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How to spot illegal Notary requests

A Notary rejects document from client

Updated 11-27-23. As a Notary, you are required to refuse a notarization if the request is illegal. If someone wants you to perform a notarization and you aren't sure if it’s OK to proceed, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. Are you being asked to skip, ignore or falsify part of the notarization?
  2. Are you being asked to give someone else access to your Notary tools?
  3. Does the request violate your state's Notary laws?

1. Are you being asked to skip, ignore or falsify part of the notarization?

If the answer is “yes,” that’s a clear warning sign the notarization shouldn’t be performed. Any request to skip personal appearance or identification of the signer, completion of the certificate wording or other essential elements is an immediate sign that something isn’t right.

2. Are you being asked to give someone else access to your Notary tools?

A Notary’s tools must be safeguarded carefully because, in the wrong hands, they can be used to enable document fraud. It is fraud and a criminal act for anyone to use a Notary seal who is not the Notary named in that seal. If anyone demands that you hand over your seal of office, journal or loose certificates, be aware that only you as the Notary are authorized to use these tools and they should not be given to anyone else to use.

3. Does the request violate your state Notary laws?

If you have reason to believe the request is against the law, do not proceed with the notarization. For example, California Notaries who knowingly falsify information on any certificate can be fined up to $10,000 and have their commission suspended or revoked. Also, California Notaries who knowingly falsify information on an acknowledgment  certificate are considered guilty of forgery under state law. Notaries should review their state’s laws and ethical standards such as The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility to avoid faulty notarizations that could lead to possible legal issues.

Related Articles:

When to say 'no' ... and when refusing a notarization is not allowed

Additional Resources:

The Notary Answer Book

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

L. Taylor

09 Jan 2018

Many years ago, as a young Notary in California, I was asked by my company to afford a courtesy to a client and execute an off-site notarial service. The client was willing to pay for both the notarizations and my travel to their office. While it did require me to work after hours, I was happy to assist the client. During the notarization, the signatory discussed having to get on a plane to New York that evening. However, we were not rushed and took the time we needed to complete all required forms and journal entries. The following day a staff member from the client phoned and said that an error had been made in one of the documents and the signature needed to be re-notarized. Recalling that the signatory had had a plane to catch, I asked if he was in the office. The staffer indicated he was not. At that time, I declined to notarized the documents based on the requirement that the signatory be present. The staffer was furious and phoned one of the partners at my firm, speaking to his secretary. As luck would have it, the secretary had been my proxy for my notarial exam and she was a professional notary herself. She affirmed my right to decline to notarize a document without the signatory present. The signatory had a very distinctive name, in fact one that became well known years later. When the news media announced that he had been appointed to a very high government financial position, I was very happy that I stood my ground and protected his signature.

Frank Downs

06 Nov 2018

You must ask quiestion, ask for ID always don’t trusts no one is yours the commission check any form of identification presented to you and don’t do favors to any one.

Yukita Manuel

23 Dec 2019

I am so ashamed at the work I have to redo from notaries that want a quick buck. Ive reached out to the state of TN and they are no help at all. They ask that you report the person but in the 12 years Ive been a notary Ive seen people get notary certifications in their kids names(adult kids that dont know better) or in their parents name and continue to stamp away like it scratch and sniff. I use to have a attitude with NNA and all the excessive fees they charge now I see those excessive fees separate the good from the bad.

Cheryl Kaster

29 Dec 2019

We are fortunate that in Hawaii the Code has been made a requirement for Hawaii Notaries to follow. The unfortunate part is that it is not stressed and most Hawaii Notaries have any idea what it says.


01 Feb 2021

I am going after notaries charging excessive fees. Good way to reduce my competition!

Phyllis Denison

01 Feb 2021

I was recently approached to notarize a vehicle title. Then, the guy volunteered that it was for his cousin who is in a wheelchair and wanting to sell his car. The guy said he would bring the title to me to notarize! How sweet - I informed him that I could only notarize the signature of someone sitting in front of me! I then offered to provide him the names, numbers of several mobile notaries as I was not available to go the the signer's premise. "Well", he asked, "what's that gonna cost me". I explained that each notary sets their own fees and that he would need to ask that question of whomever he called.


01 Feb 2021

Stewart title is notorious for asking requests that are illegal. NNA should have a list of companies that notaries can list that ask notaries to perform illegal requests - It would save all of us!

Sadie Richie

02 Feb 2021

Thank you for reiterating this important information. It is quite a challenge to to exercise our notary services during this pandemic. You input will be appreciated. Is NNA extending our license period, due to the pandemic or, will the 2022 expiration dates remain in place.

National Notary Association

02 Feb 2021

Hello. Each state determines its own policies regarding commission renewals. For a list of state emergency Notary rules during COVID-19, please see here:

Kelita Foster

02 Feb 2021

I have a signatory that wants to cancel filing a claim on their homeowners insurance. Instead the signatories rather pay out of pocket? This is in Florida.

National Notary Association

04 Feb 2021

Hello. We're sorry, but that's not a question related to notarization that we can assist you with.

Beryl Coppock Baker

02 Feb 2021

I would like to know if there are any notaries who mentor new notaries.

National Notary Association

04 Feb 2021

Hello. Yes, there are! For more information, please see this article:

Willie Mitchell

21 Feb 2021

Looking for a mentor in my area for a few questions . I’m a new notary in the Clinton Nc area 28329

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2021

Hello. This article has tips for finding a mentor that may be helpful for you:

Yvonne Walton

01 Jun 2021

Is there a Mentor In 33056 area?

Jerry Lucas

03 Jan 2022

In addition to notary laws, requesting or completing an unlawful request might violate other state laws such as attempting to bribe or influence a public official, criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy, or criminal solicitation. Since notary laws vary by state, an act may be lawful in one state and unlawful in another state. Notary laws also change over time. Ignorance of the law is not a defense. If someone asks me to perform an unlawful notarial act, I tell them I cannot because it is unlawful under law number nnn. Then they can no longer claim they were unaware of the law. If they need legal advice, I tell them to consult with an attorney.


04 May 2022


Jody L Pope

03 Jan 2023

In the middle of a closing at a bank (the lender), I was completing a seller and buyer at the same table which I think shouldn’t be allowed.. I was asked by the lender as she tossed the mortgage (one page) where the buyer already signed sone of her documents to “notarize this or I can, whichever” then she says “don’t you keep up with your acknowledgements?” At the same time!!! I’m sorry first no, second if you’d like a tutorial on how I put my acknowledgements in my log please wait till after the closing!! Yet everyone at the table looked to me like I was brand new!! Never closed for that company again!!


03 Jan 2023


April Braley

06 Jan 2023

I would be happy to assist or mentor anyone in California. April

Barbara Citty

19 Jan 2023

When you ask a question, it would be great if you stated where you are. Someone asked if Notaries mentor each other. Many of would be happy to but don't know where you are. Most questions are state related.

Roanna Skelkey

31 Jul 2023

Mentoring in SC available? I’ve been going a year and most documents make me shake my head. We are an Attorney must close SC real estate. Many days my concerns make me feel incompetent. As a retired nurse, I gave a bit of OCD. Simple things like equipment.. sharing what works .. yeah… I’m older but teachable. I read the manual… read NNA .. Thank you in Advance

Mary A Thomas Osoba

31 Jul 2023

Looking for a NNA mentor in PG County MD

31 Jul 2023

Where are you located April Braley?

David A. Lombardo

11 Dec 2023

For the gentleman looking for a mentor in NC you can go on the NC Secretary of State's website and there is a listing of notaries in the notary section. You can try to contact the notaries listed close to your area and inquire if they would be willing to mentor.


11 Dec 2023

I had an unhoused person demand I notarize her manifesto. She refused to explain why she wanted it notarized other than to tell me “They have to follow the laws”. Was I right to refuse? It was a multiple page, handwritten letter of her complaints of people not listening to her rules and beliefs. I did not feel comfortable notarizing it.

National Notary Association

11 Dec 2023

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Cheryl Bailey, Notary Public, Tampa, FL

11 Dec 2023

Hi everyone. I have been a notary signing agent for over 20 years. I primarily work with title companies, and lenders. Whenever I have a question about a document, I pickup my phone and call the National Notary Association, or the company that executed my notary commission that is in my state. This should help you avoid any notary signing errors you might encounter in your career as a Notary Public.

Khadija Meeks

11 Dec 2023

A couple weeks ago these females hit me up requesting notarial services. I told them where to meet me and the cost. The document had been signed and predated. I informed the signer I couldn't do nothing with that. The talker claims she had a black doc, but need to print it off. I ask them to follow me to my home and that I woukd print the doc for a small fee. That talker was giving me suspicious vibes. The signer remained quiet and the talker dictated her action with me. They wanted me to sign and stamp a predated, presigned doc with no notarial verbiage and the ID the signer handed me was badly damaged and expired. I check my book for any technicalities b/c in my residential state there are some; and when I asked the signer to sign my notarial logbook, the talker became offended and irate, then said they would go elsewhere. I surely was against it nor argued or warned them. I know the other place they were going and thought to myself the signer is still going to need to sign the notary's logbook at her her free will. She cannot be force, dictated, or coerced to sign a document. I stay vigilant in my observations and will refuse Amy notarial event that jeopardizes my commission.

Mary Shea

11 Dec 2023

I am in process of attaining my CNTDA in southern Oregon and would like to find a mentor in my area. Zip 97525 Mary Shea

Clifton Palmer McLendon

11 Dec 2023

I will mentor Notaries in the 75644 area.

Mrs R

11 Dec 2023

I'm in California and of course we have a lot of limits. I'm a new Notary and I'll not forget the guy last year who told me, "All you have to do is stamp it it's no big deal." Yeah, well jail kinda is. I may be a new Notary but I'm not stupid.

Shainaaz Nelson

11 Dec 2023

I frequently get odd request all the time from colleagues and clients at work in a large financial institution in Private Client Group. I’m a notary public in the State of California and has been a notary well over 15 years. I never allow them to dictate how I need to perform my notary duties. I always have my current notary law book, and current No Can Do book to show them the law. I physically read it to them or make them read it. If they still question or show attitude, I contact NNA right away in front of them so they can hear for themselves. I usually get “can you make an exception or expedite the process,” I tell them when you go to court or doctors office do they make an exception or expedite it. If they in a hurry I tell them to reschedule when they have time for notary service since notary is not a convenient service and my seal is not to make exceptions to anybody and that includes my employer. I keep all my notary supplies in a secure locked bag that only I have the key for and take home with me daily. I’m also grateful that my company has a policy and procedure in place for all company notaries to follow there States Notary law and to report any unusual transactions to our ethics line.

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