Where to Report Deadbeat Firms 

Where to Report Deadbeat Firms
by Tim Gatewood

The following is a list of places where you as a notary signing agent can report deadbeat firms.

Deadbeat firms are those signing services, title companies, attorneys, or others who refuse to pay you, give you bogus excuses, send you checks that bounce after you have had to call and call them to get the check — in other words, the biggest pains-in-the-neck in this business. They may be slow pay, pay only after much hassle, or no pay.

Most deadbeat firms rely on scamming from one to pay the one behind. Sometimes, you can get them to pay you when you threaten to expose them as the deadbeats that they are.

Be sure that you have good records of what happened and that you stick to the facts (not your beliefs or assumptions or feelings) when you make your reports. Do NOT repeat rumors in your reports, as that can open you up to charges of libel or slander.

Some of the sites on this list have forums; some have groups; some have other gatherings of people who may want to know about this particular firm that has proven themselves (to you) to be a deadbeat. Once you have found the best place or places on each site to post your report, search for the name of the firm and post a comment under the most-recently-opened topic about them. Do NOT start a new topic about them unless you have searched first and were unable to find them, as some of the forum participants or group members on some of the sites can be very snarky (or hostile-seeming or rude) toward anyone who does that.

Some sites on this list do not have forums or groups, but do have other ways that you can report. Use your awesome research skills (which you should be developing as a small business person) to find the best way to report the deadbeat firm to each site.

There are two ways you can use this list.

First, you can just take it, modify it to make it your own and to make it directly relevant to the particular deadbeat firm that you want to report, and send it to that firm along with a final demand letter. Tell them that you will start reporting to the sites and places listed unless they pay you in full by X date. Then fax, email, and mail the letter. This has gotten some NSAs paid when everything else failed. As you are sending it as a final demand letter, you can still refer the matter to an attorney or a collection agency after the deadline passes, if you decide to do that. Or, you can move on to the second option.

Second, when you are done trying to collect and just want to be sure as many other notaries (and as many other businesses and agencies) as possible are aware of how this firm treated you, then go through the list and report them. Be as clear and specific and FACTUAL as you can in your reports. Leave emotions and “I heard” and “she said he said” out of it. Focus on what was done and what was not done; what you did about it; and what they said they were going to do versus what they did or did not do.

Here is The List of Where to Report Deadbeat Firms

the title company and Lender involved with the work
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
State Attorney General in my state and in their state
Insurance Commission (for Escrow agents) or banking/lending commission (for lenders) in my state & yours
All 3 Credit Bureaus
Better Business Bureau in your state & in mine
Any Notary groups on Facebook, Google, yahoo or other sites that I can find and join
My blogs, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn page
Your firm’s Facebook page & LinkedIn page (if any)
Your firm’s Google local page (if any)
craigslist in my town and yours
and any other pages I can find where your firm is listed.

(You in the above list refers to the deadbeat firm. Me refers to the NSA who is owed money.)

For maximum impact, look the firm up by name on google, bing, yahoo, and other search engines. Make note of the websites where the firm appears. Be sure to include all of them not already in this list on your list for that specific deadbeat firm.

Deadbeat Zone Stop Sign

As an extra, I am sharing a somewhat different list that someone else created below. Some of the sites on this list are the same as on my list; some are different.

The following list was posted on Facebook in reference to no pay firms, which is a subset of the deadbeat firm (as many of them will pay if you pursue them hard and long enough). Not paying was referred to as Notary Public Theft of Services in that post. I have cleaned it up and taken out everything except the list. If you are in California, you may want to search for the original post on Facebook (or in the forum on NotaryRotary, as that was mentioned by the FB poster as their source) as it contained some California-specific elements that I have chosen to not include here.

(As with the list above “my” refers to the NSA; “your” refers to the deadbeat firm.)

