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Notary Tip: 3 Types Of Documents At High Risk For Fraud

Updated 5-26-20. Every document you notarize is important. But if a careless mistake is made on a notarization involving a signer's property, finances or medical treatment, the penalties and liability are considerably more severe if the Notary is found to be at fault. In these situations, you must take extra care to properly complete each step in the notarization.

High-Risk Documents

The following types of documents present a higher potential risk of fraud:

  • Real estate documents are risky because they involve high-value property, such as homes or land, and con artists often forge signatures on deeds or other documents to take out fraudulent mortgages or sell a property out from under the rightful owners.
  • Powers of attorney are risky because, if one is forged, they can give a person control over another individual’s bank accounts, property and even medical treatment. Forging powers of attorney is becoming more common as the baby-boom generation reaches retirement age.
  • Estate documents are risky because they determine who gets the person’s assets at death. Those who are left out look for ways to cash in and go after a Notary who may have improperly notarized the signature.

Notarizing any document is like driving a car. You should always exercise caution behind the wheel, but when driving in a school or playground area you instinctively slow down and take extra precautions.

Improperly notarizing a parental permission slip may not be that risky; however, improperly notarizing a quitclaim deed or mortgage on a home property could result in a bank loaning hundreds of thousands of dollars to an imposter who has no intention of paying it back.

With high-risk documents, always take extra care when identifying the signers, completing the Notary certificate properly, and recording the Notary journal entry.

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

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline

Notary Essentials

17 Comments

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Mathew Thekkil

08 Aug 2016

Time to time reminder bulletins and NNA tips are very useful and appreciate it very much.

JOHN F OTTO JR

08 Aug 2016

THANKS FOR THE UPDATED INFORMATION--8bQTQN

Jerry Lucas

15 Aug 2016

I ask for a thumbprint for my notary journal for each notarized transaction. A criminal can forge a signature, but they can't forge a thumbprint. Our SOS recommends taking a thumbprint. If the signer commits fraud, law enforcement can use the thumbprint as evidence. State laws vary on using thumbprints.

Joan Coleman

07 Nov 2016

This is one of the most useful newsletters I receive. Thanks for all the good info.

Janet L. Anderson

31 Jul 2017

What issues arise from notarizing something for family members

National Notary Association

31 Jul 2017

Hello Janet. Rules for notarizing for family members vary from state to state. If you can tell us what state you are commissioned in, we can provide more specific information.

Rosemary Stevenson-Hanson

09 Jul 2018

Question: Does NNA have forms for Jurat and Certification? And where does a person find which should be used for each document?

National Notary Association

09 Jul 2018

Hi Rosemary. You can find Notary certificates available from the NNA at https://www.nationalnotary.org/supplies/notary-certificates. In order to make sure you order the correct certificate wording, please be sure that your state is displayed in the state flag image at the top of the page. If you need to change the state, click on the flag and select your state from the drop-down menu. Notaries should never choose what type of certificate wording should be used for a notarization-it is up to the signer to make that decision. For more information, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notary-basics-avoiding-unauthorized-practice-of-law

Laura Fey

17 Jun 2019

A notary let my sister in law sign/ print Laureen on 1 fraudulent document and Laura on another. It was recorded and property was transferred. That wasn't the only fraudulent act. He was hired by an attorney and worked for a company. Who is liable?

National Notary Association

18 Jun 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but that is a legal question that would need to be answered by an attorney.

Betty Dedman

25 Jun 2019

I keep reading articles here (and other places that NSA's frequent) about notarizing documents that could get the NSA into legal trouble. How about just using common sense? Lenders and title companies demand 2 ID's for the US Patriot Form, or just for any loan package. We should do the same. If it doesn't "smell" right, DON'T NOTARIZE IT!!!! Do NOT make a mental leap that just because we should not question or Advise which documents the signer chooses does NOT mean we HAVE to Affix our signature/stamp to ANYTHING. "A notary public is a public official appointed by a state government to help deter fraud." Deterring Fraud means we don't help it happen. Don't turn off your brain in an effort to be helpful, or worse, bc you want a few dollars.r

Betty Dedman

26 Jun 2019

I keep reading articles here (and other places that NSA's frequent) about notarizing documents that could get the NSA into legal trouble. How about just using common sense? Lenders and title companies demand 2 ID's for the US Patriot Form, or just for any loan package. We should do the same. If it doesn't "smell" right, DON'T NOTARIZE IT!!!! Do NOT make a mental leap that just because we should not question or Advise which documents the signer chooses does NOT mean we HAVE to Affix our signature/stamp to ANYTHING. "A notary public is a public official appointed by a state government to help deter fraud." Deterring Fraud means we don't help it happen. Don't turn off your brain in an effort to be helpful, or worse, bc you want a few dollars.r

Cheryl Bailey

01 Jun 2020

Betty Dedman is right on target with her comment. "Common Sense", as well as knowing what type of notarizations a Notary Public can and cannot perform. If you are presented with a document that you are not quite sure about, you need to ask the person presenting some detailed questions before you excute the document with your notary stamp. You also need to ask for at least one form of ID, and photo copy, or scan it so you will have a copy just incase a problem arises. I have a portable scanner in my car for just this purpose, you can buy one at your local office supply store. Also, you should visit the National Notary Association's website, and speak with someone on their legal hotline to get answers before you initiate a notarization, especially if you are not familiar with the document or process. Here's the HOTLINE PHONE # 1-888-876-0827, and National Notary Association customer service phone # 1-800-876-6827.

Latisha Millard

01 Jun 2020

It's always good to have these reminders about the importance of the service we provide- and the risk.

Manju Lal

03 Jun 2020

Re: Chreyl Baiey's comment above, As far as I am made aware that it is unlawful act to make photo copy of a Driver's license...I don't know about any other id though. Please clarify.

National Notary Association

05 Jun 2020

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

betty walborn

03 Jun 2020

BEING THAT I JUST RECEIVED MY COMMISSION , I SO APPRECIATE ALL THE EXTRA INFORMATION. I HAVE USE THE HOTLINE ALREADY AND I FEEL MUCH BETTER. THANK YOU

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