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Feature

4 illegal things Notaries should never do — and why

Updated 6-30-23.

Breaking the law when parking, driving, or littering may earn you a ticket or a small fine. Breaking the law when notarizing can result in jail time, loss of your Notary commission, or thousands of dollars in costly lawsuits.

This doesn’t mean the police are waiting around every corner to haul you off to prison if you violate a Notary law. But willingly breaking the law during a notarization doesn’t just lead to more paperwork — it enables fraud that can potentially cost thousands of dollars and embroil your customers in legal problems that can last years. In this article, we’ll show you four illegal actions Notaries should never do, why these acts can harm you and the public, and their potential consequences.

Illustration of hand writing false information

Illegal Notary Act 1: Entering false information on a Notary certificate

What does this mean? Signers often need documents notarized in a hurry to meet important deadlines; if an issue comes up that could delay a transaction, signers sometimes ask Notaries filling out a certificate to write a false date for the notarization (known as “backdating”) or alter other information in the certificate (such as listing an absent signer as present during a notarization) to expedite the document transaction. Never do this!

Why is it illegal? Businesses, government agencies, and consumers rely on notarization to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of documents. If you falsify information on a certificate, whoever possesses the fraudulently notarized document can use it to commit fraud.

What are the consequences? Knowingly falsifying a Notary certificate is prohibited in every state and can result in severe penalties. For example, in Georgia, a Notary who knowingly executes a certificate containing false information can be found guilty of a misdemeanor. In California, being found guilty of intentionally falsifying Notary certificate information is a misdemeanor, and if it involves an acknowledgment, a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Illustration of not requiring personal appearance

Illegal Notary Act 2: Failing to require a signer to personally appear during a notarization

What does this mean? One of the most common — and potentially damaging — illegal acts a Notary can do is notarizing a person’s signature without the signer’s personal appearance. When you perform a notarization, the signer must always personally appear. For traditional pen-and-paper notarizations, the signer must be present before you during the notarization. For remote notarization, the signer must appear and communicate with you using audiovisual communication technology compliant with your state’s laws. Never notarize without the signer’s personal appearance.

Why is it illegal? Suppose you notarize a signature without the signer personally appearing. In that case, you cannot know if the person signed the document willingly — or if the signature was falsified by someone else! You also have no way to prove the person’s identity. In many documented cases, scammers who convinced Notaries to ignore personal appearance requirements faked the notarized signatures themselves to commit elder abuse, real estate fraud, or other crimes.

What are the consequences? Personal appearance is one of the basic requirements of notarization. In Florida, failure to require personal appearance is a civil infraction punishable by up to $5,000, and it doesn’t matter if the Notary did it without intent to defraud. In North Carolina and Hawaii, not only is the Notary’s commission automatically revoked, it is a misdemeanor offense.

Illustration of a hand using Notary seal

Illegal Notary Act 3: Letting someone else use your seal

What does this mean? Only you — the commissioned Notary — are authorized to use your official seal to perform notarizations. No other person — including family members, co-workers, or an employer — can use your seal for any purpose. Never let anyone else use your Notary seal.

Why is it illegal? Your official seal is used to authenticate every notarization you do. In the wrong hands, a seal could be used to fool authorities into accepting a falsified document as authentic. Worse, if someone else uses your seal to commit fraud, you could face penalties if you fail to follow state rules for securing the seal. You yourself could become a victim and be required to hire an attorney to prove you didn’t perform the illegal notarizations.

What are the consequences? In California, a Notary who willfully fails to keep their seal under their sole control can be found guilty of a misdemeanor offense and could incur an additional civil penalty of $1,500. If the Notary negligently fails to protect the seal, the civil penalty is $750. Even in states without rules for securing a Notary seal, allowing someone else to use your Notary tools could make you potentially liable for a lawsuit if the other person uses your seal to commit fraud.

Illustration of a hand holding cash

Illegal Notary Act 4: Charging an improper Notary fee

What does this mean? When charging a signer for your services, you should never charge a higher Notary fee than your state allows. You must also avoid charging fees that are not allowed in your state.

Why is it illegal? The fees Notaries can charge are regulated by state law. For example, Florida Notaries may not charge more than $10 for each traditional notarization or more than $25 for a remote notarization (although the $25 maximum fee doesn’t cover fees for services other than performing notarial acts). Some states also regulate other fees Notaries may charge, such as travel fees. These regulations are in place to protect customers from being unfairly price gouged by Notaries. While some states do not set maximum fees, they may have other guidelines. For example, Arkansas does not have a fee limit, but any fee for services must be “reasonable” and agreed to by the signer before the notarization occurs.

Also, some states (for example, Missouri) prohibit Notaries from charging fees for certain services, such as charging for notarizing signatures on absentee ballots.

