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Notary Notes

The Importance of Demanding Personal Appearance

by PAN

As a notary in Pennsylvania, one of the most important things you can do as a notary is to demand personal appearance of your customers. At PAN, we consider it the “Golden Rule” for being a notary. 

Why is Personal Appearance Important?

There are several reasons. First, it helps to ensure that the person signing the document is who they say they are. When you see your customer in person, you can verify their identity by either personal knowledge, or satisfactory evidence. Satisfactory evidence is either acceptable ID, or a credible witness. To learn more about using a credible witness, watch our tutorial video.

Second, demanding personal appearance helps to prevent fraud. If you do not have the customer in front of you during the notarization, it is possible that someone else could sign the document in their name. This could lead to identity theft or other financial crimes.

Finally, demanding personal appearance helps to protect you as a notary. If you notarize a document without having the customer appear before you, you could be held liable if there are issues with the document later. 

How to Demand Personal Appearance

Here are five tips for demanding personal appearance as a notary in Pennsylvania:
  • If you do not know the customer personally, ask for the signer's government-issued identification. Last resort, you could use a credible witness. 
  • Verify the signer's identity by comparing the information on their identification to the information on the document they are signing.
  • Always have the customer in your presence before notarizing.
  • Make sure the signer understands the contents of the document they are signing.
  • Keep a record of the notarization in your notary journal. 
    • Every state requires different information to be recorded in their journals. PAN offers a journal that is designed to meet all the requirements per the notary law, RULONA. If you need to purchase a journal, click here.

What are the Consequences of Not Demanding Personal Appearance?

If you notarize a document without demanding personal appearance, you could be held liable for any damages that result from the fraud or forgery. You could also be subject to disciplinary action from the Department of State.

If you come into a scenario where you do not feel comfortable, remember that you have the right to refuse the notarization. 

If you are a PAN Member and have questions, contact us at (800)-944-8790, [email protected], or live chat with us on our web site.

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