Protecting Personal and Confidential Information

It’s so essential for notaries’ public and loan signing agents to handle private and sensitive personal information with extreme care and caution. Both notaries’ public and loan signing agents understand that gaining access to social security numbers or tax information is the easiest way to commit fraud, file false tax refunds, or even steal your identity.

Imagine this situation…You are a loan signing agent headed to your local Starbucks to get some work done. As you double-check, sort, and bundle mortgage documents on the cafe table, the Barista calls your name. Without thinking, you get up to get your coffee and turn your back to the table. While you are away, someone sitting next to you notices the information on your documents. Without you detecting, they snap a quick picture on their phone camera. Within seconds, a stranger now has your client’s name, address, social security number, and other sensitive personal information. Your clients are potential identity theft victims, and it is yours, the loan signing agent’s fault.

What kind of sensitive information do notaries’ public and loan signing agents handle?

During virtually any notarial act or closing, signers disclose personal and private information on varying documents. Signers supply basic information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, etc., but they may also provide much more potentially damaging information if it were to be compromised. When details like driver’s license information, bank account numbers, financial details, and social security numbers are compromised, it is much more severe and potentially detrimental to the client’s identity.

How do notaries’ public and loan signing agents protect clients’ personal information?

Notaries’ public and loan signing agents must take appropriate steps to ensure privacy by not using, sharing, or mishandling personal information and preventing any possible information breach.

Notaries’ public and loan signing agents prevent tax identity theft and protect their client’s personal information by:

  1. Following state privacy laws and regulations
  2. Staying organized
  3. Never disclosing personal information
  1. Following State Privacy Laws & Regulations

Notary2Pro advises that all notaries’ public and loan signing agents familiarize themselves with state privacy laws and regulations and ALWAYS follow any notary laws regarding appropriate journal entry information. Some states prohibit notaries’ public or loan signing agents from recording certain signer information in a journal entry. In contrast, some states do not require notaries’ public or loan signing agents to keep a notary journal at all.

For example, in a journal entry, notaries’ public in Texas can not record any identifying number (SSN or driver’s license number) or biometric identifiers (fingerprints). State laws forbid notaries public in Montana from recording specific information unique to a signer’s identity (DLN, SSN, or birthdate). Notaries’ public or loan signing agents in Ohio cannot record Social Security numbers in their journals when entering information about a remote notarization.

States that require a notary to keep a journal include: District of Columbia, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Some things to keep in mind: On one page, the NNA notary diary lists approximately 20 notarial acts. A difficulty with this is that when notarizing something for a client and handing them your journal to sign, your client may be able to see earlier notarial actions that you accomplished. Fortunately, there are notary privacy screens. Newer journals feature one page per signer, which is considerably better. Also, if you have several appointments scheduled, keep packets separate so you don’t give the wrong documents to the wrong person. Notary2Pro faculty member Andrea Douling suggested that printing the last name on the exterior of the envelopes was incredibly beneficial for her.

  1. Staying Organized

Successful notaries’ public and loan signing agents are highly organized, cautiously handle sensitive information, and are up-to-date on their records.

Physical Client Personal Information

Notary2Pro recommends to all of our graduates that they should ALWAYS keep their client’s personal information locked away regardless of state rules and regulations. Although most states require notaries’ public and loan signing agents to lock up all their clients’ personal information, some states do not. Removing potential access to paperwork, official stamps, or confidential client information ensures that the wrong hands don’t get ahold of sensitive or personal tax information.

Electronic Client Personal Information

It is almost impossible to run a successful and effective notary public or loan signing agent business without the use of electronics, software programs, and smart applications. Although technology provides countless benefits to our businesses, it also provides a potential threat.

Some effective ways to keep your devices protected:

  • Keep all computers, tablets, and smartphones password protected.
  • Ensure all passwords follow the best practices and are strong.
  • Protect your passwords! DO NOT write them down and leave them on your desk.
  • If you must write them down, use password encryption and lock them with other important documents.
  • Always update your operating system and other programs to reduce the risk of cyber attacks.
  • Follow best email practices and never click spam messages.
  • Stay off all public WiFi.
  • Notary2Pro faculty member Stephanie Rowland uses Virtual Private Network (VPN) or her cell phone mobile hotspot when working in public spaces.
  • Use an app that can locate all of your devices.
  • DO NOT allow anyone to use any of your electronic devices used for your notary business
  1. Never Disclose Personal Information

Notaries’ public and loan signing agents will never disclose a signer’s personal information or give anyone access to a signer’s social security number or tax identification for any reason, including sharing information on social media or through video channels such as YouTube.

