Notaries, Are You Unknowingly Committing Fraud?

A valuable tool/asset to have is that of the office/position of a notary public. In fact, most form processors, paralegals, virtual assistants will undoubtedly be taken much more seriously if they are also notaries. In the real estate transaction world, hardly any deal can get finalized without the familiar stamp of a notary public. The office of the notary public, while not the most highly paid, oftentimes serves as the last bastion or high tide for ethical and moral behavior. However, recently a shift has started to take place where more and more often, notaries are put in positions where they risk their stamp and seal, and, if subjected to the scrutiny of an overzealous legal system, possibly, some of their freedom.

Once upon a time, and rightly so, the only way to obtain a notary’s stamp and seal was to personally appear before one with some form of legitimately acceptable identification. But, in recent times and given the boom in the housing market, notaries were being pressured to notarize documents without meeting and verifying the signatories. There’s a story of a notary public who also happens to work at a law firm that was pressured by his supervisor and various attorneys on a deal to notarize documents on that deal without proper protocol. That notary was made to believe his job was dependent on his compliance. He stood his ground and refused to notarize anything improperly, and, luckily for him, the threat of termination was not followed through on. Needless to say, he is not a favorite person amongst some persons at his firm.

Simply put – Never notarize a document where you cannot verify the identity of the signer. You may have done countless closings with a particular signing company, became good friends with a broker or lender, have a “high trust factor” with them, but you can lose your license, or worse, go to jail for fraud. There is no telling if and when your action done today will come back to haunt you; could be tomorrow, next week, next month or next year; you just never know.

The following tips may serve as a mini guideline on what to look for as a notary performing your job.

Always make sure the name on the document matches the name on the identification presented to you. If these names don’t match, don’t do it.

Never notarize any documents that have blank spaces. These blanks can be filled in at a later time, and you could be a party to a fraud.

As a notary, make sure that you witness the document is being signed. Have the signer(s) appear in person in front of you.

It is ideal that as a notary you can be able to communicate with the signer(s) in your native language. For example, if you do not speak Spanish, it is probably best to let a Spanish-speaking notary notarize the documents of Spanish speakers.

We are aware that the pressure may be applied, and in an effort to drum up or increase business, the temptation may arise. Don’t do it.

Enjoyed our article? We would love to hear from you. Let us know of any situation you may have been encountered with where you felt a fraud was about to take place.
By Cordina A. Charvis a Member of CD&C Business & Legal Form Processing Services, LLC, Virtual Paralegal Firm. © 2007. All rights reserved.


2 Responses

  1. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to
    my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and
    screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is
    completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  2. What if someone notarized a document as the signer of present and the witness the signing but they dont.Lets say the notary works at a law office and their boss the lawyer asked thrm to notarized a paper before they go to the hospital to see that person that they intend to get to sign

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