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December 17, 2011

Penalties for notary misdeeds & misconduct!

Penalties for notary misconduct, crimes, and misdeeds 

I very rarely hear about notaries engaging in any type of illegal activity or illegal notarizations. The normal problem with notaries is lack of skill, neglegence, or bad tempers in a few cases.  I have only heard of one notary that engaged in a serious crime, and he went to jail.  This blog entry will discuss various types of notary misconduct and types of penalties for this misconduct in California. Please keep in mind that the notary rules are different in each of the 50 states, and that notary rules are also always changing.  However, if something is illegal in one state, there is a high chance that it will also be illegal in your state — although the penalties might be different. The information here is time sensitive and could change at any time. These are listed in the order of which I feel they are important to mobile notaries.
 
Asking a notary to do an improper notarization.
This is a misdemeanor.  If it involves real property, then it is much more serious.  Clients might ask you to notarize them using a different name variation that is not documented, or put a false date.  This is illegal. They are guilty for asking you to do this, and you will be guilty if you give in to their pressure. If you have driven thirty minutes to a job, you have a beneficial interest in notarizing their document unless you have gotten your travel fee up front when you walk in the door.  So, legally, you MUST get your travel fee BEFORE you see the document, or are informed who the signers are, or see their ID, because a conflict of interest can easily happen.  If someone asks you to do something illegal, you can threaten to report them to the Secretary of State’s office. This is a serious crime and you should treat it as such.
 
Issuing a false certificate
A notary who issues false certificates, and this could include backdated certificates would be guilty of a misdemeanor.  A false Acknowledgment certificate constitutes FORGERY.   Additionaly, the notary could have their commission revoked if found guilty of this crime, with an additional fine of $1500 per incident.
 
Failure to Identify a Credible Witness
A fine of $10,000 per incident could occur if a notary fails to check a credible witness’s identification documents and see that they have acceptable identification.
 
Failure to get a thumbprint!!!
This is my favorite.  Thumbprints are critical for identifying a signer if fraud is suspected.  Powers of Attorney and Deeds require a journal thumbprint in California.  A fine of up to $2500 per incident would be the penalty.
 
Failure to administer an Oath
A fine of $750 per incident could be incurred, not to mention revocation, or suspention of a notary commission, or refusal to grant a commission.
 
Felony Convictions
If you have a felony conviction or have been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, you will most likely not be allowed to get a notary commission in the first place.  If you already had a notary commission, it would be suspended or revoked the minute your state’s ntoary division finds out about it!
 
Professional Misconduct
This refers to dishonesty in your professional activities.  The penalty would once again be suspension, revocation, or refusal to grant a notary commission.
 
Failure of Duty
This means that you refuse to serve a member of the public who has a legitimate request for a notarization.  However, if the signer doesn’t have proper identification, or doesn’t have a properly filled out document, or seems very questionable, you have the right to refuse service to such a client.  The penalty would be refusal to grant a notary commission, suspension, or revocation of a notary commission. Additionally a fine of $750 could be imposed on the California notary public.
 
Falsely Acting as a Notary
This is a misdemeanor
 
Making false statements to a notary
Anyone who induces a notary to make an improper notarization with regards to real property can be found guilty of a FELONY.  This is the most serious type of fraud possible in the notary profession.
 
False or misleading notary advertising
Making false statements in notary advertising is illegal, and the penalty for California notaries is $1500 per incident.  Additionally, such a notary’s commission could be suspended, revoked, or there could be a refusal to issue a commission.  Claiming to be an immigration expert, or be able to give legal advice could be a serious example of false advertising. 
 
Selling personal information
If the notary sells or misuses personal information of those he/she has notarized, that is illegal as well.  Remember to keep your journals locked up, so that nobody can have access to that information. When making copies of journal entries, make sure that the neighboring journal entries are covered, so that their information is not shared with the public.  Once again, your application could be denied, or your commission could be suspended or revoked for such a crime.
 
Misstatements on a notary application (Application misstatement)
Your notary commission could be suspended, revoked, or refused if you are guilty of this misconduct
 
Here are some other crimes… I will just list them here, but may or may  not describe the penalties.
 
Failure to deliver a journal to the county clerk at the end of your commission. – misdemeanor
Failure to safeguard seal and journal – revoke/suspend/refuse
Failure to report a lost or damaged seal – $1500 fine
Nonpayment of judgement / Refusal to pay child support – refusal to issue a commission
Failure to keep a journal – such notaries will be prosecuted
 
There are a few others laws that I am not going to mention, but these were the interesting ones…

You might also like:

9/11 Notary Law Changes
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=212

All you need to know about notary work
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2354

How to complain about a notary public
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2179

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November 23, 2011

California Acknowledgment and Jurat Information

To see current 2011 & 2012 California Acknowledgment wording  information and California Jurat verbiage  information, just visit:
http://www.123notary.com/California/acknowledgment_jurat.asp

California Acknowledgments & California Jurats

Notary laws are often based on antiquated social customs and laws.  Many notary laws in Louisiana are based on the old Spanish and French laws which make it extremely different from the rest of the United States.  Louisiana is sort of a foreign country controlled by our government.  The language is English, but the laws are not.  California notary law used to have some old rules too for identifying a signer
 
