Whether in traditional or electronic form, the seal is an essential tool of notarization and an important symbol of the Notary’s authority. A mishandled or misused seal can enable fraud and cause severe financial and legal damage to both the public and the Notary. It is critical that Notaries use seals in accordance with best practices, and to ensure that they are secured against potential misuse. Guidelines for the proper care and use of seals are detailed in Guiding Principle VII of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility.
THE NOTARY SHALL AFFIX A SEAL ON EVERY NOTARIZED DOCUMENT AND NOT ALLOW THIS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED SYMBOL OF OFFICE TO BE USED BY ANOTHER OR IN AN ENDORSEMENT OR PROMOTION.
Because using a seal outside of notarization can enable fraud, Guiding Principle VII instructs Notaries to make sure seals are not affixed to a document in advance. Notaries should never allow another person to use or handle their seal and, when it is not in use, the seal should be stored in a secure place only accessible to the Notary.
Additionally, Notaries should not allow others to use or reproduce the seal in commercial endorsements or testimonials. A seal is used solely for official notarial acts; to use a seal in an endorsement could mislead the public into thinking a product or event has been officially certified or approved by a government agency when it has not.
Editor’s Note: Each month during 2010, the Notary Bulletin will spotlight one guiding principle from The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility, in random order, to help guide you when your state’s statutes, regulations and official directives fall short.
March 2010: Guiding Principle X — Seeking Instruction
February 2010: Guiding Principle II — Impartiality
January 2010: Guiding Principle III — Personal Appearance