|Where is Your Notary Seal?ASN Hot Tip, November 2008-#2|
Can you put your hand on your notary seal at this moment? Do you know exactly where it is? Is it safely locked away where no one but you can get to it?
You are responsible for the security of your official notary seal, your recordbook, your notary commission certificate and any other documents relating to your work as a notary public.
What if your notary seal is lost or stolen and falls into the hands of the “wrong person”? Your notary seal can then be used to perpetrate fraud on unsuspecting individuals in your name.
EXAMPLEA recent media article told of a scheme involving fraud in refinancing home loans. At first the perpetrator was frustrated in her efforts to commit document fraud because she lacked a fake identification document to substantiate the false name she was using to sign. The notary who was asked to perform a notarial act for this fraudulent transaction correctly declined when the perpetrator didn’t have proper ID.
The experience, unfortunately, gave the perpetrator the idea that getting her hands on a notary public commission seal could solve her problem. That is, she could skirt the need for a notary if she could find a way to impersonate both the notary and the document signer. With a notary’s commission seal in hand, the perpetrator would be free to forge another person’s signature on the document and to forge the notarial certificate.
This criminal went to several different notaries public, asking for performance of a notarial act. She soon found one who, at some point during the notarial act, had to leave his desk for just a moment to see to another aspect of his job. The notary left the criminal unobserved and his notary seal on his desk—a big mistake. When he returned, the “client” and his notary seal were both gone. Though he was upset, the notary had the presence of mind to immediately notify the Notary Public Administrator's Office that his seal had been stolen.
OUTCOMEA few months later the legitimate notary was informed by the Notary Public Administrator of his state that a complaint had been filed against him by the person who was injured financially by the criminal’s ultimately successful fraudulent refinancing scheme. Suffice to say that this notary’s life was complicated for a few months until things were straightened out and his good name was cleared of wrongdoing.
Had this notary sufficiently safeguarded his notary seal? Evidently not, since it was very easily stolen.
To adequately protect your seal from unauthorized use, you MUST either have it in your possession or in a locked drawer that only you can access. The notary in the above example could have taken a few seconds to lock his notary seal in his desk drawer instead of leaving it unattended on his desk. A bank teller would never walk away from her cash drawer without locking it. The notary’s stolen seal in the above story was worth over $20,000 cash to the perpetrator of this particular fraud.
Secure your notary seal as if it were a large amount of cash. Don’t ever let your notary seal fall into the hands of the “wrong person”!
Questions, comments on this Hot Tip? Email Kathleen@asnnotary.org