Why EVERY Notary Needs TrainingBrenda Stone
This week’s tips are for notaries who may be at risk of losing relationships with hiring parties because of errors in their notarial acts, losing their commissions–or worse–may inadvertently perform a criminal act.
Because life gets busy and is full of more pressing and interesting matters, notary laws are not top priority to many notaries–I understand that!
Unfortunately, the result is that too many notaries haven’t developed proper skills. They don’t know what they can do and what they can’t.There are pitfalls to avoid, but untrained notaries don’t see them. They are performing notarial acts as if blindfolded, unaware of the risks and pitfalls that await them and the public for whom they notarize.
Pressures to Perform Unlawful Acts
Just this week, I heard from several notaries about requests for illegal acts. Each of them had been pressured to do one of the acts listed below. And, this short list represents only a few of the many things that get notaries into trouble when they are not clear on their duties or how to perform properly.
- Backdating documents
- Completing a notarial act if the signer cannot be identified to the notary’s satisfaction and lawfully
- Notarizing documents when the signer isn’t present
- Leaving a blank in the document to fill in later
Illegal acts and errors do not go away!
Once performed, the illegal act is always “out there.” It is permanent. Bending the rules can cause a notary to be sued by a party who has been harmed by the notary’s wrongful action; worse things can happen, as well.
Here is a case in point. During the decade of 2000 – 2010, ignorant notaries signed thousands of documents because they were told to do so. Robo Signers became the shame of notaries across the U.S. as their stories hit the news. Notary after notary was indicted. Here are the testimonies of three. Those criminal acts were discovered years after they were performed and they are still notorious today.
Tools of Protection for Notaries
Please consider taking a training course this week if you are unsure of what your authorized duties are and how to perform them. The courses on Notary.net are priced reasonably so that EVERY notary can afford to be trained properly because …
Knowledge is a notary’s best weapon!
Protect your relationships with clients by knowing how to navigate a loan signing. Poorly performed notarial acts and loan signing tasks aren’t tolerated by hiring parties.
As soon as you can, protect yourself with an errors & omissions insurance policy while you learn you notary duties.
Illegal notary acts can cause notaries to be jailed.
Normally, I won’t dwell on negative issues like jail, criminal charges, and fines. I prefer topics like business and marketing. However, I have observed that many new notaries are coming into the business today not realizing that there is more to being a notary than stamping paper. I’ve seen how that can become a huge problem for the notary, their hiring parties, and their signers.
It can get ugly!
The same thing happened during the refi boom that began in the mid 1990s when there were not enough notaries to go around. Several ads popped up with language and dollar signs designed to lure in notaries. Waves of people from all walks of life became notaries. They weren’t prepared for performing tasks guided strictly by laws because they didn’t take training. They had no idea that their commission certificate implied that they must be ethical and above reproach. It escaped them that their position and office of notary public was built on a foundation of integrity holding them to a higher standard than others. The untrained notaries didn’t realize that impropriety or conflicting interests during a notarial act was good cause for term suspension, revoking of the notary’s commission, or even jail time.
Cautionary Tale: Rule-Bending Notary in Jail
A notary that I met on Notary Rotary in 2004 bent the rules. He did it for money on multiple deals.
On a Sunday afternoon I received an email that shocked me. My friend said that he had tied up his affairs at home and was preparing to go to prison. I had no idea. I have never had a friend say that he’s leaving for prison the next morning.
My friend told me he had bent rules and didn’t follow the law on some other things. He had worked out a plea deal, but he had been sentenced to six years.
The judge had not been easy on him. Notaries are public servants. They aren’t like freelance photographers, transcription businesses, or dog walkers. Laws govern everything that notaries do. My notary friend should have known better. (But, I should add that his state does not require training and no training is conducive to lack of training or self-study.)
Even if your Client Won’t Pay You, Ethics Must Win Over Money
If you don’t do what the client wants in the form of an unlawful notarial act, you may not be paid–you’ll hear the hiring party say “Other notaries do this for us all the time! And, if you don’t do it, you won’t be paid the full amount.” You may be told crazy things like “You will be blackballed and never work again!”
That’s possible — you may not be paid for doing the right thing. But, do not give in when an act is wrong.
One assignment’s pay withheld is much better than being implicated in a crime.
But, how will you know it is wrong, if you don’t know it is wrong?
In your notary business, everything you do as a notary is tied to laws.
Please be prepared. Take a training course today.
Let us hear from you with questions and suggestions for articles!