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Misuse Of Notary Seals

ClosenThumb.JPGThe misuse of Notary seals in conjunction with other mayhem (including violence and even murder) occurs too often. Like a police officer’s badge or a soldier’s uniform, the seal is a recognized symbol of authority, and Notaries cannot allow it to be borrowed, stolen or used by anyone else under any circumstances – NO EXCEPTIONS.

Whether negligent or intentional, a Notary who allows someone else to use the seal could be liable for any monetary damages that occur as a result. The Notary also could face criminal or civil penalties for notarial misconduct.

There are two basic points to understand about Notary seals. First, the seal is a tool of a commissioned public official and is to be used only for official acts by the Notary named on it. It is not like most other kinds of inked stamps or corporate seals, which are purely private in character. Second, each seal belongs to the Notary to whom it was issued and may only be used by that Notary. Moreover, the Notary has a high duty to protect the seal from misuse by others. It’s often the case that someone else — an employer, family member or friend — pays the fees for the Notary commission and/or the seal. It doesn’t matter. The Notary is the commissioned public official — not someone who simply paid for the seal.

Far too many Notaries take the security of their seals much too lightly. I recently testified as an expert witness in a Notary malpractice trial in which the court awarded more than $150,000 to the plaintiff because of a forged notarization. The inexperienced and careless Notary had left his seal in an unlocked desk drawer in a sometimes secured supervisor’s office at his place of work. The Notary apparently mistakenly thought it would reduce his responsibility when he claimed that someone had pilfered his seal and forged the notarization in question. The Notary was wrong in both respects. He should not have kept his Notary seal in such an insecure fashion. The fact that someone else misused the seal did not make the Notary any less accountable for the forged notarization. Indeed, in this case both the Notary and his employer (who knew that the Notary left his seal unsecured in the company office) were legally liable for the plaintiff’s financial damages.

Notaries should always maintain exclusive custody and control of their seals. Notaries should either have their seals with them or keep them locked in a place only they control. As the above example shows, Notaries and their employers can be held accountable for any misuse if a seal is left unsecured and the employer encourages or acquiesces in such conduct.

Be assured, when a Notary exercises reasonable caution to secure the seal but something extraordinary occurs anyway, the law will not hold the Notary responsible. To illustrate, a seal is carefully locked away in the Notary’s home or car, and if a thief breaks in and steals the seal, the Notary should not be accountable if the seal is misused.

Even after their commissions expire, former Notaries remain responsible for their seals. An old Notary seal can be a dangerous instrument in the hands of a scoundrel, for one who is willing to forge a notarization is certainly also willing to backdate documents to a time before the Notary seal’s expiration date. Hence, Notaries must not leave their seals behind at their places of work when their commissions expire or they change employment. Nor should they give away their old seals; sell them at garage sales or in online auctions; or cavalierly discard them where someone could find and misuse them. A few states spell out how old seals must be handled. Notaries in other states should be sure to effectively destroy their seals after their commissions expire. This process should include defacing the print on the seal. Notaries should even advise their next of kin about how to properly dispose of their Notary seals in the event of their untimely deaths. Otherwise, careless family members might improperly dispose of the seal and the family members could face legal action and liability.

Notary seals are too important to be treated lightly. Always know where your seal is, and be sure it is in your exclusive custody and control, secured from someone else’s misuse. None of us want to see our names in the media due to our carelessness or neglect.

71 Comments

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Matt Bednar

05 Mar 2015

What is the penalty if someone fictitiously makes up a notary public seal of an actual notary public and then forges that person's name when signing official documents? I did some research and I have proof of this on a document that it is fake. I checked to see if the name on my document is an actual notary public and she is. I called the State she resides in and the State gave me a copy of this person's notary public application. Her application shows that the seal she is commissioned with is not the one on my official document and the signature used, you can tell is forged. I know who doctored the document and I want to pursue this in court because the people who doctored it, is now trying to use it against me. Can you tell me what the punishment is and and how I can pursue this in a court of law. Sincerely, Matt

National Notary Association

05 Mar 2015

Hello Matt. You should report the problem to the law enforcement agency in your area that handles fraud cases. Depending on the area, this may be the county district attorney's office or another law enforcement agency. You may also wish to contact your state Notary-regulating office and inform them of the situation.

lori

14 May 2015

notary notorized forged signatures on a deed she failef to request id she failed to have signers appear in person

S

19 Jun 2015

How do I report someone who used someone else's stamp and signed her name on several documents for an extended period of time? She moved out of state and he still used her stamp. When hers expired, he wanted me to become a notary and give him my stamp. It needs to be reported. He also has a full crew of guys who are illegal immigrants working for him.

