Madeline Damiano is a certified paralegal. She is also a certified California mobile notary, and would like to share her story of how and why she got started, and what tips she has for other new notaries.
What Made You Decide To Become A Notary?
A friend was looking for a back-up Notary to refer her calls to when she was unavailable. With her encouragement, I obtained my first commission and began going on jobs with her to observe, and soon I was doing the paperwork myself. My paralegal background gave me an excellent basis for observing procedures and handling paperwork, even when documents were voluminous.
What Were The Biggest Challenges You Had When First Starting Out As A Public Notary?
I had no idea how to price a job, and was unfamiliar with common pitfalls to avoid in terms of knowing what I could say and what I should avoid to preclude “practicing law.”
How Have You Solved Those Problems To Make Your Notarizing Life Easier?
I joined the National Notary Association and called the hotline to ask questions. I searched online for Notary supplies and learned how they were meant to make the job easier or more professional. I bought a Notary primer I found online to give me a feel for what I would encounter in the field. I went to the online site of the Secretary of State, and downloaded several papers, including The Role of Notaries in Deterring and Detecting Fraud and Identity Crimes, Essential Notary Standards and Principles, and The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility.
On the NNA site, I found discussion of The Notary Journal: One of Law Enforcement’s Most Potent Weapons Against Mortgage Fraud. I set up a binder (paralegal training at work!) and read through them. When a loan closing popped up before I had training, I spent a day in the local library, researching loan closings and what to expect, and downloaded Victoria Ring’s course, The Free Introductory Signing Agent Training Course. When my relationship with my “mentor” did not work out, all of this information gave me the confidence to continue on my own.
What’s Your Notary Tool Of Choice?
I use an inkless rectangular stamp. It’s compact and easy to position between text, even in tight areas. I considered getting an embosser, but in California the seal must be able to be photocopied, and I decided to keep things simple with the rectangular seal.
What’s A Non-Notary Supply Tool In Your Bag That You Use Regularly?
In no particular order:
UV light/magnifier for checking IDs: I always look for micro text and holograms, and note their presence in my journal.
Sticky notes: OK, this is not professional looking, but it’s important to protect the privacy of previous signers in my journal. I tried commercial products, but was unable to hold them in place when handling my journal. So I resorted to sticky notes; they stay where I put them and I can move them as needed. I have not received any negative reactions; rather, signers are happy to know I take steps to protect them.
Finger wipes: I always offer my clients a fresh wipe after they’ve left a fingerprint in my journal.
Receipt book: I stopped offering receipts because I heard, “No, thank you” so many times. But occasionally a client needs one, and they always seem to be visibly relieved when I am happy to produce one on the spot. Don’t other Notaries do this? BTW, remember to itemize and separate the Notary fees from other fees.
Notary ID badge from APNCSA (Association of Professional Notaries and Certified Signing Agents): No one has ever challenged my credentials, but when I’m meeting someone new I like to wear it to assure them I am a professional.
Stapler: Notarial certificates must must be attached, at least in California.
Spare loose certificates: On the odd occasion, I have had to provide ten or more acknowledgements and/or jurats, so I keep a folder with ample extras. I would never want to be caught having to use a copier that might not be laser quality.
Extra pens: I only use blue or black Signo pens, which have gel ink that cannot be washed away by accident or design.
Do You Have Any Funny Or Crazy Stories About A Notary Job?
While conducting a loan signing for an acquaintance, I noticed that the first name was incorrect. I called for instructions, and the signer got very upset, saying she had evening plans and wanted me to just “stamp and go,” never mind having a clouded title. The situation did not improve when we became engulfed in smoke and found that the apartment directly across the street had caught fire. The signer went into a panic and ran to move her car so she wouldn’t get boxed in by the fire trucks whose sirens we could already hear. She came back in a rush, asking, “Are we done yet??” It was a challenge to stay calm while I gently guided her through the process, but I managed to get her on her way on time.
If You Were To Give One Piece Of Advice To A New Public Notary, What Would It Be?
Oops, I have two:
Do not be intimidated by signers who want to rush you or pressure you to do something you are uncomfortable with. Simply leaning back and saying, “I cannot continue if I am not allowed to follow proper procedure. Would you like to cancel this notarization?” can calm people down and allow you to proceed without interference.
Educate yourself as to the importance of your role. Visit the Secretary of State’s online site and get very familiar with your state’s requirements. Join a professional organization to help guide you as you learn. If you have a notarization you are unsure of, call a hot line and ask questions. Then join as many online discussion groups (for example, through Linked-In) as you can – that is where you will get real-life scenarios and discussions of the best ways to handle problems. That is an invaluable resource.
The Right Notary
Madeline Damiano is aCalifornia Mobile Notary in the San Jose/Bay Area.She is available for loan signings, powers of attorney, domestic partnerships, living trust signings, international documents (as allowed by California law), and all Notary needs.
You can contact Madeline Damiano at http://www.therightnotary.com/