In olden times, people lived in smaller communities, traveled less, and had less access to the outside world.  In those days you knew your neighbors and knew them well.  California notary laws and laws in many states allowed a notary to use personal knowledge of an individual as a way to identify them for a notarization.  But, in 2011 with people flying all around, and nobody really knowing anyone, you can not really use personal knowledge as an identifying technique anymore.  People don’t even know their wives and children that well these days! After 9/11, the laws changed in many states.  It took a few years for the state governments to react, but standards for identification were raised.  You can still identify signers using credible witnesses which I feel is false identification. The credible witnesses don’t really usually know the signer that well, and have to be reminded of the signer’s name in many cases.  The most common form of identification is a driver’s license, state ID card, or password. 
 
In any case, California notary laws for identifying a signer for an acknowledged signature are tougher now that personal knowledge is not allowed.  But, signers also need to be identified for Jurats which never used to be the case.  In the last few years, the California notary wording or California notary Verbiage for Acknowledgment and Jurat forms has changed a little bit as well.
 
Oaths and Affirmations in California have now become a merged act.  You just choose whether you want it to be an affirmation or oath in the paperwork. 
 
 
You might also like: 

Notary Public 101 – basic notary acts including Acknowledgments
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19500

Notary Acknowledgment Information
 
Can a California notary be a witness?

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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!

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You might also like:

Thumbprinting in Texas
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19672

Multiple title companies told Notaries NOT to thumbprint?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19461

Notary Public 101’s guide to Notary Journals
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19511

Thumbprint taking step by step
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1689

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August 29, 2011

Two notaries assigned the same job?

Two notaries assigned the same job?
 
There I was, a California notary public in Tustin, CA. I had driven down from Los Angeles to sign a loan for a nice couple in Orange County, California. We were signing away, when lo and behold:  The notary showed up.  He asked, “Who are you?”.  I then proclaimed, “I am the notary”.  Then, he said, “That’s impossible, I’m the notary!”.  “No you’re not!”.  “Yes I am”.  “Am NOT!”. “AM TOO!…”  Okay, let’s be honest, the “am not am too” part never happened.  I’m embelleshing this signing agent dialogue. The couple was just staring in confusion.  The wife was displaying the exact same mannerisms as a cat watching a dangling string.  He head rotated to the left and looked at me, then head rotated to the right and looked at the other notary, then back at me, and back at him…. Hmmm.  What is going on?
 
The Signing company hired two notaries?
How could they! After all of my hard work, they would have the gaul to… Oh… wait a minute, let me call them and straighten the whole thing out. 
 
Ring Ring…..
 
Me – Hello, may I speak to Mary please, this is Jeremy your California notary for the Anderson Signing in Tustin. 
Mary – Hi, this is Mary! 
Me – Hi, Mary, it seems that you hired two notaries for the same job. 
Mary – What? We would never do that
Me – Odd, because as we speak, there is another notary here.  Or, should I say, “A Notarial Triangle”
Mary – Hmmm… Let me call the Title company.
………… ten minutes later
Mary – I found out what happened
Me – Please do tell?
Mary – The title company hired two signing companies to handle this California notary job, and the OTHER signing company sent that OTHER California notary out.
Me – Mmmm.  So, which signing company was SUPPOSED to be responsible for the job.
Mary – We are.  The title company cancelled with the other signing company, but apparantly, they didn’t cancel with the notary.
Me – Oh, no they didn’t!!!
Mary – Oh, yes they did.
Me – This has never happened in my career to date.  And I hope it never happens again. Just make sure that I’m the one who gets paid, although the other one should get a travel fee, don’t you agree?
Mary – Thats between him and the OTHER signing company.
Me – I KNEW there had to be another signing company. I could just tell from the way he was looking at me.
 
So, jokes aside, the other notary left, we finished the signing.  Into the UPS box it went, and off I went on my merry way out of what we affectionally call, “The OC”, and back up the 5 Freeway, or is it the 405 — its been so long I can’t even remember, through Anaheim, Downey, Commerce, and back to Los Angeles where I logged in my transaction and faxed a bill to the signing company.
 
The End!

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Getting what is due! A clever plan!
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One signing – two venues?
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August 19, 2011

Excerpts from Great Notes Sections

If you do my job, you will see hundreds and thousands of notes sections written by notaries.  Most are very dull and clunky sounding, but a few notaries have really out done themselves and written very classy and entertaining notes.  I have been meaining to write this for months, but there were so many other things to do!
 
Here is one I made up, but never published.
I am a notary public in Egg Harbor, NJ — and I moved here from Broome County, NY.  If my town ever gets hit by a hurricane, we’ll have to change the name to Omelette Harbor.  And Broome county will get swept off the map!
 