Where to Report No Pay Firms

Lender (find on loan documents) – compliance officer

Title (find on loan documents)

Escrow (find on loan documents)

Bank (if applicable)

Loan Originator (if applicable)

Mortgage Broker (if applicable)

Real Estate Agent (if applicable)

Real Estate Broker (if applicable)

Better Business Bureaus (BBB) http://ask.bbb.org/complaints

Department of corporations in my state and your state (if they are incorporated, even if they are not licensed to do business in my state, I want my state to know that they are a deadbeat firm).

CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

CA Department of Justice (if the firm is in California only) or the equivalent in my state (if any) and your state

State Attorney General in my state and your state

District Attorney Office in my county and your county

FBI (It counts as Cyber Crime because most likely you have been sent an email confirmation) https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

My Governor and Your Governor (when looking them up, try “Small Business Issues/Concerns” to find where to report this deadbeat firm, as you are a small business)

Department of Insurance (All 50 States) (If a Title or Escrow company) https://eapps.naic.org/cis/fileComplaintMap.do

FHFA – Office of the Inspector General https://www.fhfa.gov/Homeownersbuyer/MortgageAssistance/Pages/ComplaintsConcernsQuestions.aspx

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Report Fraud form: https://www.fhfaoig.gov/ReportFraud

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted?NextQID=251&Url=%23%26panel17#crnt

HUD https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/complaints_home

Board of Realtors (if buyer or seller package) http://www.wikihow.com/FileaComplaintAgainstaRealtor

US Representative (Your State, State of loan origination, State of Escrow, State of Title Company location) http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

US Senator (Your State, State of loan origination, State of Escrow, State of Title Company location) upper right hand corner for zip code search. https://www.senate.gov/

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Notaries Need to Consult Trusted Authorities

There are two things that every notary should do:

  1. Know the law in your state as it relates to notary duties and responsibilites.
  2. Follow the law.

If that creates a conflict with your client’s instructions or a request from your boss or a customer, explain to them what the conflict is. Don’t let yourself be pushed by anyone to break the law as you understand it.

If you have questions about what the rules are for a given situation after reading the law and any notary handbook provided by your state, seek out answers from trusted authorities. These are:

First, the Secretary of State and Attorney General of your state;

Second, an attorney who is licensed in your state;

Third, professional notary groups (NNA or AAN or ASN); and

Fourth, the Codes and model laws that those groups and others have created.

Start with the first. Then try the second. If they can’t or don’t answer, research with the third. This is where having a paid membership with the professional groups comes in handy, as it will generally get you access to a help desk and their online archive of materials (newsletters, articles, ebooks), as well as discounts on books that you should have on your reference shelf in your office.

If you still have questions, look up the Codes and read them. (I have stored the most recent versions that I could find in this folder: Notary Codes. You may want to do your own research to see if there are more recent versions available.) While these Codes are NOT law and do NOT take the place of knowing the law in your state, they do offer some idea of the currently-recommended Best Practices from the professional groups that created them — and many states have adopted one or the other of these Codes in whole or in part as their own state laws.

If you have enough of a legal mind to read court cases, you might also look at scholar.google.com for any cases that involve notaries in your state to see if a court there has ruled on the matter.

Posting a question on Facebook or in the forums of NotaryRotary, NotaryCafe, or 123notary or other social media may help as a last resort — but be aware that the people in those online spaces are very unlikely to be lawyers or government officials charged with knowing the rules in your state. So, anything another notary tells you (whether they say it online or in person) is a a rumor at best unless they supply evidence that they have consulted one or more of the above trusted authorities. Answers received on social media will not protect you from lawsuits or other serious consequences if they turn out to be wrong.


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Questions for the Tennessee Attorney General

One of the frustrating things about being a Tennessee Notary Public is that there are many questions for which the statutory law and the Tennessee Notary Handbook do not provide answers. So, I have been compiling a list that I would like to submit to the Tennessee Attorney General and/or the Secretary of State. If you are a Tennessee Notary Public and you have questions not included here, please share your questions in the comments.

