Any job that involves showing up at a client's often unfamiliar front door has a potential for danger. Add to this the fact that some signings — including those affecting real estate or powers of attorney — can sometimes lead to tense situations. That’s why it's wise to enter each and every signing with caution in mind. In the July issue of the National Notary Magazine, Che E. Presant, a California Notary Signing Agent with a decade of experience, discussed ways NSAs can protect themselves when going to unfamiliar locations, including always carrying a cell phone and asking someone to come along with you.
We asked our Notary Signing Agent Community on LinkedIn to share their tried-and-true security tips designed to help keep you safe and sound on the job.
1. Get There Safely: The drive itself can prove dangerous if you’re not sure where you are going. Invest in a quality GPS system, preferably one that you can use while driving, rather than trying to look down at your SmartPhone while juggling the wheel. California Notary Signing Agent Jane Tierney always Googles a prospective address prior to heading out to an assignment. “If I feel uncomfortable after viewing Google street view with pictures, I suggest meeting at a café. Libraries are another public place that works well for notarizations,” says Tierney.
2. Report Your Whereabouts: Just as hikers should never venture out without letting someone know where they’re going, the same rule applies to NSAs heading out on assignments. Alabama Notary Rosa Lateef lets her borrowers know that she is required to report her arrival and departure, and she always excuses herself to make a quick call for reporting purposes (which, she admits, are sometimes simply to her husband). This lets the signer know that someone will be waiting to hear back from her, and it’s a practice that offers peace of mind for Rosa … and her husband.
3. Don’t Supply Personal Information: Don’t include your personal address on your business card or website. “Your name and/or business name, phone number, fax number and email address is enough, unless you have an office somewhere other than your home,” says Indiana Notary Linda Bennett. “Better to be safe than sorry!” If you need a mailing address, consider using a P.O. Box.
4. Neutral Locations: If you are uncomfortable for any reason going to a certain location — say it’s after dark and in a remote area — you can always ask your signer to meet you in a neutral, public location, such as a coffee shop. If, after arriving to a signer’s location, you feel uncomfortable going inside a signer’s house, California Notary Patricia Berger recommends having the signer come outside to you. “Any signer should understand that we have to take precautions,” says Berger. In this case, you can perform the signing on a porch, in your car, or even on the hood of your vehicle.
Maria Torres Lopez of Florida warns Notaries against assuming that there are “good” or “bad” neighborhoods, recommending instead that you exercise caution wherever you are conducting a signing. While most standard signing situations present no reason to worry, as Linda Bennett said, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.