What are the consequences? In Arizona, charging an improper fee may result in liability up to four times the unlawful amount charged and is a class 5 felony (A.R.S. §§ 38-413), and may result in your commission being suspended or revoked. In Texas, charging a Notary fee beyond the statutory maximum could result in criminal prosecution and suspension or revocation of your commission. Always follow your state’s Notary fee rules and guidelines for any other associated fees.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

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4 illegal things Notaries should never do

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82 Comments

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Eileen M Weaver

13 Jun 2022

Thank you for the PDF, very helpful.

Richard Koros

13 Jun 2022

First of all , a traveling notary going 100 miles round trip in the state of Illinois is in fact allowed to charge based on travel time , mileage, etc .

Jesus Martinez

13 Jun 2022

This information it is very important to know, so you go in the right direction. I am a notary since 1998

Yvette Holloway

13 Jun 2022

Richard, they’re talking about the charge for the notarization and not the travel expense. You are absolutely allowed to charge for travel. Though I don’t see why anyone would want to pay an out of town notary when they could have gone to their bank to receive that same service at no charge.

Dianne Petrie

13 Jun 2022

Informative information I would never compromise any document under any circumstance.

Latonya Robinson

13 Jun 2022

Thank you..it's very helpful 🙂

Kimberly Tate

13 Jun 2022

Thank you for the information.

Michael T Scherer

13 Jun 2022

With increased prices on gas, food, building materials, cars, etc, California still has not raised fees notaries are allowed to charge. I like the idea of a "reasonable" price agreed upon by both the Notary and the customer.

rolleg54@gmail.com

13 Jun 2022

Thank you for showing us the four things notary must not do.

Gloria Hobbs Thomas

13 Jun 2022

Thanks for the information

gloriahobbs82@icloud.com

13 Jun 2022

Thanks for the information

ROBERTO ARROYO

13 Jun 2022

Very good info, please keep them coming. I am brand new to this so keep them coming please.

Etta Johnson

13 Jun 2022

Thank you for the information. It was helpful.

Kelley McNaughton

14 Jun 2022

Thank you for sharing your Knowledge.

Susan Urban

14 Jun 2022

I have been a notary for year’s. But I recently signed up to be a certified notary to be able to branch out and go to places that would need my services. Any and all information that I can acquire would help me to become the best notary that I can be. Thank you

Thanks for the refresh information

14 Jun 2022

thanks for the refresh information

Mable semple

14 Jun 2022

this a very good reminder Information, that always helpful

Nethus

14 Jun 2022

I am a certified loan signing agent. Thank you for all information.

MLCunningham

15 Jun 2022

I’m a newbie…will take my Loan Signing Exam in two days. Thank you for sharing the knowledge.

Q Qureshi

16 Jun 2022

I am a loan signing agent. Thanks to NNA keeps us well informed.

P Jones

11 Jul 2022

Thanks NNA for keeping us informed. I am an online notary. I have been a notary since 2018

Elexia T.

14 Jul 2022

Thanks, that was good information

David Householder

15 Mar 2023

What should I do if I know of a notary notarize a last will I testament after the had passed away.

National Notary Association

15 Mar 2023

Hello. If you wish to report a suspected case of Notary fraud, you should contact your local law enforcement agency or your state's Notary agency and ask to file a complaint.

Marla cionee

24 Apr 2023

My ex-husband passed away last week and his children are the victim of an ex-girlfriend waiting until 10 days before his death to bring in Mobile notaries we live in Michigan he's in Texas and over three notaries in on three different days she gave herself the power of attorney deeded the house to her son and his lover and then the next day did an 11 page document for making her receive everything else it's some kind of trust is there anything this family can do about having their heritage taken away because that men was 10 days before death he was incoherent he couldn't speak on the phone and he didn't understand what was being said to him he was at that stage what can people do when that happens to them

National Notary Association

24 Apr 2023

Hello. You would need to speak to a qualified attorney to ask what legal options are available to you in this situation.

barb morgan

17 May 2023

my father had land stolen from him by my siblings forging notary signatures and stamps. the law nor any of the offices I contacted for help cared. In one instance the notary signed without the person being there. she apologized to me but lied to the law. Why are children allowed to steal from their parents. and mentally compromised at that. Forget your rules. Its happening.

June Siegel

17 Jul 2023

All around me in Virginia, I see notaries charging these fees: emergency fees, weekend fees, after-hours fees, administrative fees. No one oversees these notaries and they continue to do business. Meanwhile, the honest ones who go by the book are struggling to stay in business. What do you recommend? The Secretary of State hasn't responded to a single question I have. The Attorney General's office couldn't care less either.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

Hello. Regarding the question of Notaries charging fees for additional services, the state of Virginia has the following to say about travel fees: “A notary may recover, with the agreement of the person to be charged, any actual and reasonable expense of traveling to a place where a notarial act is to be performed if it is not the usual place in which the notary performs his office” (COV 47.1-19[D]).