National Notary Association

22 Jun 2015

Hello. You should contact your state's Notary-regulating office to report any issues involving improper use of a Notary stamp.

Mery Ortiz

31 Jul 2015

I am a notary in texas, and i just found out someone is notarizing with a scanned copy of my stamp. They just changed the commission expiration date. What can i do about it?

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. You should contact your state Notary regulating agency, local police and the state attorney general's office to report the fraud. If possible, ask if you can file a report and get a copy for your records so you have a record that shows you reported someone else is using a forged copy of your seal.

Michael Burmeister

07 Dec 2016

Hello, I am going through a divorce and my to be ex-wife and I have to sell our house back to the bank ... A week ago my ex-wife signed quick claim deeds and estoppel affidavit at the bank that holds the loan... I came in now a week later and also signed the documents when she signed the vice President of the bank who was supposed to be the notary did not notarize the document when I went in a loan officer let me sign the documents never asked for my ID and he to did not notarize the document, he gave me copies of the documents signed but still nothing notarized. it clearly states below our signatures signed and sworn to before me by my name and her name on this day ---- and year... with everything left blank other than mine and her signature. I even asked the loan officer if this was done properly he had no idea. I contacted a board member of this bank and told him of the situation they had no care of the situation... not happy !

debbie

12 Dec 2016

Can a notary do legal documents for family or marry family

National Notary Association

12 Dec 2016

Hello. Currently only Florida, Maine, Nevada and South Carolina authorize Notaries to officiate weddings. In other states, persons must apply to become a wedding officiant through other channels. Notaries are not authorized to give legal advice or prepare legal documents for customers-doing so is considered the unauthorized practice of law and can result in criminal or civil penalties against the Notary.

Trixi

31 Mar 2017

I just found out that a friend's (who has now passed) brother stole her seal (State of Louisiana) and used it in his roofing business office in 2012-2014 while she was away at rehab. She kept it in a safe that he had the combination to that she was unaware of. He used it forged her name on official State of Louisiana permits, etc. What should we do in this situation??

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2017

Hello. Your friend should report the theft to local law enforcement immediately. Your friend should also contact the LA Secretary of State's office at 1-225-922-0507 to report the stolen seal and ask what other steps she needs to take in this situation.

Jessica Ader

04 May 2017

I have a documented case where a notary testified in court that she did not stamp a notarized document that proved a purchase of a home essentially causing the owner to lose their home. She testified in court that someone could have entered her office at a bank and stamped her seal and name stamp to the document that she did not personally use them on the document in question. I reported it to the Attorney General's office but have received no response or action. What can I do now?

National Notary Association

04 May 2017

Hello Jessica. If your state Notary regulating agency has authority to investigate claims of notarial misconduct, you could try filing a complaint with them.

Tami Marie Scott

14 Jun 2017

My ex forged a notary stamp with one of her letter witness. The stamp number and notary on the stamp do not exist in the state of Nevada where the stamp claims to be issued. This divorce case is going in front of the judge in a couple weeks. She also had a friend sign one of the documents she submitted to the court. I knew this doc was forged as well as a few others. How do I !make the judge aware of the fake notary stamp and the fake doc it's on? Do I make a police report? Please help. My soon to be ex will do what they can to screw me and win this divorce

National Notary Association

16 Jun 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we cannot provide legal advice regarding divorce proceedings. Any questions regarding the divorce case would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Shelly Prichard

28 Jun 2017

My boss used my notary seal and forged my signature. What can I do?

National Notary Association

29 Jun 2017

Hello, Shelly. Depending on your state, you may be able to report misuse of your seal to your state Notary regulating agency. What state are you commissioned in?

Sarah

13 Jul 2017

Currently going thru divorce. Found out husbands live in girlfriend who is a notary and works at a bank has forged my signature to have me removed from our joined bank account. I also found that she forged my name and used her notary seal in order for my husband to o rain finds for our divorce. He then went to the bank she works at and got another loan ( she did loan officer work there as well). This woman has ruined my life. I have proof that she was the one handling my husbands finances....in her own words in texts and messenger. I now have no access to any funds and this is a military divorce. How much trouble are they in? I tried to give them one chance to make things right. They have no idea I have this evidence. Any advice appreciated.

National Notary Association

14 Jul 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we cannot provide legal advice. Any legal questions you have regarding a divorce would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Tricia

20 Aug 2017

I know two notaries that signed typed documents of information about another person that was untrue. Should they be reported and isn't it illegal for a notary to notarize documents with misinformation?