Questions for the Tennessee Attorney General or Secretary of State
by Tim Gatewood

As the TN AG Opinion 07-157 states that a Tennessee Notary Public is a state official, does that mean that we can submit questions directly to your office? Or do we need to submit them to some other office and ask them to forward them to you?

Is an I-9 Form considered an employment document or an immigration document? If it is an immigration document, does that mean that it can not be completed except by those who are allowed to do immigration consulting work?

Are there are laws or rules or regulations against notaries public accepting unsolicited tips?

Can a TN Notary Public affix their seal to a Notary Identity Certification or a contract or any other document to “verify” their commission or status? Or does the law limit the use of a notary seal to only being used when notarizing documents?

In general, how do we resolve discrepancies between the signer’s name as it appears on their identification document (i.d.) and their name as shown on documents? If Senior or other suffixes appear on the document but not on their i.d., does that mean that we can not proceed with the notarization? What about nicknames? Missing middle initial or middle name? Different middle name for married woman (such as maiden, previous married name, actual middle name) ? Are we allowed to accept supplemental i.d. (not in the list in the statute) that shows the missing elements of their names?

Is there a special process or procedure for signature by mark in Tennessee? Or is an X considered a signature without anything added? (This was mentioned as a common law procedure in a TN AG Op, possibly the one about signing a durable POA when the signer has a disability such that they can not actually sign.) Is this signature by mark or using an X a recognized procedure in TN and, if so, what are the steps involved?

If a document to be notarized shows that the signer is signing with capacity (attorney-in-fact, personal representative of an estate, trustee of a trust, grantor of a trust, corporate officer, etc), does the notary need to see proof of that capacity in order to sign the corporate acknowledge certificate? Is a notary allowed to use (or sign if pre-printed) a standard (non-corporate) acknowledgment when the body of the document or the circumstances otherwise indicate that the signer is signing with a capacity other than their own as an individual?

Is “husband and wife” considered a capacity? Does a notary need to see proof before they can sign a notary certificate that states the signers were husband and wife?

If the document has a standard jurat which says they were sworn, but they choose to affirm instead, does the notary have to correct the jurat to show that? Should the notary make note of this affirmation in their journal? Or both?

What obligation does a notary (NSA or otherwise) have with respect to excise tax in Tennessee?

What obligation does a notary who handles assignments for out-of-state firms or individuals have to see if their clients are registered to do business in Tennessee?

Does the order of names in an AKA statement matter? Are we required to see proof of all the names in an AKA or just one of them? How about an NKA or FKA?

Does an attorney-in-fact have the authority to sign a sworn statement for the principal? If so, does the jurat need to indicate that they did sign it in such capacity? If the AIF lacks such authority, what actions should a notary public take when presented with a sworn statement to be signed by an AIF in such capacity?

While it is widely reported that a notary public bears no responsibility for the truthfulness of the statements made within the body of a document presented to them for notarization (with the signer alone bearing that responsibility), is this an actual rule of law in Tennessee? If so, does it apply when the signer states to the notary that some or all of the contents of the body of the document are not true? Would your answer change if the document indicates that it is being sworn to or the statements contained within it are made under oath (with a jurat or a notary acknowledgement certificate accompanying the document) ?

If the signer does not state that some or all of the contents are not true, yet the notary can tell from the circumstances that they must be untrue (or has reasonable grounds to believe that they are untrue), should the notary proceed on the basis that the responsibility rests on the signer — or refuse to proceed with the notarization on the basis that a public official should never assist with what they believe to be fraud?

Is a Tenn notary allowed to accept a driver’s license or state non-driver i.d. or US Passport or Military I.D. with holes punched in it as a form of i.d., assuming it is otherwise compliant with the description in the law? Or do the holes which mark it as invalid for police purposes also make it unacceptable for notary purposes?