Here is one from a North Carolina Notary
I am a native New Yorker with Southern Charm.   When your closing is crucial, you can count on me to be there on time and conduct the signing just as you would, if you could.    (The notary who wrote this really is very patient and charming in real life. I have spoken with him on several occassions)
 
Here is an entertaining excerpt from a California notary
I have personally witnessed more than 4,500 “kitchen table” loan signings. My satisfied clients include individual borrowers, title companies, escrow companies, and nationwide notary signing services. You can rest assured that I have the know-how to seamlessly handle your important documents as well as your borrowers key questions professionally.
 
Here is one I pieced together
I am taking a sabbatical for the rest of the year.  Give me a call next year please! I’ll be available in October — just mark your calendar.

Here is a really professional sounding one from a California notary
Nine years as a notary and 25 years experience in mortgage banking as an Underwriter and Manager.  I am on the approved Notary list of several major Title companies, including First American and the Fidelity Family. Always on time and professional.
 
Here is an Illinois notary who doesn’t mess around
I have twelve years experience as an Illinois notary and signer doing refi’s, reverse, HELOC’s etc. Fees vary per job requirements, $65 to $250. Terms: Net 30 days, $25 late fee after 60 days, $50 collection fee after 90 days.
 
Very Impressive
I do Apostille Processing and I am a Fingerprinting expert, and a Notary / Certified Signing Agent. All of my work is 100% guaranteed – ReDo or Refund – Your Choice. A+ BBB rating. I offer twenty-four hour emergency service. My home is in Manhattan and can usually arrive within the hour. I’m Elite certified by 123notary.com and have E&O Insurance. My web site has genuinely useful information about Notary work, Apostille Processing, Embassy / Consular Legalization and Fingerprinting. I invite you to become one of my Key Clients.
 
Here is part of one from a Los Angeles Notary
For ten years I have served Los Angeles County notarizing: commercial and residential loans, reverse mortgages, first and second mortgages, refinances, helocs, medical records, foreign adoptions, power of attorney, and so on. Apostille, authentication and certification services are also available.
 
This one is a seasoned professional
Fidelity National Title & First American Approved Notary. Background Clearance updated annually. THE best of the best Notary Loan Signing Agents on the Central Coast of California for your client’s requirements, delivering professional, reliable, error free service to your valuable clients that guarantees an accurately signed loan, every time. Co-author “How to Become a Wildly Successful Loan Signing Agent”. * twenty-four hours seven days a week personal service. * Esigning certified; Emailed documents accepted for same day signing! Have laptop/aircard, will travel to your client. * Professional fully trained Signing Agent qualified in all types of loan closings, residential, commercial and reverse mortgage products. * Loan packages can be accepted in all formats. * Highly Competitive Rates. * Top Drawer Concierge Service! 25 years experience, trained to provide a white-glove service unsurpassed by any other mobile notary! I am a proud member of the California Mobile NSA Network!
 
Please also visit
 
Find a notary public in California 

Find a notary in Illinois

Paralysis Notary Service: Notary companies with funny names

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November 27, 2010

9/11 California Notary Law Changes

California Notary Law Changes 
Notary law has changed tremendously in the last few years across the nation, but the single most important event that shaped notary law was 9/11.  It took several years for the various state notary divisions to react and change their notary laws after this catastrophe, but they surely did.  Several of the terrorists were easily able to get fraudulent social security cards and drivers licenses.  The hijackers paid $100 to an illegal immigrant who had also fraudulently gotten his Virginia driver’s license — to execute the residency affidavit for the 9/11 hijackers before a Virginia notary public.  This notarized document from Virginia was sufficient proof to get a Virginia driver’s license which they needed to get on the airplanes.  The Virginia notary public involved in this transaction was prosecuted by homeland security.
 
After that incident, it was found that tens of thousands of fake Virginia identification cards and driver’s licenses were circulating, and Virginia made law changes as a reaction.  Notarized documents were no longer sufficient proof to get a driver’s license.  Virginia was not the only state to react to this catastrophe.  The California notary division, and many others reacted too.  Law changes started happeneing slowly, generally in 2005 and 2006.
 
Some of the main changes to California notary law were that personal knowledge of a signer was no longer grounds for personal knowledge.  California notaries also are responsible to make sure the document being notarized is not fraudulent.  Jurats now require being positively identified in California and almost every other state in the nation.  There are other laws that changed, but now governments are being careful about identification and preventing fraud.
 
In my personal opinion, California should never had had liberal identification standards to begin with.  The governments reaction to 9/11 is like frantically putting on your seat belt right after an accident.  The time to wear your seat belt is BEFORE an accident, which means all the time.  Additionally, the credible witness procedure in California and many other states is just as ludicrous as the personal knowledge form of identification.  If you personally know someone, how well does it mean that you know them?  There has never been a definitive standard other than that you knew them from a chain of events and people in various contexts which has several lines of text in legalese which nobody can make much sense of.   Credible witnesses do not usually know a signer well enough to identify them before a public official.  They know a signer as “Joe” their neighbor, and job could tell them his last name was Wagner, and the CW’s would swear to that before the notary when they don’t even know.  California is still careless with its notary laws in many ways.

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http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=5151

New California Notary laws effective Jan 1, 2012
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3054

Penalties for notary misdeeds and misconduct
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2067

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