When you’re about to process legal paperwork as a homeowner, or as a homeowner to be, no one wants to think that they can become a victim of fraud. Notary fraud is a little-known but highly effective way for criminals to take control of your funds and your property, especially in the vulnerable communities we’ve identified below. Let’s take a look at the basics of notary fraud and how it could affect you or someone you love.
What is a notary public?
The National Notary Association defines a notary public as “an official of integrity appointed by state government — typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.”
When do you need a notary?
If you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll need the services of a notary to verify your true identity when signing the official deed and mortgage documents. This also includes having a notary attest to your understanding of the transaction and your willingness to sign the documents without any form of duress while ensuring the correct amount of the sale price is deposited into a trust account.
How does notary fraud occur?
Notary fraud can occur when a notary intentionally notarizes a false signature, but it can also happen unbeknownst to the notary in the following ways:
- a criminal can use fake identification to impersonate the true owner when signing documentation
- an official notary stamp can be stolen and used to forge counterfeit property deeds
- a thief falsely posing as a notary can charge exorbitant fees for their services
Who are the most vulnerable victims of notary fraud?
Many times the elderly and immigrants are easy targets for notary fraud. Either group can end up spending thousands of dollars for services that are never rendered. Confusion easily occurs because in many European and Latin American countries a notary public is an actual lawyer, whereas in North America a notary is only authorized to witness signatures. Fake notaries may represent themselves as being able to legally office advice when it comes to homeownership and dealing with the government, whereas they actually hold no authority to do so. Vulnerable people in primarily immigrant neighborhoods may be targeted through advertisements and websites offering fraudulent notary public and/or immigration services. They may also try to charge victims for government forms that can be obtained for free.
The Consequences of Notary Fraud
If you’re a victim of notary fraud, depending upon the circumstances, you could be in jeopardy of losing your home. If you’re about to pay a type of deposit on a home you want to purchase, never give the funds directly to the seller, the money must go through a notary or lawyer, or you could lose your funds outright. You could become the victim of a legal battle down the road if notary fraud has occurred with the purchase of your home – the criminal charges and court dates could drag on for months, if not years to come. In the meantime, you may not be legally entitled to live in your home until the matter is solved.
Being proactive is the key to deterring notary fraud.
As a homeowner, you probably already have a million things on your mind. When you think about being proactive, this could take up more of your time focusing on bills, monitoring accounts, and worrying about the legalities of paperwork you’re about to sign. But we’ve got the real-protection solution for this very real problem!
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