If the notary acknowledgement certificate states the signer of the document was “known to be” the person described in and who executed the document, does this mean the signer must be personally known to the notary as defined in state law?

If so and the signer is not personally known to the notary, does the notary have the authority and the duty to correct the notary certificate to state the signer was “proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be” ? Or must the notary refuse to notarize the document in such instances?

Did the 2014 law (HB2387 – Public Chapter 805, passed in April 2014) change your opinion about whether notaries are state or county officials? If not, what impact does it have? What was the point of the wording in it about approving rather than appointing (seeing as how the Governor still is involved in the process and the county does not issue a commission until they receive the certificate from the Governor) ?

In your opinion 10-89, you laid out a procedure for what to do when a signer of a durable power of attorney is unable to sign in their own hand. Is this procedure acceptable for all notarized documents that are executed in Tennessee? If not, what are the limits of when this procedure applies? And what procedure should be followed in those circumstances that are not covered?

In your opinion 81-555, you stated that, for that specific instance, the applicable law granted authority to whoever made a copy of a document to certify the copy. Your opinion specifically mentioned notaries as one party who could certify the copy under those circumstances. As certifying copies is one of the services that the public frequently requests from notaries, please answer the following: is certifying copies an inherent power of a notary public except where otherwise restricted by law? If so, what are the restrictions? If it is not an inherent power of a Tennessee notary public to certify copies, how should a notary public respond when requested to certify a copy ?

If the body of a document presented to a Tennessee Notary Public states that the signer was duly sworn or that they are making the statements contained in it under oath, yet the notary certificate is an acknowledgement, is the notary expected or required to administer an oath ?

If so, should a jurat be added to the document to indicate that such was done? Or should a jurat be substituted for the pre-printed notary acknowledgement, rather than added to the same? Or, alternatively, should wording be added to the notary acknowledgement certificate to so indicate? If no oath is to be given under such circumstances, should wording be added to the notary acknowledgement certificate to indicate that, despite the language of the body of the document, no oath was given?

In short, how is a conflict between the language of the body of the document and the statements in the notary certificate to be resolved?

Under what circumstances is a notary public allowed to refuse o notarize in Tennessee? Does the reasonable and lawful standard apply? Do federal rules such as HIPAA, EEOC, or others have an impact on when we can say no? Are there state laws or rules that require us to proceed? In Acuff v. O’Linger (56 S.W. 3d 527 (2001), the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that a notary acts in a judicial capacity in determining the facts stated in a notary certificate. Once the facts are determined by the notary to be such that they can proceed, are they required to do so? Are there limits on the judgment of the notary as to what the facts are?

Is a notary journal considered a public record? If so, under what circumstances must it be shown to members of the public? Are we allowed to charge a fee for copies? Can we certify the copies? Do we redact NPPI on the copies? Does someone seeking to view the contents of a notary journal make the request via Freedom of Information Act form ? If so, is that sent to the SOS who then forwards it to the notary? Or what is the procedure? When I cease to be a notary public, am I required to turn over my notary journals to the county clerk’s office? If so, is there anything in state law about their retention and storage policy?

Seal of the State of Tennessee

Seal of the State of Tennessee

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My Strengths as a Writer

The experts say you should know your own strengths and weaknesses if you’re going to be a professional, so here is my self assessment.

As most of my professional writing is on notary-related topics, I’m posting this here, rather than on my personal blog.

My Strengths as a Writer
By Tim Gatewood

My biggest strength as a writer is that I compile diverse data (research, facts, my own personal experiences, reports from others about their personal experiences, and materials from credible sources) into conclusions that I am able to communicate to a wide variety of readers. In other words, I love to find all sorts of useful truth, then process it and serve it up, ready to eat, to those who are hungry for it.

On notary topics and others that interest me, I read from many books, magazines, newsletters, and online articles — and I collect most of these as part of my reference library.

When I attend classes or webinars, I usually take notes and gather in all the materials offered by the trainers to add to my collection.

