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3 Steps To Protect Yourself If Your Notary Seal Is Forged

Forged-seal-resized.jpgNotaries protect the public from document fraud — but Notaries aren’t immune from fraud themselves. Criminals often use a phony Notary seal impression to make counterfeit documents look authentic. If they can’t steal a real Notary stamp, they are just as likely to copy and forge a seal impression from an existing document. And any Notary is a potential victim.

There’s not much you can do to prevent someone from lifting an image of your seal from a document you’ve notarized. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself in the event you get that unwelcome call from law enforcement or someone’s attorney.

Step 1: If You Find Out Someone Has Forged Your Seal, Report It ASAP

If you have reason to believe someone has forged your seal or is otherwise misusing your Notary information, be sure to report it to the authorities immediately. Many jurisdictions have real estate fraud investigative units. They would want to know this happened. In addition to reporting the forgery to law enforcement, you may wish to notify your state Notary regulating authority as well. Be sure to ask for a copy of any reports you file so that you can show that the forgery was committed by someone else using your Notary information.

Step 2: Always Keep An Up-To-Date Notary Journal

A well-kept Notary journal is always your best defense against accusations of fraud. Even if you’re not required by your state’s laws to keep a journal, maintaining records of each notarization you perform can be used to show that you didn’t perform the improper notarization involving a forged seal. For example, let’s say a crook photocopies an image of your seal and impersonates you in notarizing a fraudulent real estate document. Detailed journal records can show you didn’t notarize the shady transaction and provide supporting evidence that you always follow a reasonable standard of care when notarizing. More than a few Notaries have used their journals to show a notarization was forged.

Step 3: Make Sure You Have Errors And Omissions Insurance

The worst thing about a forged seal is that all too often Notaries are sued because their name and information are on the forged seal impression.

What’s more, you may incur sizeable expenses defending yourself and getting a lawsuit against you dismissed.

In a recent California case, for example, a ring of criminals copied information from genuine Notary seal impressions on public documents and used it to create counterfeit seals. They then fraudulently sold unoccupied properties. When the victims found out, they sued the Notaries whose seals were faked. While the Notaries ultimately were dismissed from the lawsuits, having an attorney file the court motions cost several thousand dollars. An Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance policy will cover those court costs.

Most Notaries think an E&O policy is necessary only if they make a mistake, but the truth is an E&O policy will cover you from baseless allegations such as a bogus Notary seal claim as well.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association. 

 

4 Comments

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Frieda Hooper

19 Nov 2018

can not see article. This comment section covers it when opened

National Notary Association

19 Nov 2018

Hello. If you can please email us at social@nationalnotary.org and let us know what type of device and browser you are using to view the article, we will try and help you resolve the issue.

Scott Meriwether

19 Nov 2018

It might not be a bad idea to work with your commissioning authority to make a slight modification to your notary seal (add or remove a middle initial in your name, etc.) in order to make it easier to distinguish the compromised seal from your "real" seal going forward from the point of notifying the proper authorities of the forged seal use.

Maxine W McNeill

21 Nov 2018

I have carried E&O my entire notary career

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