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2017

Hello Tricia. If you can please provide us with the state you are in, we can provide you with more specific information.

Pamela

27 Aug 2017

Is it an abuse of their notary status if they notarize a document of their fiancé and his soon to be ex wif?

National Notary Association

30 Aug 2017

Hello. Different states have different rules regarding disqualifying interest for Notaries. Can you tell us what state the Notary is commissioned in?

Kenneth Krish

02 Sep 2017

I have a rental house in Ind. And I needed my old tenants to sign a quick claim dress to be able to sell the property again. The husband signed in front of notary with ID but the wife wasn't able to make it the same day we went back to notary to finish the signing. The new tenants knew the notary and she allowed the new tenant to sign The wife's name without her being present. The documents were notarized for the new tenant, which was fraud. The new tenant said that it was legal to sign the wifes name because she had permission to do so from the wife. Can you guide me in the right direction for this matter? We were told that you have to show valid ID and you have to be power of attorney to be able to sign another's name.

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2017

Hello. The Indiana Official Notary Public Guide states on page 22: "Require the personal appearance of your signer. The person signing the document must physically be in your presence for the notarization to be valid." http://www.in.gov/sos/business/files/SOS_Notary_Guide.pdf

Sheila

17 Sep 2017

I know a notary in Alabama who is forgeing and notarizing documents. Who should I report this to?

National Notary Association

18 Sep 2017

Hello. We would suggest starting by contacting the Alabama Attorney General's Consumer Interest Division: http://www.ago.state.al.us/Page-Consumer-Protection

Sharon Gill LeBlanc

02 Oct 2017

Notary in our community has talked about doing everything attorney can do except argue in court of law. He does adoptions, divorces, weddings, leaves his seal and signed bill of sales for the women in his office to use during his vacations. States to all how he over charges after hours. Has stated to group he notarized will signed by daughter after the Mother died. Also have seen copies of income tax forms and no notary fees are claimed. This seems like it is breaking the law. I hold notary license in state of TX, ( do Oil and Gas leases) and know nothing like this would be allowed in that state, He holds La license. Thank you for any info you might could give me.

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2017

Hello Sharon. Louisiana Notaries have different powers and duties from Notaries in other states under Louisiana's unique civil law code. If you suspect a LA Notary of misconduct, we recommend you contact the Louisiana Secretary of State's Notary Division at 225-922-0507.

Terri Peoplea

14 Oct 2017

A notary in Pittsburg co ok. Refuses to date stuff She signs. Claiming that it doesn't matter that nobody ever looks at the date. She works at the ford dealership here in mcalester. I can imagine what kind of fraudulent stuff goes on in that place. What can be done. Her name is Courtney Drake

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2017

Hello. If you have reason to suspect a Pennsylvania Notary of misconduct, you can file a complaint at Department of State's website: https://www.pals.pa.gov/#/page/filecomplaint

Jlh

28 Dec 2017

I forged a co workers notary sig and used her stamp on a document to remove my boyfriend from my bank account. He had signed it. My Boss found the document in question, knew it was forged. I was fired and now just found out . Felony class d charges against me and a warrant for my arrest. The only reason i forged it was because i was short on time. My record is otherwise clean. How much trouble am i in?

National Notary Association

02 Jan 2018

Hello. We are very sorry, but we cannot provide you with legal advice. You will need to contact an attorney for legal assistance.

Shyreka Jones

11 Jan 2018

There's a notary that notarized a false document for her friend. We found the person that was supposedly had signed the paper. She said she didn't sign the papers & gave us a copy of her drivers license showing that she actually didn't sign the paper. This notary also let's this same friend use her address to let the friend's child go to school in her zone. Can both the notary & friend get in trouble? I want to report this matter. It's in Mobile, Al.

National Notary Association

11 Jan 2018

Hello. We would suggest starting by contacting the Alabama Attorney General's Consumer Interest Division: http://www.ago.state.al.us/Page-Consumer-Protection

Patricia

21 Jan 2018

Can a notary notarize mother-in-law's signature on her Last Will and Testament when she is appointed to the Trustee of the Trust of the estate?

National Notary Association

22 Jan 2018

Hello. Any instructions regarding preparation of a last will and testament would need to be provided by a qualified attorney. A nonattorney Notary may not provide a signer with advice whether the will requires notarization or not.

