UPDATED 8-20-14: In the wake of a federal crackdown this summer on mortgage relief companies accused of illegally taking advantage of homeowners facing foreclosure, signing agents should stay on guard against “job offers” for Notaries designed to make foreclosure scams appear legitimate. “Operation Mis-Modification” a joint action in July by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and 15 state attorneys general and other state agencies, targeted companies across the nation accused of making false promises or charging illegal advance fees to homeowners for foreclosure relief services. Deceitful service providers often claim to be affiliated with legitimate programs, but charge consumers for ineffective assistance or information that can be obtained from other sources for free, warned Colleen Hernandez, CEO of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit homeowner protection group. Some dishonest companies have sought to hire Notaries under false pretenses in the past to lend their scams an appearance of legitimacy. Signing agents who are approached by companies for notarizations also should be on the look-out for warning signals that may expose an unscrupulous foreclosure rescue company. Are you asked to collect an upfront fee? Many states have clear statutes prohibiting the collection of fees before services are rendered. If a company asks you to pick up a check, beware. Are you asked to notarize a power of attorney? Statutes may prohibit a foreclosure rescue company from requiring a client to sign a POA. The danger in doing so is that the fraudulent “rescue” company could then take control of the property, and the owner would have no further recourse. Are you instructed not to leave copies of documents? If a company is asking you to disregard standard signing procedures, such as leaving copies of documents for the signer to keep, this is a major red flag. The FTC has posted other warning signs to help spot shady foreclosure assistance firms. If you are approached by a “loan modification” or “foreclosure” firm that asks you to do something suspicious or unusual, do not accept any job offers from them. Instead, contact local law enforcement or your state Attorney General’s office for assistance. David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.