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'Why would someone forge my Notary seal?'

One of the biggest shocks any Notary can receive is the discovery that someone has forged their Notary seal. That discovery usually comes in the form of a legal claim of some sort or knock on the door from someone in law enforcement. But why would somebody forge your Notary seal? Because a fake Notary stamp is the single most powerful tool for a fraudster.

Consider that if a crook walks into a bank with a gun, he might walk out with $5,000, but the FBI will find him, and he will go to prison for many years. If the same crook instead walks into mortgage broker’s office with a forged Notary seal on a property deed, he can walk out with a fraudulent $750,000 mortgage loan. The sad thing is, there is a very high chance that this equity thief will never get prosecuted for the crime, or if he does, he will get the proverbial slap on the wrist.

For many fraudsters, the only thing better than a forged Notary seal is a real seal they steal or “borrow.” As a former real estate fraud prosecutor, I have witnessed the power of forged or stolen Notary seal many times.

In one case, an infamous criminal syndicate used fake stamps to “steal” properties. In other words, they made it appear that they owned these properties so that they could then take out loans against them or sell them to unsuspecting buyers.

Another con artist stole the personal identifying information of fellow parishioners at the six churches to which he belonged, and then, using an unauthorized stamp, he bought 2 dozen homes in their names and rented them out for his own cashflow. Yet another fraudster used forged Notary seals on powers of attorneys in the names of an elderly couple, and then she used those POAs to buy herself an $800,000 house.

Although there is no nationwide database about these types of crimes, based on information I have obtained from title insurance companies, I estimate that as many as 10,000 homeowners are victimized. In a large percentage of those cases, the professional identities of Notaries are stolen and their Notary seals misused.

The Notary risk: Con artists can easily forge your seal

Twenty years ago, it was not easy for a white collar criminal to forge a seal, and their only real option was to steal one. Today, the less sophisticated fraudster still might steal your seal if you fail to keep it locked up, but now they have other options as well.

Criminals can obtain fake stamps online, and for the small sum of $14, it will arrive on their doorstep in three days or less. The stamp can be made to look like a true Notary’s stamp with that Notary’s name and commission number, or the name and commission number could be totally fictitious. I have examples of both from cases I handled personally.

Criminals can also fabricate entire documents on their computers — signatures, Notary seal, and all. Literally every desktop computer and many printers have the technology to create believable forged documents that slip past watchful eyes at county recorder’s offices.

Savvy crooks can easily find seal impressions of real Notaries by going to locations where notarized documents are stored, such as property recorders’ offices.

Notary Defense: How to protect yourself

As a Notary, you are the gatekeeper against false impersonation and forged documents, and to commit their crimes, real estate fraudsters need to get past you. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your seal and to protect yourself.

Step 1: Keep your stamp secure: When you do not have your stamp in your physical possession, keep it locked up. One real estate fraud detective told me about a Notary who did everything right, except for one small thing: When she went out to lunch, she left her stamp in her unlocked desk drawer, and somebody in her office regularly “borrowed” it without her knowledge. By the time the detective finished his investigation, he found that Notary’s seal on over 400 fraudulent deeds across the country.

Step 2: Report missing or stolen stamps immediately: If your stamp disappears, report this to the agency that regulates notaries in your state. If you know it was stolen (as opposed to lost), make a police report immediately. This will protect you if your seal begins to appear on fraudulent documents, and you may have information that will help the investigators catch the thief.

Step 3: Keep a detailed journal: I have said this a thousand times, and I will say it another thousand times: The most important thing a Notary can do for their protection is to keep a journal with meticulous detail. Although not every state requires Notaries to do this, a well-kept journal will protect you and will help law enforcement when they are trying to find the perpetrator.

You may not be able to prevent a criminal of misusing your Notary identity, but if you follows these steps, you will be able to protect yourself.

Former L.A. County Deputy District Attorney David Fleck has more than two decades of experience in fraud cases. However, he has stopped taking new clients to focus on developing technology that allows Notaries to spot high-quality fake IDs with a simple smartphone app, which also secures documents through blockchain. Learn more at Veritable Data Solutions.

