I was Forged
I receive an email, supposedly from Germany. I was asked to verify that I did the notarization on a Will and an Affidavit of Claim. The sender included PDF copies of the two documents. They were hilarious forgeries. The signatures of my name as Notary on the Will, and as Commissioner for Oaths were not even close. Oddly, the first letter of my last name was signed with a lower case “e”, not a capital “E”. I replied that the documents were not signed by me.
The “notarization” of the will did not include an image of my notary stamp. In NY it’s required to either type or print the notary information under the signature. Also, notaries who are not attorneys are not allowed to notarize the signature of the person who the will is for. The will had my name as also notarizing the witnesses. Each name in the notary section was written with a different handwriting. An image of the seal of New York State was copied onto each document, presumably to replace a proper notary seal. It was a mess.
New York City does have a Commissioner of Deeds office, similar to the much more useful statewide Notary function. However, the forger replaced “Deeds” with “Oaths” – clearly this was not the work of a dedicated professional. The amount involved was in the tens of millions, in US dollars. Even stranger: these were to be used to settle in a German court. Usually, US notarized documents bound for other countries receive an Apostille; but it was not present. Of course it could not be. Part of the Apostille issuing procedure (in NY) includes notary signature verification.
So much for the actual forgery; I thought my reply ended my involvement. However, the next email from Germany raised the alarm bells. I was asked if the named beneficiary to the Will was “a fraud” and if the Affidavit of Claim was a fake. Now I was being asked IMHO a legal question. The second reply was very carefully worded. “The determination of fraud and fake are issues to be determined by the courts”. You never really know who is sending the email and if they have a hidden agenda. Write emails in such a manner that they can’t be used against you in litigation.
US currency is designed to thwart counterfeiting. But, if the recipient does not make an effort to examine the cash; even the most inept efforts are successful. In a similar manner, the recipient of a notarization should make some effort to verify its authenticity. An attachment issued by the NY State County Clerks, the Authentication; specifically mentions the signature being verified. Their form is “overstamped” after being affixed to my notarization. The issue of a “cut and paste” of a valid notaries signature onto a document fails under close examination. It might “look good” but a crime lab will find toner not ink in that signature.
As my name is “out there” on the internet it was easy for the person in Germany to obtain my email address. I can only wonder how many other forgeries are out there. Thankfully the forgery was legible and that gave access to me. Which is worse? An illegible signature that does not “point” to the notary, or a clear one that specifically spells your name? Perhaps the legibility was to permit the recipient to “look me up” to verify I was really a notary. What can be done to stop this abuse? Nothing I can think of. Sticking to my registered signature, using stamp and embosser (always) makes it easy to spot a forgery. If you have actually had to appear in court to contest a forgery please leave a comment detailing your experiences.
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