As I learn new things or reach new conclusions, I frequently write articles about this knowledge and share them with the world. After all, the best way to get what you’ve learned to stick in your own mind is to teach it to others — and teaching what I’ve learned is a big part of my ministry.

If I’m writing for a paying client, I’m aware that editors will rarely accept a first draft as is, so freelance writing is always a collaborative effort. I believe that editing is a vital part of writing, so I edit (almost) everything before I post, publish, or send it out.

I have been writing for decades and my works have been published in a wide variety of ways, including community newspapers, magazines, and many online sites. My first ebook had a soft launch recently and I’m planning to publish at least one of my full-length books-in-progress later this year.

Mostly, I’ve written non-fiction. So, experience as a non-fiction writer is another strength.

I’m generally aware when my conclusions are based on less than 100% reliable data and don’t hesitate to say so.

I know the difference between anecdotal evidence (which may not be worth much in terms of finding generally-applicable truth but still is valid for the person who lived it) and scientific evidence (which may be tainted by the biases and assumptions of those who did the science involved, as well as slanted by the interests of whoever funded the work, but still may be valid if we can filter those out).

I’m open to being convinced that I am wrong when someone presents facts that I’m not aware of or arguments that I have not already considered. And I’m willing to admit it when they convince me that I was wrong.

All this means that I’m frequently able to present answers to questions and advice for dealing with situations in a way that seems common sense after I’ve stated it, but that was often not commonly known or understood before I did so.

And my willingness to change my mind and admit when I was wrong have earned me the trust of quite a few notaries, along with other people.

I credit a few college classes in logic, as well as life experience, for these strengths.

My major weakness as a writer is that when I’m not 100% sure about a conclusion, I state it with qualifiers that are not always understood or appreciated by those seeking definite answers.

I can come across as a bit blunt at times, as I’m struggling to state the truth as I see it, rather than focusing on what how people feel about the matter. This lack of focus on the probable emotional reactions of some readers means that they may get upset if my answers challenge their assumptions, which they often do.

My other weaknesses are that I haven’t been able to attend any of the in-person conferences put on by various professional associations and I rarely make time for watching YouTube videos. So, I may be missing some crucial bits of data or perspective.

So, there you have my self assessment. I invite those who know me to add their own thoughts in the comments.


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To Notaries in Georgia

To Notaries in Georgia Who Want to be Notary Signing Agents
— by Tim Gatewood

I have a soft spot for Georgia, as it’s where my mom’s family is from, going back several generations. So, please accept the following as my attempt to help out some Georgians who are also notaries, which makes them my people twice over.

Normally, for a notary who wants to be an NSA, I would suggest a specific article from this website to help you get started. However, as you’re in Georgia, which is an attorney-only state, I’m going to take a different path.

Being a notary in Georgia means the only NSA work you can do is for properties that are not in GA (but the owners happen to be there at the time of the closing).

There’s going to be very little of that, and what there is will mostly be clustered in two areas:

  1. around military bases (if the service member is living on base but owns property in another state) or
  2. in rich areas (if the rich folks own more than one home).

If you happen to be near one of those, you’re going to be competing against already established NSAs, as well as other new NSAs who may be willing to take fees that are too low to cover costs just to get some experience.

This is going to be very intense competition and there may simply not be enough business there for even one more NSA.

You can get some NSA-related work doing applications, but actual loans that involve GA real estate require an attorney.

Your only other option for NSA work is to get in with an attorney, which presents its own set of challenges.

You can make money doing general notary work. For how to do that, I recommend Laura Vestanen’s book called _Marketing Your Non-Loan Notary Services_. You can find it on Amazon or abebooks.com or alibris.com or eBay.

I wish the NNA would stop selling certification in attorney only states and that all the online training would be very clear about this before they take your money. It’s hard enough to launch a new NSA business without that attorney-only barrier to success in your way.

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