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Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct: Guiding Principle 6

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Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in an ongoing series of commentaries analyzing the individual Guiding Principles of the Certified Signing Specialist™ Code of Conduct, released by the Signing Professionals Workgroup in October 2013.

Privacy and confidentiality are hot topics in the national news, spurred by revelations of government cellphone tapping, the latest data breaches involving consumer financial information and the release of intimate celebrity photos kept in supposedly-secure online storage systems. Even Notaries have made the news. The NNA recently ran a story about a signing agent who intentionally sold Social Security numbers from loan document packages to identity thieves.

Against this backdrop there is no more relevant provision in the Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct than Guiding Principle 6 which reads: “The Certified Signing Specialist will respect the privacy of each signer and protect closing documents from unauthorized disclosure.”

Surprisingly, most state Notary laws do not address the issues of privacy and confidentiality (see Wisconsin Statutes 137.01(5m) for the only statute of its kind). But as Code Standard 1.4 has made clear, Certified Signing Specialists must obey federal consumer financial laws and regulations that apply to the services they perform with mortgage loans, particularly when they handle sensitive consumer financial and personal information.

Privacy Vs. Confidentiality
 

Guiding Principle 6 distinguishes between privacy and confidentiality. It attaches privacy to the person (“The Certified Signing Specialist will respect the privacy of each signer …”) and confidentiality to documents (“The Certified Signing Specialist will … protect closing documents from unauthorized disclosure”).

The Specialist must keep private the fact that a borrower has entered into and consummated a mortgage loan transaction. If the Specialist becomes aware of any personal matter that arises during a loan signing assignment — such a discussion between spouses — the Specialist must keep these private as well.

Protecting The Loan Documents
 

To ensure that Certified Signing Specialists keep the non-public personal information (see Definition D.10) in the closing documents (see Definition D.5) in the strictest confidence, the individual standards in Guiding Principle 6 focus on the points that pose the greatest risks:

  1. Protecting access to secure computer networks;
  2. Protecting documents in a Specialist’s possession;
  3. Protecting the information of one signer from exposure to another signer; and
  4. Facilitating the hand-off of documents.

The first risk centers on accessing the closing documents. In today’s environment, Specialists must visit secure websites to download and print documents. The Code requires Specialists to use only protected networks (Standard 6.11). Specialists also must not share their logon credentials with others (Standard 6.10), nor may they have another person download and print documents (Standard 6.5). Specialists must delete any electronic copies of documents from their computers at the conclusion of an assignment (6.13).

The second risk is addressed by the general security protocol for protecting documents while they are in the possession of the Specialist (Standard 6.7).  Apart from that, a Specialist generally is prohibited from sending closing documents directly to the signer (Standard 6.8). When the Specialist transmits documents or non-public personal information to a contracting company or closing agent, he or she must use encryption, strong passwords or other secure delivery methods (Standard 6.12).

The third risk comes into play at the signing table. The Certified Signing Specialist must take reasonable steps to protect previous signers by preventing the current signers from viewing completed entries in the Specialist’s Notary journal (6.2).

Facilitating The Hand-off Of Documents
 

A final vulnerability is the hand-off of the closing documents. If a Certified Signing Specialist must receive a physical closing package via overnight carrier, the Specialist will make a reasonable attempt to receive the package in person (Standard 6.4). After the signing, the Specialist will reasonably attempt to deliver all packages in person or via secure means, and check to ensure that upon delivery the package is properly sealed (6.6).

In closing, while Certified Signing Specialists can distinguish themselves by carefully handling customer information, the current headlines prove that society in general and contracting companies in particular have a zero tolerance when this information is mishandled.

Bill Anderson is Vice President of Legislative Affairs with the National Notary Association

For a better understanding of the new signing specialist code, read other commentaries in this series of articles.

The Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 1

The Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 2

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 3

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 4

Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct: Guiding Principle 5

4 Comments

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Karen H Sublett

06 Oct 2014

Thank you!

Tarrisyna Bartley

06 Oct 2014

Do California Notaries have to be certified loan Doc signing agents in order to notarize loan docs?

National Notary Association

07 Oct 2014

Hello Tarrisyna, No, certification is not required in California in order to notarize loan documents. However, certification and training as a signing agent is useful because signing agents who perform loan document signings and notarizations typically perform additional duties besides notarizing documents such as printing out loan packages, ensuring all necessary documents in a loan document package are signed and initialed and mailing completed loan documents back to the title company or lender. Here is a link with answers to some frequently asked questions about signing agents: http://www.nationalnotary.org/support/signing-agents/faqs And here is a list of specific restrictions and requirements for signing agents by state: http://www.nationalnotary.org/support/signing-agents/state-restrictions Please feel free to contact us at social@nationalnotary.org if you need additional assistance. Thanks and have a good day.

Sandra Guerrero

07 Oct 2014

Its the law. We have to abide by it.

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