As a Notary Public, you are likely to expose yourself to claims from both individuals and businesses. This is known as Notary liability. Performing your notarial duties with due diligence and following these steps will both help prevent fraud and provide protection from liability.
- Notarize Only in the Presence of the Signing Parties
Clients should meet you in person at the time of notarization. This is perhaps the single most important act in fraud prevention and liability protection. There is very little likelihood of fraud when a document is signed in the presence of the parties involved.
- Verify the Identity of the Signer
Always verify the identity of the signer. Check the user’s driver’s license, US military card, passport, or state-issued ID and compare the photo to the signer in front of you. Merely scanning the document could lead to a Notary Public becoming liable in cases where things go wrong.
Check the signer’s name, photo, and date of the birth. When in doubt, decline the job.
- Ensure Documents Are Complete
Never notarize documents with blank spaces. Not only is it illegal in several states, but it increases the likelihood of a future lawsuit.
- Never Backdate Documents
One of the ways to falsify a document is to write a date that comes earlier than the actual date of the day. Where it is discovered, there is a chance a Notary can be held liable. Thus, never concede to clients who want their documents backdated. This act is both illegal and highly unethical. A Notary should protect his or her reputation by declining such requests.
Signatures are easy to forge, which is the reason some states are insisting on the use of fingerprints on certain documents, especially those in the real estate sector. This is due to the ease with which it is possible to counterfeit identity documents. Requiring a fingerprint, which is unique, can prevent fraud and minimize liability.
- Follow a Set Procedure
By following a set procedure for each notarization and taking your time, you will avoid potentially devastating distractions and missteps. Review and ensure every step was completed accurately before finalizing the notarization.
- Protect Your Information
If your Notary seal or commission information is copied or stolen, you could be accused of negligence or named in a lawsuit. Keep your Notary seal and commission information in a locked and secure location. Keeping thorough journal records can provide some protection in your defense, as well.
- Don’t Let Your Commission Expire
Keep track of your commission expiration date. Take steps to renew your commission before it expires. Documents you notarize after your commission expiration date could be invalid. Take steps to prevent your expired seal and Notary supplies from being used fraudulently.
- Purchase an E&O Policy
While most states require Notaries to purchase a surety bond before they become commissioned, the bond protects the signers rather than the Notary. Damages paid from a surety bond must be reimbursed by the Notary. Notaries should consider purchasing an E&O (Errors and Omissions) policy, which covers legal fees and liability expenses incurred during a lawsuit. There isn’t a limit on the amount for which a Notary can be found liable.
By consistently and carefully following these steps, Notaries can effectively deter fraud while protecting themselves from liability.
Coast 2 Coast Signings is a global signing service dedicated to providing the most convenient, efficient, and professional signing services. Our goal is to provide our clients with excellent customer service, a knowledgeable staff, and the ability to find experienced notaries wherever and whenever they are needed. Our team is on staff 24/7 to fulfill any of your signing needs. With a combined 50 years of experience, our mission is to help fulfill our clients’ needs with the utmost respect and adaptability. Coast 2 Coast is the only signing company proficient in completing signings on a global scale, on any coast and in any country.