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Notary Notes

The First Line of Defense Against Fraud

by PAN

Why are documents notarized?

A notarization indicates to the receiver of the document that the signer appeared before a notary public, was identified, and signed the document. The notary’s official stamp and signature indicate that the notarization was performed according to the law.

The foundation of all notarial work is to demand personal appearance and to identify the signer as the individual he or she claims to be. The most important step you can take to deter fraud—and protect your notary commission—is to commit yourself to following these requirements for every notarial act you perform.

Requiring a signer to appear before you gives you the opportunity to assess the signer’s willingness and competence. Does the signer know what he or she is doing? Are there others influencing or directing the signer to act in a certain way? Does the signer appear to be confused or unsure about their actions? Is someone other than the signer attempting to act in his or her place?

Personal appearance also gives you the opportunity to compare the signer’s physical appearance and signature to the identification the signer presents to you. Does the signer look like the individual in the picture on the driver’s license? Does the signature on the identification card look like the signature on the document? You are not expected to be a handwriting expert but you are required to observe the signer and examine the identification he or she presents to you.

The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) gives you the authority to refuse to notarize a document for an individual, as long as your refusal is not prohibited by other laws. For example, you may not base your refusal on factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Don’t allow yourself to be coerced into performing a notarization that you suspect may be fraudulent.

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