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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ohio Society of Notaries

Notary News
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By Roger Rill, OSN President

Send OSN your notary horror stories!
OSN is compiling examples of notary errors, incompetence, and outright fraudulent use of a notary commission to support our notary reform efforts to the legislature. Any examples you have witnessed or are aware of, please send toinfo@ohionotaries.org
Ohio officially BANS webcam notarizations!
Ohio has joined the growing number of states that have banned webcam notarizations. The Ohio Attorney General issued a consumer alert that webcam notarizations do not neet the standard of physical personal appearance, and such notarizations are invalid in Ohio.
OSN has been on top of this issue since it surfaced, and provided documentation to state officials that this procedure should not be permitted.
Virginia legislature OKs no-appearance notarizations(!)
Under the heading of "What were they thinking??", Virginia has enacted legislation that permits notarizations as described below, without the signer physically appearing before the notary. This opens the door for potentially rampant fraud in the Commonwealth, so we'll keep following this story and hope no other states think it's a good idea.
Notarization via Webcam?? No Way!
Be aware of a venture that offers to perform notarizations just about anywhere in the U.S. via webcam, suggesting that the "personal appearance" requirement of notarization can be satisfied through video images. The wesite is www.notarynow.com- please don't be fooled into thinking this is legal in Ohio. OSN has notified the Secretary of State's office, and will be discussing it with the staff.
Jon Husted takes office as Secretary of State  
Secretary Husted has committed to notary reform, and OSN will seek to follow up with him in the near future.
Ohio SOS candidates commit to notary reform
The Voting Rights Institute sponsored a forum in Columbus that hosted Secretary of State candidates Charles Earl (Libertarian), Jon Husted (Republican), and Maryellen O'Shaughnessy (Democrat). During the Q&A period, I posed the question to the candidates of what they would do to improve Ohio's antiquated notary commissioning system. Mr. Earl apologized for not knowing much about the issue, but Senator Husted and Ms. O'Shaughnessy both publicly agreed that the system needs a thorough review to tighten up eligibility requirements, and better train the notaries that defend the public trust. OSN has already met twice with both the latter candidates, and we're optimistic that the needed change will soon be in the wind.
President rejects notary bill
President Obama refused to sign the Interstate Recognition of Notaries Act, which had fairly sailed through Congress with little discussion. It had been widely criticized as helping to make foreclosures easier for banks, and many in the notary community were also concerned that some aspects of the electronic notarization process might permit circumvention of the personal apperance requirement, a cardinal tenet of notary practice. In the current climate of new disclosures involving improper foreclosure procedures by several lenders, the Bill was sent back to Capitol Hill for further review.
Landmark notary case overturned by Illinois Supreme Court 
The case of Vancura v. Katris involved an employee notary who notarized what turned out to be a fraudulent signature on a real estate document. The appellate court had held that employers were responsible not only for the actions of their staff notaries, but for also ensuring they were properly trained. The Illinois Supreme court reversed the decision, and effectively put the burden of competency back upon individual notaries. Are you listening, Ohio?
Brunner calls for Federal Investigation of Notaries
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has asked for an investigation of notaries public in 23 states (including Ohio) for their alleged involvement with thousands of Chase Bank foreclosure documents. It is interesting that the very Ohio notaries Brunner is criticizing for possible wrongdoing, are products of the same lax notary commissioning system she oversees and perpetuates; one that helps breed incompetent and rogue notaries such as those she now wants to investigate. Brunner also displayed her indifference to Ohio notaries by stating they are "licensed", when actually they are commissioned, and there's a significant difference. There are huge implications for notaries in this story. Stay tuned on this one.
OSN receives tax-exempt status
The Ohio Society of Notaries has been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS as a 501(c)(6) not-for profit corporation. Donations to OSN are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
Spreading the word about OSN
We attended the National Notary Association Conference in Chicago June 14-17. OSN is now also a member of the Notary Public Administrators section of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and I attended their annual meeting in Providence, RI, in July. This group discussed various aspects of the proposed Model Notary Act, which will hopefully complement our notary reform efforts in Ohio.
E&O Insurance now available!
Every notary should protect themselves against potential liability resulting from notary errors.
As a member benefit, OSN members can now acquire Errors and Omissions Insurance coverage through our partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Notaries. Click on the E&O tab of our homepage for information.
OSN Partners with Paralegals
OSN has become a Sustaining Member of the Paralegals Association of Central Ohio. OSN will also contribute a regular notary feature to their newslewtter.
Since many paralegals are also notaries, this is a natural partnership that will be beneficial to all. OSN looks forward to being involved with this group.
OSN presents successful Notary Seminar!
OSN President Roger Rill presented "Beyond the Stamp: Your Role, Responsibilities, and Risks as an Ohio Notary Public".This seminar was sponsored by the Ohio Bankers League, and attendees were very enthusiastic about the knowledge they came away with.
OSN can provide the notary training you never received, and will come to your office or other location. Course content can be viewed on the "Notary Training" tab. Email roger@ohionotaries.org or call             (614) 336-7878       for more information.
The "Beyond the Stamp" seminar is included in the Ohio State Bar Association catalogue of approved CLE courses for August 8, 2011.
Warning to Ohio Notaries!!
There have been efforts made to utilize Ohio notaries in a loan-modification scam, wherein the notary is asked to visit a customers home, then collect application forms and postdated checks to send back to the company. These tactics differ from legitimate loan modifications in that large checks are being collected up front, and there are no notarizations involved; the notary is utilized as a courier to seemingly lend legitimacy. A primary company doing these calls is 21st Century Legal Services, also known as East Coast Management, and as FidelityNational Legal Services (not to be confused with the genuine Fidelity National). The Ohio Attorney General has filed suit against 21st Century for their deceptive and illegal practices, so if you are called, just say NO! Again, legitimate loan modifications do not involve picking up applications or postdated large upfront checks, and there is almost always a notarization necessary.
Another Caution!
Some Ohio notaries have been contacted requesting their assistance in executing "notary protests". While there is a definition of this in the Ohio statutes, it is very rarely used. These callers seek to utlize notaries as part of a tax-evasion or debt-cancelling scenario involving the UCC codes, that requires notaries to exceed the scope and intent of their authority. Again, just say NO!

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