Covid-19, RON

Notaries, Beware of RON

States are enacting emergency orders to allow RON, Remote Online Notarization, as a way to safeguard both the public and notaries in areas where quarantine orders have been instituted. Besides taking away one of the primary functions of personal appearance, RON also takes away the notary’s ability to identify the signers. The function of identity verification occurs through a third party function before the signer is connected to the notary public via audio visual means.

If notaries conduct business in a state which mandates notary’s responsibility for identification, using RON can make the notaries legally responsible for incorrect identification that the third party made.

Considering RON only uses a less reliable system where personal questions are posed to the signer who must answer correctly before being given access to the notary public, the ability of fraud can become prevalent. Currently RON does not have the ability to use Biometric methods (facial recognition, thumbprinting, etc) even though states, like Virginia, have written laws to require it.

Primary functions of the notary public are to identify the signer and determine their understanding and awareness of what they are signing. These functions are seriously limited when using RON. With the identification piece entirely eliminated from the notary’s responsibility, states that place the legal responsibility on the notary will need to revise their laws to safeguard notaries public from legal ramifications regarding the identification of signers.

If you are a notary, please read your state laws carefully before engaging in RON. You may be subjecting yourself to more harm than protecting yourself from Covid-19.noron

Covid-19

Notaries Public and Signing Agents are Essential Workforce

Notaries Public are ” Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce for the financial services sector” as defined by the attached memorandum from US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. Notaries Public are “. . . workers who are needed to process . . . financial transactions and services, such as . . . settlement services,. . . to provide consumer access to . . . lending services, including . . key third party providers who deliver core services.” Notaries Essential

Holiday

Thank You Veterans For Your Service

As a company run by a Veteran, NeedANotary.Com is especially grateful to the nation when honoring our active military and veterans each year. There is a special kinship with fellow veterans that is felt whenever I find out a client has served. No matter what branch of service, we know the effort, the training, the experience,  the pride of being in the military,

And the sacrifices…

  • Unreliable imperial data places the total casualties for British regulars fighting in the Revolutionary War around 24,000 men.
  • Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War.
  • The total number of both civilian and military casualties is estimated at around 37 million people. The war killed almost 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel.
  • World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total deaths ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million.
  • Korean War: Today’s official Pentagon figures are virtually the same: 33,651 battle deaths and 3,262 other deaths.
  • Vietnam War – nearly 60,000 killed-in-action, over 150,000 wounded, and some 1,600 missing.
  • Gulf War – 149 casualties and U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,424 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of the Iraq War.
  • 241 marines killed in the Beirut Lebanon headquarters bldg October 23 1983

In honoring Veterans this weekend, here is a guide to all the great Veterans Day free meals! As sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins and neighbors. We thank you so very much for your service.

Notary Help

Email Scams for Notary Service

Notaries Public market their service openly to gain business. While this is a necessity for the self-employed notary, the advertising has opened up an avenue for fraudsters to exploit notaries. Below is an example of an email solicitation received for notary service from a fraudster. Note areas that can help you spot a potential scam solicitation.

Initial emailed solicitation

If you are a self-employed notary public, you may often receive email from customers who are seeking notary public services and want information described in this example. On the surface, receiving such email is welcomed. However, when the email suggests a company is seeking the service and their email appears to be a non-company email, you should further scrutinize the solicitation. Most companies will have contact information below their signature. While this signature block has some legitimate-appearing information, it does not have a phone number. Not listing a phone number might be another alert that the email is not from a legitimate source. For this example, a simple search on the company name will reveal a phone number and it would be a good idea to call the number and ask for the person listed. In doing so for this example, the person who answered the phone immediately indicated that the person listed above is not employed at the company and that what was received is a scam.

Busy notaries may not scrutinize the email and may respond to it. Here is a response received after replying to this email solicitation:

Response received

This email contained an attachment which has viruses. Opening this file could be very dangerous. One way to help notaries to protect their computers and files before opening the file is to save the file and then upload it on a virus checking site like virustotal.com. You can upload the file on the site and it will run a virus checker. Here are the results from the file sent by this fraudster:


https://www.virustotal.com/en/file/475d698ce97709e8472b36fdec94c30fa281a13909aef86f2b0a07a30d3d45a5/analysis/1557847178/

Notaries public help to prevent fraud by certifying signer’s identification,their understanding of what they are signing, and their willingness to sign documents. Notaries must be diligent in protecting their clients by taking all measures possible to protect their accounts from fraudsters who are trying to exploit the clients by fooling notaries. Fraudsters make it difficult to serve the public but you can help deter them by:

  • Not opening files from anyone you do not recognize.
  • Ask for contact information for clients within the body of the email instead of attaching it.
  • Double check any files with antivirus software or run an online check.
  • Search companies online and call them from their website to verify.