For example, a notary public or loan signing agent will never discuss their work with friends or family: “I just did a notarization today for Sarah from the flower shop. She’s buying a new store, and you won’t believe how much she paid. I saw her loan documents!”

Here are some pointers from Andrea on how to do closings in public settings:

“I try to be seated somewhere secluded where we can have a conversation out of earshot of others.” Andrea explains, “I prefer to have my back to a wall to ensure that no one is looking over my shoulder at the documents, and that allows me to have a full shot of those that are around us.” Remember not to state any figures out loud. While pointing, inform signers of what they’re seeing (e.g., “This is your loan amount…this is your interest rate, etc.”).

In Case of Emergency

Mistakes happen, but there are usually hefty consequences for loan signing agents and notaries’ public liable for a client’s identity theft. The notary public or loan signing agent is ultimately responsible for securing personal client information. If personal client information is ever compromised, it is important to remember that handling the situation upfront and honestly can help limit potential damage to the client’s information and finances.

In the event a signing agent suspect that client data has been compromised, it is important to take the following immediate steps to mitigate any potential harm or negative consequences.

Here are the steps that a Notary should follow in such a situation:

  1. Report and Acknowledge the Incident: Recognize and accept that a data breach or unauthorized disclosure of PII has occurred. It is crucial to address the issue promptly and not ignore or downplay it.
  2. Contain the Situation: Take immediate steps to contain the breach and prevent any further unauthorized access or sharing of the client’s PII. This may involve securing physical documents, disabling access to digital files, or changing passwords to prevent additional unauthorized disclosures.
  3. Work with your title company or signing service to assess the Impact: Evaluate the extent of the breach and assess the potential risks and harm to the affected individual. Understand what specific PII was lost or shared and determine the potential consequences of such exposure.
  4. Notify the Affected Individual: Inform the affected client as soon as possible about the breach and provide a clear explanation of what happened. Most title companies will want to offer assistance or guidance to help mitigate potential harm, such as recommending steps they can take to protect themselves from identity theft or fraud.
  5. Review and Improve Security Measures: Conduct a thorough review of existing security protocols and procedures to identify any gaps or weaknesses that may have contributed to the incident. Implement enhanced security measures and safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future.
  6. Learn from the Incident: Treat the incident as a learning opportunity and incorporate the lessons learned into future practices to improve security.
  7. Finally, Maintain Transparency and Trust: Communicate openly and transparently with clients and stakeholders about the incident, the actions taken, and the measures implemented to prevent similar occurrences. Rebuilding trust is essential for maintaining a positive professional reputation.

Remember, the specific steps to address a data breach or unauthorized disclosure of PII may vary depending on local laws, regulations, and industry guidelines. Notaries should consult legal professionals and relevant authorities to ensure compliance with applicable requirements and best practices.

A Note From Notary2Pro

We hope you find peace of mind from us providing the general steps notaries’ public, and loan signing agents take to protect their client’s personal information and prevent tax identity theft.

When hiring a notary public or loan signing agent, please pay attention to their habits. Notary2Pro reminds you that successful and trustworthy notaries’ public and loan signing agents follow state privacy laws and regulations, stay organized, and never disclose their client’s personal information.

Notary2Pro urges notary publics and loan signing agents to familiarize themselves with applicable tax codes, always comply with IRS regulations, and take extreme precautions when handling sensitive information.

Notary2Pro recommends that notaries’ public and loan signing agents NEVER shadow other notaries due to privacy laws protecting sensitive information. Some states will allow you to shadow another notary public or loan signing agent (with written permission from both the document signer/borrower and the hiring company). However, suppose the borrower states they did not want the shadowing notary public or loan signing agent present but felt pressured into being polite or accommodating. In that case, they can say they felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be rude, and both notaries may suffer the consequences.

To Learn More

To learn more about practices to make you a successful professional loan signing agent, and see all of the great tools and resources available to you, check out Notary2Pro.com. Take a look at Notary2Pro’s Elite course, the industry’s most respected, recognized, and comprehensive loan signing agent training available. 

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