Tuesday, November 26, 2013

4 Holiday Scams Every Notary should know

As we get into this holiday season, I hope everyone is in the spirit of brotherly love and great season cheer.  I  am also hoping everyone is bracing and properly preparing themselves for the new round of Holiday Scams.  I will highlight 4 Holiday Scams that seem to be making the rounds this year.

1)  FedEx / UPS follow-drop-pickup scam.  This scam was actually highlighted on the "Today Show" Tuesday, November 26, 2013.  This scam has a couple different ways it can be done.  It involves criminals following FedEx and UPS trucks in residential neighborhoods and watching for them to make drops at the front doors of homes.  When the driver leaves the criminals run over, pickup the packages and take off.  Notaries need to be aware that if they are receiving documents via FedEx or UPS at their home, which may be unoccupied at the time of delivery, criminals may be luring.  As an alternative you may want to have your packages delivered to a location that they can be received by an actual person.

2)  Checks in the mail scam.  During this time of year many of you, like me, send checks to love ones that are quite a distance away.  Sometimes we put those checks in the mailbox in front of our home and place the flag up telling our mail carrier to pick up this mail.  The problem with this is that it also sends a signal to criminals to intercept checks, gift cards or other items of value.  With checks, criminals can lift ink off (using things you can buy at any hardware store) and rewrite the check to themselves for a higher amount.  To ensure your packages arrive on time take them directly to the post office or hand them directly to your mail carrier.

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3)  Smash and Grab.  This is an interesting scam that can affect notaries directly.  This scam can also have several different variations.  This scam involves criminals targeting older people and women at shopping malls or retail stores.  Once the person gets out of their vehicle the criminals run up and grab their purse or wallet.  Not for money but to get access to the person's drivers license or state issued identification information.  Local news reports that these criminals have gone so far as to dress in a disguise as the victims and visit the victims bank to gain access to their accounts.  Sometimes trying to get Powers of Attorney notarized to gain access to the victims finances. 

There has also been cases where criminals will visit assisted living facilities and go from room to room looking for identification information to use to gain access to victims finances.  Notaries have to be very careful and take extra caution when notarizing any type of Power of Attorney Forms that could be linked to this criminal activity.

4)  Fast Food Doc Drop (I know the name is silly but....)  This is more of a crime of opportunity.  The reason why I put this one in is because I have recently been traveling and have heard two different title representatives from two different companies mention this same crime to me.  They said that notaries, after a closing, would go to a fast food restaurant with the docs and either leave them in plain site on their car seat or on a table in the restaurant, giving anyone access to them.  Criminals would see them and take quick pictures of the Loan Application and use that information to gain access to victims financial information.  I have personally witnessed notaries bringing docs to FedEx and UPS Stores to drop them off.  The notaries would then leave the docs on a table and go over to the other side of the store.  The docs would be left unattended for several minutes giving everyone access to them.  We all must be more diligent with security protocols in regards to the borrowers information.  

Do you know of any other holiday scams that other notaries should be aware of?  Please feel free to leave your comments...

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Monday, November 25, 2013

NNA Speaks With Notaries About New Standards For Mortgage Signings

NNA Speaks With Notaries About New Standards For Mortgage Signings: Chris Sturdivant, Director of Business Development for the National Notary Association, spoke  with Notaries, via Skype, in Maryland during a Notary Public Day seminar. He discussed the new standards for mortgage signings, the creation of the Signing Professionals Workgroup, the future Certified Signing Specialist designation, and answered several questions from the audience.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NEW Mortage Forms Notaries will Like

NEW "Know Before You Owe" Mortgage Forms

New Forms Designed to Improved Consumer Understanding, Aid Comparison Shopping, and Prevent Surprises

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule requiring easier-to-use mortgage disclosure forms that clearly lay out the terms of a mortgage for home buyers.  The "NEW" mortgage forms will replace the existing federal disclosures and help consumers understand their options, choose the deal that's best for them, and avoid costly surprises at the closing table.

This is good news for notaries performing loan closings.  The current forms help prevent "bait and switch" tactics, thus making each closing run more smoothly.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

My Top 10 Safety Tips for Mobile Notaries

The general crime rate in November and December seems to be climbing year after year.  Mobile Notaries should remain diligent when it comes to their personal safety while travelling to and from appointments.  Here are my Top 10 Safety Tips for Mobile Notaries that go out on regular assignments.

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1.  Make sure you don't open emails and files you are not expecting.  Every year criminals are getting more and more innovative using phishing techniques.  Phishing is a common trick used by identity thieves to gain your personal information.  This crime involves sending e-mails or creating sites that appear to be from a legitimate company and asking you to confirm personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords, birth dates, or addresses.  Just be very careful.

2.  Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained.  Routine maintenance, oil changes and oh yes.....gas.  That means making sure you have plenty of gas in your vehicle at the beginning of the day.  I have started out to my last appointment of the day, gotten about 5 miles from the location, and discovered I was out of gas.  The last gas station happened to be 5 miles in the opposite direction.  Not fun at all.

