• Hugo Enriquez

3 Risky Questions Signers Ask Notaries — And How To Answer Them

Updated 2-24-20. The duties Notaries perform are strictly regulated by state law. Going beyond what you’re allowed to do can get you in serious legal and financial hot water with the authorities — and that includes answering certain kinds of questions from signers. Below are three examples of risky questions signers may ask you, why these questions are potentially dangerous, and how the NNA’s Hotline Consultants recommend that you respond.

Risky Question 1: “Can’t You Just Bend The Rules To Help Me Out?”

When signers need notarizations, it’s often urgent. If signers have a problem getting to you, or there’s an issue with their ID, they often ask you to ignore proper procedure or bend the rules, including variations such as:

“I forgot my ID. Can’t you just notarize my signature without it?”“My kid is sick, and I can’t make it to your office. Can’t I just send the document for you to stamp and pick it up later?”“This is an important client. I know the law says you need to ask for his driver’s license, but I don’t want to embarrass him, so would you just notarize without it?”

The Risk: Failing to follow the rules is an invitation to lose your Notary commission. If you don’t require a signer to personally appear for the notarization, ignore the requirements for satisfactory evidence of identity, or agree to any improper Notary requests, you are breaking the law and opening the document to potential fraud. If a dishonest signer can commit fraud thanks to your negligence, you not only risk your commission, but you could be held liable for any damages a victim suffers as a result.

The Recommended Response: If someone asks you to bend or break the rules or ignore proper procedure when notarizing, there’s only one answer: No. If the signer won’t accept that, don’t proceed with the notarization. It’s better to have an unhappy signer than being sued for negligence or losing your commission.

Risky Question 2: “Can You Help Me Prepare This Document?”

Signers often need important legal or business documents notarized but aren’t sure how to complete them, so they may turn to you for help:

“Help me out. Can you tell me what information I need to fill in here?”“Can you prepare a power of attorney document for me?”“What kind of notarization do I need for this type of document?”

The Risk: Notaries who are not attorneys are prohibited from giving legal advice that they aren’t qualified to provide. This is referred to as the unauthorized practice of law. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned Notaries don’t realize that answering questions about a document, preparing a document or simply choosing the type of notarization constitute a violation if the Notary is not a qualified attorney, and can result in civil or criminal liability.

The Recommended Response: If you are asked to help prepare or complete document, or choose the type of notarization needed, and you are not an attorney, you should decline and explain that you are not allowed to provide legal advice. If you are asked to choose a notarization for them, you may describe the different types of notarizations available and let the signer decide, or they can contact the document-issuing or receiving agency for instructions.

Risky Question 3: “Can You Accept A Copy Or Picture Of My ID?”

While every state’s rules are different when it comes to identifying signers, all without exception agree that a signer must present an original ID to the Notary. You should be careful if a signer asks you one the following questions:

“I’ve got a photocopy of my driver’s license. Can you accept that instead?”“I don’t have my ID with me, but here’s a picture of it on my mobile phone, OK?”

The Risk: It’s never a good idea to accept a photocopy or image in lieu of an actual ID. Without having the original ID, you have no way of knowing if the copy or image has been altered or changed. Also a copy lacks the security features, such as holograms or raised text, that you can use to help verify an ID is genuine — increasing the chance that a dishonest signer can get away with fraud without you realizing it.

The Recommended Response: Don’t accept a photocopy or photo in place of an actual identification card. If the signer doesn’t have an ID, don’t proceed with the notarization but invite the signer to return with their ID in hand.


https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2019/02/3-risky-questions-signers-ask-notaries?utm_campaign=bulletin20200302&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nnabulletin&utm_content=BodyTitleRiskySignerQuestions&content_type=1&position=1&NNAID=160358450


























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Copyright Hugo Enriquez Mobile Notary Public