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How Notaries Protect Against Fraud

Tags: Notary
November 07, 2019 11:00 AM
By: Breanna Datesman, Deputy Director, Bureau of Elections and Notaries

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​Have you ever needed a document notarized? Maybe your mortgage or a copy of your marriage license? 

Many of us have used a notary public in the past but may not realize the important role they play in protecting against fraud.  They serve as witnesses to ensure that people are willingly signing legal documents and freely taking oaths.

Notaries are authorized to perform six notarial acts:

  • Taking an acknowledgement is when a notary verifies a person's signature on a legal record, such as a mortgage or will. 

  • Administering an oath or affirmation is when a notary witnesses a person confirming that they are telling the truth. You may wonder what the difference is between an oath and an affirmation. An oath is when a person pledges to God or a supreme being, while an affirmation does not refer to a higher power.

  • Taking a verification of an oath or affirmation, otherwise known as an affidavit, is much like the act listed above except, in this instance, a notary will witness a person sign the oath or verification.

  • Witnessing or attesting a signature is just like it sounds – witnessing first-hand as a document is signed.

  • Certifying a copy of a record or disposition is when a person makes a copy of an original record, and a notary certifies that the replica is complete and accurate.

  • Noting a protest of a negotiable instrument is a written statement by a notary that a negotiable instrument, such as a check or money order, has not been received or accepted.

Since William Penn's time, the commonwealth has appointed notaries. The Department of State's Division of Commissions, Legislation and Notaries administers Pennsylvania's notary public law and works on behalf of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to appoint, commission and regulate notaries. They are appointed and commissioned for four-year terms.  The department is committed to holding notaries to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and trust.

More than 85,000 people hold notary commissions in Pennsylvania and perform acknowledgements, certifications and verifications of hundreds of thousands of important documents each year.  

For more information on notary services and how to become a notary, visit the Notary Services page on our website.

When you need something notarized, we encourage you to use the department's Notary Search feature to find a notary near you.


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