Ashly

16 Mar 2018

My husband forged my name unbenounced to me on a "Spousal Axknowledgment" document for a Quit Claim Deed that releases all my rights to property he bought and his son's fianc� knowingly notarized the forged signature. I never would have agreed to signing this and they illegally did it. What type of crime is this and who do I report this to? It is the document that waives all my rights to the property in the state of Washington

National Notary Association

19 Mar 2018

Hello. If you believe you have been the victim of mortgage fraud you can contact the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) at 1-877-746-4334 and ask to file a complaint.

Vianey Galvan

31 Mar 2018

where in az can i report someone who used an expired notary seal stamp and with a fraudulent signature on a car title?

National Notary Association

02 Apr 2018

Hello. Information on filing a complaint with the AZ Secretary of State's office can be found here: https://www.azsos.gov/business/notary-public/notary-complaints

R.

02 Jun 2018

Could you please identify the case with the $150K verdict regarding the stamp left in the drawer?

NB

22 Jun 2018

I am power of attorney for someone in SC but the previous power of attorney was created with a forged signature and the notary signed that the person personally appeared before them with a state issued ID, but the person was and still is incarcerated. How can I go about reporting these individuals

National Notary Association

22 Jun 2018

Hello. If you suspect a South Carolina Notary of fraudulent activity, you should contact your local law enforcement agency or district attorney's office to ask if you can file a complaint.

Lorie Wylie

29 Jul 2018

I am in the process of moving, and came across my great aunt's notary stamps. They are from the 1940s and 50s. They are for accounting in Ohio. I would like to turn these in but don't know where to take them. Do I take him to the courthouse?

National Notary Association

30 Jul 2018

Hello. You may wish to contact your local county court of common pleas to ask if they wish you to turn in the stamps or if they have other instructions due to the extreme age of the stamps.

Cindy

30 Jul 2018

My mother’s secreatry has a notary. Last year my mom needed my dad’s signature on a loan. My mom and her secretary drove to my dads home and cornered him. He refused to sign any documents. Just this last week we found out my dad’s name was forged on the loan document and my moms secretary notarized it. The signature looks like her handwriting.. but his name.. as well. What can we do to report this? .. there have also been quite a number of similar instances over the past twenty or so years. My dad and I had no knowledge that my mom was signing our James and having her secretary/notary notarize thr documents. There have been four different notaries over this time span and each of them have done this. I have all documents and the forgeries are very blatant. We may not be able to go back in some due to statute of limitations..howbeer we just now realized this was going on. This recent forgery is for a loan for over $200k and my dad did not sign it. What can be done and who do we need to contact? Thank you.

National Notary Association

31 Jul 2018

Hello. If your father is a senior and you suspect your father is a victim elder abuse, you can report it to your local police or your local adult protective services agency. The Department of Health and Human Services has contact information available at this page: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/programs-for-families-and-children/how-do-i-report-elder-abuse/index.html

Heather Collins

08 Aug 2018

I was recently fired after reporting sexual harrassment by a customer of the bank I worked for and refused a transfer to another branch and my notary stamp was not put in the things that were booked for me when I turned my keys in. I text my boss about my stamp and she said she threw it away last week. What can I do about this? I'm located in Georgia.

National Notary Association

09 Aug 2018

Hello. You need to immediately send a written notice about your boss taking and destroying the seal to the appointing clerk of superior court, with a copy to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority (OCGA 45-17-14). Our Editorial team would be interested in speaking with you further about this matter for a possible article. If you would be willing to speak to our Editorial team, please send an email to publications@nationalnotary.org and let them know the best way to get in touch with you.

Cindy

22 Aug 2018

My mother’s secreatry has a notary. Last year my mom needed my dad’s signature on a loan. My mom and her secretary drove to my dads home and cornered him. He refused to sign any documents. Just this last week we found out my dad’s name was forged on the loan document and my moms secretary notarized it. The signature looks like her handwriting.. but his name.. as well. What can we do to report this? .. there have also been quite a number of similar instances over the past twenty or so years. My dad and I had no knowledge that my mom was signing our James and having her secretary/notary notarize thr documents. There have been four different notaries over this time span and each of them have done this. I have all documents and the forgeries are very blatant. We may not be able to go back in some due to statute of limitations..howbeer we just now realized this was going on. This recent forgery is for a loan for over $200k and my dad did not sign it. What can be done and who do we need to contact? Thank you.

National Notary Association

23 Aug 2018

Hello. If you suspect your father is a victim of fraud, this Department of Justice webpage has resources for elder fraud victims and where you can report it: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/financial-exploitation. Depending on what state you are located in, you may be able to file a Notary misconduct complaint with your state Notary-regulating office; however, not every state has this option.

Lollie

13 Sep 2018

My boss is a convicted felon on probation and forged her step daughters notary on documents for her husband and his business, how can I report anonymously?

National Notary Association

14 Sep 2018

If you have reason to suspect fraud, you would need to contact local law enforcement to report it. Depending on what state you are in, you may also be able to report suspected Notary fraud to the state Notary regulating agency. You would need to ask if you can file a complaint against a Notary anonymously with the state regulating agency.

sharrion eaddy

25 Oct 2018

I am a manager at my job, there have been times that I was called away for few minutes and during that time, I allowed my worker to use my stamp. She then gets upset with me and tells the big boss are we both in trouble is it possible to keep my job

National Notary Association

25 Oct 2018

Hello. We can't comment on your employment status--that is an issue between you and your employer. However, as stated in the article above, only the commissioned Notary is authorized to use the official Notary seal. It is never appropriate for a Notary seal to be used by anyone other than the commissioned Notary.

Joe Dumas

13 Jan 2019

I was sent a form that the notary has stamped and signed however no one else signed it guess they forgot this is a blank but stamped and signed isn’t this elegal to give someone a blank stamped and signed notary form Mississippi

Leslie Logan

28 Mar 2019

I had a temp guardianship notarized in Missouri & the paper was drawn up by daughters grandma through her daughter that is a secretary at a law firm. Two weeks later I went to pick up my children & they was hiding them from me & I went to courthouse & there was co guardianship papers that I never seen nor signed & had the Missouri notary forged on there as well & back dated to time of when we did temp guardian. Is there a way to PROVE that these are forged?

National Notary Association

29 Mar 2019

Hello. We cannot provide legal advice regarding a child custody case or your specific legal situation...any such questions would need to be referred to a qualified attorney. According to the Notary FAQ on the Missouri Secretary of State's website (https://s1.sos.mo.gov/Business/Notary/notary_faq) Missouri requires a signer to be physically present before the Notary in order to perform a notarization. If you suspect that your signature may have been forged or improperly notarized outside your presence, you may wish to contact local law enforcement for assistance.

Gem

01 May 2019

My mother agreed to sell her property as a RENT TO OWN property due to her age the notary public who was gonna seal as a witness offered to write the document herself..too make the story short she ended uo knowing the person that was interested in the purchase and they scammed her this was back in 2014 until this day 05/01/2019 she has been going to court th regain her property it has beed 3 yrs since she received a payment..and help is yet to come any advice greatly appreciated Thanks

Troy Rambaransingh

02 May 2019

Hello...I lost my house in Florida through foreclosure, based on an assignment of mortgage that was notarized by a Notary from Utah. I have actually discovered SEVERAL other assignments of mortgages from other states with this notary's seal and other versions of her signature, ALL of which do not match the signature that the State of Utah has on file for this notary. I will obviously file a complaint on this notary with the office in Utah, but where do I file a complaint for fraud? Do I file it in Florida?

National Notary Association

02 May 2019

Hello. You may wish to start by contact law enforcement in Florida and asking them for suggestions how to proceed.

JayCee

29 May 2019

Wondering what to do when I know someone is using their notary for the wrong reasons. Her boyfriend sells/buys cars alot and had her get a notary license because he's a felon and can't. And let's him keep and use her stamp. This is not right, being a notary is important and she don't need to be one.

National Notary Association

30 May 2019

Hello. If you can tell us what state you are located in, we can let you know if there is a state agency available for you to file a Notary misconduct complaint.

JayCee

31 May 2019

Ohio

National Notary Association

31 May 2019

You may be able to file a complaint by contacting the court of common pleas in the county where the Notary was commissioned.

prefernot

17 Jun 2019

release of interest form has been notarized but the form is blank. I can not find where to report this. As far as I can find out it is fraudulent to do this. Am I right and if so how do I report it. Washington state.

National Notary Association

18 Jun 2019

Hello. If you wish to file a complaint against a WA Notary, you can do so at the Department of Licensing's website: https://www.dol.wa.gov/business/notary/ncomplaint.html

MK

06 Sep 2019

Hello. I am a notary public for the commonwealth of VA. Someone is asking for me to sign an Affidavit of Lost or Destroyed Warrant but it says "Notary Public in and for the State of Washington". I have told them I do not reside in the state of Washington but they say it's allowable. Which one of us is correct? Thank you!

National Notary Association

06 Sep 2019

Hello. You are correct--signing a document that includes wrong information that you are a Washington Notary is not permitted. “A notary shall not perform any official act with the intent to deceive or defraud” (COV 47.1-15).

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