Angelika Hamilton

17 Jul 2023

Thank you for these tips - they are super helpful! These latest four are really helpful - thank you for the pdf!

John Martino

17 Jul 2023

Why in New York state the fee is only $2.00 where other states are triple, can the State Increase this Fee. This service those protect Corp. Businesses and legal documents.

Ronnie C.

17 Jul 2023

In Texas, what is the law for someone who needs a document notarized, but the person only has an expired DL as identification?

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

Hello. In Texas, Notaries cannot accept an expired driver's license as proof of a signer's identity (CPRC 121.005[a]). The signer would need to present another, current form of federal or state-issued ID that includes a photograph and signature. Another option is the signer could provide a credible witness to vouch for the signer's identity. The credible witness must personally know the signer and either be personally known to the Notary or present a current form of federal or state-issued ID that includes a photo and signature to the Notary (1 TAC 87.40[b]).

Moe Jones

17 Jul 2023

Wonderful information! Thank you for sharing!

Cynthia Tyner

17 Jul 2023

Thank you for this info. Very helpful to be aware.

Denisse Molina

17 Jul 2023

Thanks for this valuable information. I always open the emails from the NNA to make sure I’m doing things right.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

You're welcome. We are here to help!

Liliana

17 Jul 2023

Thank you so much for the detailed information. Once in a while someone will ask about "past dating " so nicely I explain that there is no space available to set a past entry into my. Notary log, people seem to understand.

Regina Hocketf

17 Jul 2023

Thanks for always keeping us informed with important information to be the best notary public.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

You're welcome, Regina. We're glad you find the information helpful!

John Gifford

17 Jul 2023

Re: Possible Rogue/merc notaries. Start with your state's Notary issuance authority, usually the Secretary of State, also the state Attorney General. They may not handle your issue directly but can certainly point you in the right direction. Attorneys with PI's have to get the facts investigated before any potential litigation. Sometimes the state's agencies are helpful. Bon chance.

Jacqueleen Garcia

17 Jul 2023

I am a notary 24/7 are we allowed to charge any convenience fees if someone is obtaining services after regular work hours Monday -Friday? Weekends? Holidays? 3am? For example. I have had people obtain my services 2-4 hours away before :) . Just commenting this because I seen someone say they don’t know why anyone would obtain a notary out of town. It happens because of the hours I offer.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

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

Miss Margaret

17 Jul 2023

I am constantly being asked to certify copies of documents in California - "certify a copy of my drivers license," I was asked the other day. If people get crabby I send them the link to the secretary of state's office with the rules. I didn't get 92% on the exam for nothin'! :)

Elaine Bassis

17 Jul 2023

I am in Massachusetts and found this very helpful too! Thank you.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

You're welcome!

Coby Willis

17 Jul 2023

Can a notary wait outside a house and have someone from the house take Notary book and get signature and thumb print of Signee?

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

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

ERIC

17 Jul 2023

Thank you very much for this information!

H Patel

17 Jul 2023

Inflation, gas prices, food prices, employee's salaries gone up too much but notary fees in Texas remain same $6 since years. If you are putting your valuable time and effort to review, verify and make sure about Signers ID, documents and all other information and getting just $6 is totally unfair. Fees must go up ASAP.

Coby Willis

17 Jul 2023

CA State.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

Hello. GC 8206[d] states “The journal of notarial acts of a notary public is the exclusive property of that notary public, and shall not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, whether or not the employer paid for the journal, or at any other time. The notary public shall not surrender the journal to any other person …” Giving your journal to another person outside your control where you cannot see them puts the information in your journal at serious risk of a privacy breach or potential tampering, as you would have no way of determining if the person with your journal improperly accessed private information about your signers or altered journal entries without your knowledge.

Nancy Anne Johnson

17 Jul 2023

Excellent article. Thank you David Thun.

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2023

You're welcome. We're glad you found the article helpful.

Mia ford

17 Jul 2023

@ Michael T Scherer, your state, I believe, still allows you to charge fees for things such as travel, printing, etc. Check on that because the notarization fee allowed is low, and if you have to go to them, you are generally able to charge reasonable fees in addition to the notarization fee. Definitely check your state laws to find out what is allowable.

Tamika

17 Jul 2023

Thank you for the info.

gerryB

17 Jul 2023

Thank you for posting the tips, I've been a notary since 2004 here in south dakota, your tips and site have been a great help

wahjr@outlook.com

17 Jul 2023

The printable PDF was a very nice touch. Please supply them in the future when possible and relevant.

