Take a look at this item that I received in the mail.


You’ve probably received similar mailings yourself. What do you think when you first look at this? Scam? That’s what came to my mind.

Not really a scam. A scam would probably be outright theft. This is a solicitation to buy insurance. I’m guessing the insurance is real, and that if you had a legitimate claim, the company would pay. Therefore, scam is probably too strong a term.

Shady is more accurate. The product is real, but the form of solicitation is deceptive. Who would try to get you to buy insurance without any thorough explanation of what the insurance is or why you need it? A shady operator.

These types of solicitations are becoming more common. They look in all respects like an invoice for something already contracted for, with only the words “This is not a bill,” a disclaimer required by federal postal law. When it is sent to businesses, the accounts payable clerk sometimes sends a payment without realizing it is just a solicitation.

Who needs this insurance? