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Protecting Yourself When In An Unfamiliar Location

dark hallway

(Originally published in the July 2013 issue of The National Notary magazine)

When you think about it, a Notary Signing Agent's job can be pretty scary sometimes. You're sent to the homes of strangers, in a number of cities and counties, at all times of the day or night. If you're at a stranger's home, in an unfamiliar neighborhood late at night, what do you do if the signer becomes upset or angry about a problem with the documents? That's why it's important to plan your assignments in order to keep yourself safe in strange places.

The following is a true story that happened to me. I was asked to perform a jurat for a well-to-do attorney. I arrived at the signer's office and asked him to take an oath, per California law and standard procedure for a jurat. The attorney got very upset and refused. He said he was a Notary and an oath or affirmation was "not necessary." I called the NNA immediately and asked if I had to administer an oath or affirmation, as I was taught. They said I had to, or I could not complete the notarization. The borrower was yelling at me at the top of his lungs. I was afraid and embarrassed to be treated this way. He started to throw a tantrum — his face was totally red and the veins were popping out of his skin on his face. He said he had a Notary upstairs that would notarize the jurat without requiring him to take an oath. I started quickly packing up all of my Notary supplies, and he screamed, "GET OUT OF MY OFFICE, GET OUT OF MY OFFICE," so loud my ears were ringing.

I was now really terrified. Tears were running down my face, as I quickly left his office, with him still screaming behind me. I was almost ready to give up my Notary commission that day. I've learned that it doesn't matter where you go, when you travel to notarize signatures you may be walking into a situation where you could be put at risk at a moment's notice.

After the incident with the attorney, as a safety precaution, I started working with a male assistant so I have someone else I trust present during the notarization. He has been working with me for the past eight years, and I am so grateful to have him there when the going gets rough. I called the NNA and they said there was no law on the books preventing me from bringing another person with me for safety on assignments. You have to make sure to protect yourself on the job. You don't know how an unfamiliar signer will act when you are inside their home.

The NNA recommends the following steps:

  • Always letting someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone when you travel to perform a notarization.
  • Carry a mobile phone with you in case of emergencies.
  • Don't be afraid to ask someone you trust to come with you. Don't set yourself up for being unprotected and vulnerable.

Che E. Presant has been a Notary Signing Agent since 2003. She lives in Oakland, California.

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