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3.  Don't carry all your credit cards with you.  Only carry one or two at the most at any given time.  By only having one or two cards with you and limiting the amount of cash on your person, you lower your overall loss if you have them stolen while out in the field.  

4.  Head out to your appointments a little early.  Roads will be wet and slick in some areas.  Also, during the holidays (Black Friday Shopping, etc.)   people seem to be in more of a rush.  Arriving a little early could save you that important client.

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5.  Stay Vigilant at ALL Times.  Be extra alert and attentive about the time of day you go to your appointments.  If you leave early in the morning or midday, be aware of school buses on your route.  They make frequent stops and starts with children running around everywhere.

6.  When leaving to go out on appointments take a little extra time to make sure your doors and windows in your home are locked and your security system (if appilcable) is turned on.  If you go out at night leave one or two lights on to deter burglars from entering your house.  Unfortunately home invasions are going up across the country.  In several cases, when the criminals are caught, they state that they only look for homes where no one is home.

7.   When going out to your vehicle either before an appointment or after an appointment, inspect your vehicle and ensure everything is the way you left it.  Once in your vehicle, always fasten your seat belt and ensure you can see clearly out all the windows.

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8.  Carry a couple of bottles of water in your vehicle.  Every year I hear at least one story about how someone has slid off the road in a rural area and was stuck, trapped in their car, for days.  The water they kept in their car sustained them until help arrived.

9.  Be Purposeful in Your Movements.  This is especially true when coming and going from your vehicle.  Make sure you are not walking with headphones in.   You want to be able to hear things as they happen around you.  Also try to face people and greet them as you walk by.

10.  Don't text and drive.  Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous and takes your focus completely off the road.  Statistics show texting while driving has been linked to tens of thousands of accidents and fatalities.  Numerous studies have pointed out that texting while you're behind the wheel is actually more dangerous than drinking and driving.    

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Monday, November 4, 2013

NOTYs helping Notaries adjust to New Standards

Prince George's Community College will be the site for Maryland's Annual Notary Day.  This event will be held at 301 Largo Road, Largo, Maryland on Saturday, November 23, 2013.  This is an annual event sponsored by the National Notary Association's 2009 Notary of the Year, Elaine Wright.

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This is a FREE Event for notaries.  Attending the event will be, Maryland Secretary of State, The Honorable John P. McDonough.  Maryland State Senator, District 25, The Honorable Ulysses Currie, will also be in attendance.  A General Session is planned along with several workshops.  

This will be a GREAT opportunity for notaries to come network, ask questions, and get familiar with the new standards.  On hand, to assist notaries with their questions and concerns, will be

Daniel C. Lewis
NNA 2010 Notary of the Year


Chrissy Ladd
NNA 2011 Notary of the Year

If you have questions and concerns about the new standards, please come in and see us. 
We would love to hear from you.  Hope to see you there!

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Notaries Stepping Up to the New Standards

At a workshop in Indianapolis, notaries gather and discuss the new standards created by the Signing Professional Workgroup(SPW).  The notary professionals that were in attendance were very open to learning more about the new standards.    The SPW was formed to assist in the creation of professional standards for certified signing professionals.


Doug Diebolt, one of the most sought after notaries in Indiana, is leading the charge on raising the bar for Certified Signing Specialist designation.  Doug has made it a practice to stay informed on what is going on in his profession.  Doug regularly attends workshops, on-line training, and conventions to ensure he is getting the latest information to keep him sharp.

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The new standards will mean new Certified Signing Specialist will have to prove their knowledge by taking a 50 question exam.  Renewing Certified Signing Specialist will take a 30 question exam.   An 80% passing score is required for certification.

For more information on training and examination CLICK HERE

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Signing Professional Standards

As many of you may know the Signing Professional Workgroup(SPW) created the Certified Signing Specialist designation.  The SPW also created standards to facilitate mortgage signings and to address regulatory requirements, state-law compliance, consumer satisfaction and consistency in delivery of notary services.

These standards are voluntary.

The standards consist of five recommended requirements:
  1. Certification Background Screening
    Certified Signing Specialists™ will satisfy an annual background screening that follows the search
    criteria and scoring metrics defined in the Standards.
  2. Certified Signing Specialist™ Code of Conduct
    Certified Signing Specialists™ will adopt the standards of professionalism and practice as defined in the Certified Signing Specialist™ Code of Conduct. Adoption will be measured by completion of an acknowledgment in conjunction with the Certified Signing Specialist™ examination.
  3. Standardized Signing Script
    Certified Signing Specialists™ will follow a standardized script at the onset of a loan signing appointment, and will utilize the supplied standardized responses when explaining the function of specific loan documents when asked by the consumer.
  4. Certification Examination
    Certified Signing Specialists™ will complete an annual examination with a passing score of at least 80%. The examination will be updated each year to reflect changes in the industry.
  5. Errors and Omissions Insurance
    Certified Signing Specialists™ will maintain notary errors and omissions insurance coverage of at least $25,000.
For more information about the Standards CLICK HERE

Lewis Notary Services Inc.

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