Circular seal, didn’t the guy yesterday ask me for that?
Kramer – Oh, and could you … thumbprint me? I want it to look official.
Notary – Thumbprint? and circular seal, that sounds just like the last guy… WHO GOT BANNED! George was his name. It’s right here on the previous page. George Costanza. You know George.
Kramer – No really, I don’t know him.
Notary – Yes you do… He’s the one waiting for you in the car.
Kramer – No he’s not.
Notary – I’m going down, I want to see for myself.
( Kramer and notary go downstairs )
( Kramer motions to George to go and makes a motion near his throat )
( George shrugs his shoulders in confusion – then George sees the notary and bolts )
Notary – So it is George.
Kramer – I don’t know who that is. You didn’t even see him
( Kramer’s phone rings – the notary grabs the phone )
George – Kramer, he saw me.
Notary – AHA! It’s me. You’re the guy that got banned.. Well now your friend is banned too!
Notary – and YOU took my thumbprinter, it’s been missing ever since you were here last. Give it back!
Kramer – No… no…now what am I going to do.

( Kramer and George drive off )
Kramer – Now what am I going to do. It’s 5pm and everyone is closed. Do you know any late night notaries?
George – Yeah, but you’re not going to like this. He’s in Brooklyn.
Kramer – That doesn’t matter.
George – Okay, let’s go.
Brooklyn Notary – Hi-ya fellows. How’s everything?
Kramer – Its been a long day.
Brooklyn Notary – Why? What happened?
Kramer – What didn’t happen? Listen I need this form notarized. You wouldn’t happen to have a thumbprinter, would you?
Brooklyn Notary – Well, actually, mine just ran out of ink. I got a bit carried away, and used it on people who were not… well you know.
George – Say it, say it…. thumbprintworthy.
Brooklyn Notary – Well, I never thought of it like that.
George – You would never believe this, but I happen to have .. a thumbprinter!
Brooklyn Notary – where did you get this?
George – From a friend.
Brooklyn Notary – Great. Just give me the document.
Kramer – Here’s my ID.
Brooklyn Notary – It’s okay, I know your friend, that’s good enough for me.
Kramer – But, the law… you gotta have an ID.. I want this to be legit!
Brooklyn Notary – yeah yeah sure sure. I’ll put this all in the journal.
Kramer – Can you do the thumbprint now?
Brooklyn Notary – Sure… Here you go. Your Jurat … Notarized and all.
Kramer – How can I ever thank you.
Brooklyn Notary – It’s nothing.
( Kramer and George drive back over the bridge, battling traffic, and make it to Clarissa’s house by 6:55 )
Kramer – Clarissa, my love. Here it is.
Clarissa – Oh, I’m so touched, so you really do love me!
Kramer – You don’t know what I had to do to get this.
Clarissa – Oh Kramer, I ….. LOVE ….. ( she glances at the document )
Clarissa – KINGS County?… wait a second. If you live in Manhattan, why would you get it notarized in Kings County? That’s Brooklyn.
Kramer – It says Kings County on it?
George – Yeah, you see, this is the Venue, and on the Venue it says Kings County. That just means where it got done. It doesn’t matter. You live in Manhattan.
Clarissa – We’re through. I’m leaving. I’ll send you a postcard from Paris.
Clarissa – Hasta la Au Revoir – Baby
Kramer – No, no, no…. it’s all because you got banned. How did you? .. Oh…It’s the thumbprinter. He banned you because you took his thumbprinter.
George – No Kramer, that happened after he banned me. I swiped it while he wasn’t looking.
Kramer – No, it’s the thumbpriner, you got us all in trouble.
Kramer – I have an idea. You can give it back to him and get him a new one, then he’ll be back on good terms with you.
George – You’re crazy.
Kramer – I insist. I need a good notary in Manhattan. He’s close. You gotta do it.
( George and Kramer go buy a thumb printer and go back to the Notary – he is there late at the office )
George – I just wanted to say… I’m sorry. This thumb printer somehow got shuffled up with my stuff and I didn’t even realize… Silly me.
Notary – My thumbprinter, it’s back…. I needed you…. Oh thank you..HOW COULD YOU!
George – It was an accident.
Notary – And you contaminated it with your germs. Now it’s tainted.
George – Now wait a minute, it’s a thumbprinter, its job is to be touched by OTHER PEOPLE’s Thumbs.
Notary – You used it, didn’t you.
George – Listen, we felt so bad, we went all the way to an office supply store and got you a brand new one.
Notary – Thank you… I’m touched…
George – Now can you notarize my friend. I’ll pay you double
Notary – Sure, come by any time.
( The Notary notarizes Kramer with the rectangular seal… not the circular one… and thumbprints him )
Kramer – Thank you so much…. Now my document is legit and has New York County on the venue. Clarissa will come back to me… My Clarissa.
( Kramer and George leave )
Notary – That’s funny, the ink doesn’t come off. I must have gotten some ink on my thumb when I thumbprinted Kramer. And it got on my shirt. My shirt is ruined. And it’s on my table too.
(Kramer calls Clarissa… she is at the airport and her flight delayed.)
Kramer – Clarissa, I got it renotarized by a notary in New York County in Manhattan in my neighborhood.
Clarissa – I’m still at the airport, I’ll be here until 11. Get it to me.
Kramer – Okay.
(Kramer and George drive to the airport and get there at 9pm.)
Kramer – Here it is. Notarized in Manhattan. West 88th Street!
Clarissa – Wow, you really do love me. I will date you after all. Give me a hug.
( Kramer and Clarissa hug good by )
Clarissa – I’ll see you when I get back.
( the plane takes off. Clarissa goes to the bathroom and comes back )
Clarissa – Hm, thats funny, there is ink on the back of my chair. Do you see ink?
Flight attendant – Hm, that does look like ink. Have you been thumbprinted recently?
Clarissa – No, why would I be thumbprinted?
Flight attendant – You know, when you go to a notary. You get thumbprinted. You must have forgotten to wash off the ink.
Clarissa – I was never notarized…. wait a second…. When Kramer hugged me, he put his thumbs on the back of my blouse and that got on the chair. Does my blouse have ink on it?
Flight attendant – Yes it does. You’ll have to bleach that a few times.
Clarissa – No!!!
( Clarissa gets to Paris and calls Kramer )
Clarissa – Nous sommes finit!!! We are over!!!
Kramer – What????