Feel free to comment and provide other ways notaries can protect themselves. Together, we can help each other continue protecting our clients from fraud.

New Legislation

Remote Online Notarization (RON) Does Not Deter Fraud

There is a significant push to move the process of notarizing documents from in-person to over the internet (coining it as the “RON movement” which means Remote Online Notary movement). The organizations pushing for this move are marketing online notarization as bringing the “old school” process of in-person notarization into a “modern convenient”, “business transformation” over the internet notarization that will result in “real estate savings”.

But at what cost?

Consumers, courts, and law officials understand that Notaries Public are trusted individuals commissioned by their states to help protect the public from fraud when they place their seal on documents. “Through the process of notarization, Notaries deter fraud and establish that the signer knows what document they’re signing and that they’re a willing participant in the transaction.” (Citation from NNA) There are particular screening processes the notaries take to determine a signer’s identity and their understanding of what they are signing and willingness to sign.  Doing this type of screening over the internet makes the screening process more difficult. And the current security processes the RON movement utilize for notarizing real estate transactions have yet to be tested in any court of law. 

Remote Online Notarization (“RON”) has yet to prove it deters fraud.

In an online notarization, the process to identify a customer shifts away from notaries public to a third party process that utilizes “modern tools that validate identity online, such as credential analysis and knowledge-based authentication” Notarize.com citation. However, these “modern tools” can be manipulated by “modern” identity theft fraudsters who use the internet to find the security question answers to bypass the validation mechanisms used in RON. With online notarizations, the notary public doesn’t have the ability to physically examine identification to independently authenticate the identity of the signer. And with another high-tech fakery like “deep fake” video, the notary public can be fooled into certifying the signature of a fraudster. 

“RON” makes it difficult for notaries to provide evidence for law enforcement.

The National Notary Association has indicated in their the 2017 “MODEL ELECTRONIC NOTARIZATION ACT” the need for online notarization to require the capture of principals’ and witnesses’ thumbprints for all real property documents. (Ch 9, § 9-4 Journal Entries, pg. 51) NNA asserts that many impostors will be deterred from committing forgery because they will not want to leave a thumbprint behind in the notary’s journal as proof of their attempted crime. Prosecutors often use the journal evidence to bring forgers to justice. Currently, no RON implementation has provided the ability to obtain thumbprints. California currently requires notaries to obtain thumbprints for notarizations dealing with deeds and power of attorneys. However, the current California online notarization bill, AB 199, has removed this requirement. If this bill passes into law as it is currently written, it will be more difficult to provide evidence of fraudulent notarized transactions. 

“RON” diminishes the ability for Notaries Public to determine the willingness of signers.

To determine signers understand what they are signing and their willingness to sign, notaries public observe the nuances of the signers’ non-verbal communication because nonverbal communication tends to do the work of communicating emotions more than verbal.  In the online environment, it is more difficult to pick up what is being communicated nonverbally.  Notaries may not be able to hear the signer’s tone of voice, see their gestures, or know if someone else in the room is intimidating them. The ability to determine the signers’ willingness and understanding to sign is therefore diminished when the parties engage over the internet. 

Why the Rush?

As the Vice President of Old Republic Title National Underwriting Counsel wrote: “Caution is the watchword here. State, federal and bankruptcy courts have invalidated mortgages and other documents due to defective notarizations. When that happens, the lender’s lien position is not only jeopardized but the enforceability of the mortgage itself is put at risk.” Current processes used by RON are not entirely equipped to handle safeguarding fraudsters in the way in-person notarizations are. The process of notarizing documents has been going on for hundreds of years and there is no upcoming end to this process. Before states hop on the bandwagon of RON, the lawmakers should assess their current process and determine if the movement to online notarizations will benefit or provide a detriment to their current process.   

Federal laws in recent years have pushed to protect consumer privacy and security, lawmakers would benefit to consider the costs and benefits of RON for their constituents.  Notaries Public are trusted by the public at large, courts, businesses, and law enforcement. There should be no reason to rush towards an untested process that may very well create more consumer fraud and abuse which can lead to distrust of the notary public profession.

How notaries serve the public seems to be working just fine going on several hundred years now. Let’s take a step back and focus on considering all avenues to safeguard the consumer in every way. When it comes to notarization, consumer protection is the ultimate purpose.