National Notary Association

18 Jul 2023

Thank you for your feedback. We're glad you found the PDF helpful.

Pat W

17 Jul 2023

When notarizing a person’s signature on more than one document in a single session, should you charge a fee for each notarized signature/document or just one fee because there’s only one person signing regardless of the number of documents ?

National Notary Association

18 Jul 2023

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

Marilyn

18 Jul 2023

Valuable information. Thank you!!!!

NJ

18 Jul 2023

Thanks for the reminders

NM

19 Jul 2023

If a notary is doing one or two of these things, how do you report it? And, to who do you report? From New Mexico.

National Notary Association

19 Jul 2023

Hello. We would suggest contact the New Mexico Secretary of State's office first to ask what steps they recommend. Their website is here: https://www.sos.nm.gov/notary-and-apostille/

Jacqueleen Garcia

22 Jul 2023

Hi I’m in Georgia thank you for your help.

National Notary Association

24 Jul 2023

You're welcome!

Marcia

23 Jul 2023

Articles like this are always a great reminder for a notary to help maintain our integrity, doing what's right and legal.

Jacqueleen Garcia

24 Jul 2023

I’m sorry I did not get a response to my original question I was providing the state so here’s my original question Jacqueleen Garcia17 Jul 2023 I am a notary 24/7 are we allowed to charge any convenience fees if someone is obtaining services after regular work hours Monday -Friday? Weekends? Holidays? 3am? For example. I have had people obtain my services 2-4 hours away before :) . Just commenting this because I seen someone say they don’t know why anyone would obtain a notary out of town. It happens because of the hours I offer.

National Notary Association

24 Jul 2023

Hello. As we responded previously, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in so that we can provide you with the correct fee guidelines?

Jacqueleen Garcia

24 Jul 2023

In the state of Georgia I’m sorry I did not get a response to my original question I was providing the state so here’s my original question Jacqueleen Garcia17 Jul 2023 I am a notary 24/7 are we allowed to charge any convenience fees if someone is obtaining services after regular work hours Monday -Friday? Weekends? Holidays? 3am? For example. I have had people obtain my services 2-4 hours away before :) . Just commenting this because I seen someone say they don’t know why anyone would obtain a notary out of town. It happens because of the hours I offer.

National Notary Association

24 Jul 2023

Thank you. The Georgia Notary Handbook does not directly address convenience fees, but provides the following guidance regarding travel fees: “The law does not address travel fees for notarial acts. In the absence of any statutory rule, notaries are allowed to charge a fee for travel as long as the signer is aware that a travel fee is charged and that the travel fee is billed separately from any fee for notary service, and carefully detailed regarding the additional charges”

Tammy L YODER

27 Jul 2023

A notary stamped over my signature then used her name but the stamp over my signature just said state and notary public no name or date is it voided

National Notary Association

28 Jul 2023

Hello. You would need to contact an attorney to answer any questions whether a Notary error would affect a document's legal status..

Tammy L YODER

27 Jul 2023

There is nothing that answers my question

National Notary Association

28 Jul 2023

Hello. We have posted a response to your question above.

Tommy

17 Nov 2023

My notary took my signature but dud notarized it in front of me. She did it a day or so later. That's not legal right?

National Notary Association

30 Nov 2023

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

BRANDY.DANIEL1272021@GMAIL.COM

06 Feb 2024

Hi everyone, I'm Brandy, I've been a notary for a few years in FL. and now I have finally received the green light for AL. I been trying to find reading material to find out information on how to become a mobile notary, an is there anyway to become a mobile notary for all of the US., all at once? Also is a notary automatically an online notary aswell? THANK YOU FOR ALL THE TIPS THAT'S ALREADY GIVE, IT'S VERY MUCH NEED AND HELPFUL, THANK YOU AGAIN!

National Notary Association

06 Feb 2024

Hello Brandy. Each state commissions its own Notaries, so you require a separate commission for each state you are eligible for. Different states have different requirements for remote online notarizations. You can read about individual state rules for remote online notarizations here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/remote-online-notary/how-to-become-a-remote-online-notary

Dave

15 Feb 2024

Can anyone tell me if it is legal for a notary to fill in a dollar amount on a power of attorney form? -the portion where you would put in a dollar amount that the person would get for their care/ services for being their power of attorney?

National Notary Association

16 Feb 2024

Hello. Notaries are normally only authorized to complete information in the notarial certificate wording on a document. Nonattorney Notaries are prohibited from offering legal advice about a document or preparing a document on a signer's behalf. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notary-basics-avoiding-unauthorized-practice-of-law

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