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What Californians Ought to Know About Online Notarizations

Connect with a notary via webcam, email them your documents, and have them returned to you notarized in minutes — it sounds too good to be true! There is an online company that claims to provide this service, but unfortunately for Californians it is too good to be true.

Despite claims on their website that online notarizations are completely legal in all 50 states, there are many states that do not allow online notarizations.

The California Secretary of State has issued a customer alert advising that online notarization is invalid and illegal in the state of California. Governing agencies in other states have also issued statements defining online notarization illegal or invalid, including New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin, to name a few.

Why are online notarization services illegal in California?

Appearance via webcam is not the same as a personal appearance in front of a notary public under current law. Because personal appearance is a requirement to obtain a notarial act (such as an acknowledgement or jurat), an online notarization is considered invalid.

Don't risk your notary commission.

A California notary public who participates in online notarizations is putting their notary commission at risk. The California acknowledgement and jurat certificates refer to the personal appearance before the notary public. By completing a certificate without a personal appearance as defined by California law, you would be executing a false certificate, which is grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation of your commission.

Citizens who use online notaries may face the consequences.

Online notarization is a new concept and has yet to be adopted by the laws of most states. Completing notarized documents in person is a much more reliable way to ensure their legitimacy and integrity. Citizens would be wise to avoid participating in online notarization services — the amount of time and money it would cost to defend any questionable documents in court heavily outweighs the convenience of using an online notarization service.

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