Notary ID Theft

I was the victim of Notary ID Theft
I am sharing this story as a way to communicate the real possibility that this could happen to you and the steps I have taken to try and prevent it from happening again.
We all know that we should take steps to keep our seal and journal safe and secure at all times. But what if you did that and still have someone using your seal. How does this happen?
When it happened to me I was in shock. I have never had my seal stolen or lost. I see it every day and use it every day. But think about this…your signature and your seal are on every document that you have notarized and a good percentage of those documents are publicly recorded. If you are a Loan Signing Agent, you know exactly what I am talking about. Deeds of Trust, Quit Claim Deeds, Advanced Directives are all on your county recorders’ website for all to see.
My stamp was reproduced and my signature copied and used to release a lien on a piece of property that the owner wanted to sell unencumbered.
Skipping all the details for now, it was 9 long months before it was determined that I had nothing to do with this and the notion that you are innocent until proven guilty is really just words and not reality. I was given the task of proving it wasn’t me. My journal did not have an entry for this, the stamp that was used is not the stamp style that I used during that term, and the signature was clearly forged.
Going forward, here is what I do to help “defend” myself should this ever happen again.

  1. I change the style of stamp that I use EVERY YEAR. Last year my stamp style was rectangular and had a straight line border around it. This year it is also rectangular but has a rickrack border around the edge. Next year, it will be round. See where I’m going with this? If someone reproduced my stamp from public records, it’s likely they will get the stamp style wrong. Of course I do have to stay within guidelines for an acceptable stamp for my state.
  2. Once a month, I take a random copy of just a page that I notarize and staple it to the corresponding page in my journal. That way I can look back and actually show evidence of the type of stamp that I was using at the time of the notarization in question.
  3. I do a little something with my signature that would not be evident on a photo copy. It might show up as an anomaly, or something that you might assume was a flaw from a bad copy….but it will be on each and every signature. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what that is because then my secret it out. Haha!
    There are so many ways these days that your identity can be stolen. Be aware, be OVERLY cautious and take steps to get you out of a mess quickly and as easily as possible. Check with the company that you buy your E&O insurance from to make sure you are covered for this type of claim. Remember what the name stands for…Errors and Omissions…what if it wasn’t your error. Are you covered?

Thanks for the ‘heads-up’. I’m a new notary and I have wondered about such a scenario – it would be relatively easy for someone to copy and reproduce my seal from a recorded document. Thanks for (unfortunately) confirming.

Wow, I mean WOW !!! The gall of the forgerer ( That’s not a word, I created it) . I always sign in blue, and if your state permits also sign in a different color. This is one dead give away to help you countered in court if you are ever summoned.

Thinking out aloud.

The root cause of this problem is that registar’s have absolute zero liability to verify accuracy/ authenticity of docs.
Also there seems no standard as to how a lien is released. HOW DO U PREVENT FRAUDULENT LIEN RELEASES !!
State & National Land Title Associations need to come up with standards and help push legislations.

Here is one idea !!
Just like wire requests are double confirmed, could there be a new standard that the lien holder has a contact information in the lien record page to which the county registrar asks for confirmation of lien release or deny such a lien release ?

I personally would never do a lien release knowing that they are almost always done “in-House” and Notarized by a Notary who is also an employee of the company/lender.

My daughter is a notary in Philadelphia, Pa. She also experienced notary ID theft where someone used her stamp and signature to transfer a decendants property out of an estate into their own names. To make a long story short, some thieves retrieved her notary signature from the prothanatory office in the City of Phila. among several other notary signatures and got a stamp made and started using her signature and stamp for fraudalent purposes. She was able to show that she did not complete that transaction because, first of all, her attorney new what was going on with the notary signature theft situation and the judge did not see the entry in her well kept and documented notary journal. It was proven that she did not do the transaction. However, thank you for the tips on how to protect yourself. I have been a notary for 38 years and will use them myself.

If you conducted a signing for a title company; wouldn’t it be a good idea to identify them so that others know not to do a signing for them in the future.

The Title company did not do anything wrong in either of these two cases it would appear. The thief apparently reproduced the notary stamp and forged a signature based on information gleaned from public records. All property Deeds of Trust, Mortgages, Warranty Deeds, Quit Claim Deeds are a publicly recorded document. Anyone can look at them on the county recorders website.

Thank you for the information.

Wow! Someone can get a copy of your stamp and have a stamp made with your name? That’s bad. Seems like there is no way to prevent someone from making a duplicate stamp with your name on it.