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FBI Report: 'Borrowed or stolen Notary seals' contribute to mortgage fraud epidemic

Mortgage fraud continues to plague consumers, the financial industry and the economy, and one of the contributing factors is ready access perpetrators have to Notary seals, according to the FBI’s 2010 Mortgage Fraud Report.

The report, released last month, indicates that FBI investigations of mortgage fraud cases increased 12 percent last year to 3,129 despite the continuing decline in mortgage activity. The Bureau attributes this to the fact that perpetrators are “particularly resilient” in adapting to changing economic conditions and lending practices, and they continue to “have a high level of access” to Notary seals and other tools and resources.

In a written statement, the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section told the Notary Bulletin that such access comes in a variety of forms, included instances of “borrowed or stolen Notary seals.” This underscores the need for Notaries to make sure they keep their seals and other tools secure and in their control at all times. A number of cases also involve perpetrators getting access to seals by coercing or convincing Notaries to assist the fraud schemes.

The FBI highlighted the importance of Notaries in protecting consumers from fraud: “As a Notary acts as an official witness to the identity and signature of the person who comes before him/her, the faithful discharge of these duties will, by itself, reduce the submission of documents with forged signatures.”

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