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Add your comment

Ronald Gillis

28 Jun 2021

I have been the victim of notary fraud both personally (two different documents "notarized" yet not notarized by the notary) as well as my notary information was utilized to "notarize" a document I never notarized as it was altered in several ways, including the addition of two "witnesses" that I NEVER met. I reported to FL Governor's Office TWICE (when first noticed and several years later when the document became involved in a legal case) who did NOTHING about it.

Jerry Lucas

28 Jun 2021

If the notary's signature and stamp are the same on every document, it is easy to copy to create a fraudulent document. If each document had a unique random document number or a unique random notary certificate number, that was recorded in the notary journal, it provides multi-factor authentication as evidence. If the numbers are long and not consecutive, a criminal cannot guess a valid authentication number in advance. A combination of letters and numbers can be used for more complexity. A 9-digit number has 1 billion (10^9) combinations. A 9-digit alpha-numeric string consisting of upper case, lower case letters, and numbers, has (26+26+10)^9 or 13.5 quadrillion (15 zeros) combinations. No software, computer, electricity, internet, or blockchain are needed to assign one-time use document authentication numbers.

G Arce

28 Jun 2021

@Jerry Lucas Do you assign the unique random document number or a unique random notary certificate number? Can you assign documents said number? If so, how? Please advise.


29 Jun 2021

My stamp and signature were forged on a grant deed of an owner (her signature was forged on the deed) who was in the hospital in a coma. The deed was recorded in the criminal's name and was then used as a bail bond to get someone out of jail on a murder charge. Quite messy for about a year and half. Will never forget that phone call from a district attorney asking if i had that notary recorded in my journal!

Jerry Lucas

21 Mar 2022

@G Arce, I am an authorized Colorado electronic notary (e-notary). To notarize an electronic document, we sign electronically and then add a Document Authentication Number (DAN) in place of our notary stamp. The DAN consists of the Notary ID number, followed by a random 6-digit number, generated by the SOS computer system, and sent to the e-notary on request, 50 numbers at a time, at no cost. Each DAN is used only once. With 6 digits, an e-notary can notarize up to 1 million documents in their career. A criminal cannot guess a DAN because it is a random number with 1 million possibilities. A DAN is required for electronic notarization. Colorado law does not prohibit a DAN for paper documents. A notary cannot alter the body of a document, but a customer could choose to include a document serial number for tracking, authentication, and security. A notarized paper document may be scanned to create a PDF document. Free software may be used to generate a SHA256 hash value for the PDF document. The document hash value may be stored in a secure vault or on the blockchain. If anyone tampers with the PDF document, or it becomes corrupted, even by one character, it is detectable because the altered PDF will not have the same hash value as the original document. Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this information is not legal advice.

Gina Consolini

19 Feb 2023

If you found a notary seal who do you take it to? In cleaning out buildings, organizing, also collecting donations for Goodwill, etc.etc.

National Notary Association

06 Mar 2023

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

Dottie Hazelett

23 May 2023

In Arizona, I recently found a disclaimer paper giving title to someone without my knowledge. The notary stamp does not have a commission number after the man's name. Is this real?

National Notary Association

23 May 2023

Hello. We're sorry, but there is no way for us to make a determination if the document is genuine or not. If you suspect fraud, we recommend you contact a qualified attorney or law enforcement for assistance.

Trisha perez

26 Jul 2023

I have a family member trying to get my fathers money in his bank account after his death. They are presenting a will printed of the internet and notarized but the notary seal/stamp does not have an ID # on it, does this mean it’s a fake notary?

National Notary Association

26 Jul 2023

Hello. Notary seals may include different information depending on individual state requirements. You may wish to contact the Notary regulating agency in the Notary's commissioning state to ask if they can confirm the Notary's current commission status.


29 Dec 2023

Hello, My notary stamp got stolen, I am very worried. I reported everywhere I can. And I still very worried. Can you help me.

National Notary Association

02 Jan 2024

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


25 Jan 2024

What do I do in CA if my seal and signature have been forged? I don't see anything in the handbook on the steps I should take.

National Notary Association

29 Jan 2024

Hello. Please contact the CA Secretary of State's Notary Public Section at 916-653-3595 to report the fraud and requests instructions for what steps you should take next.

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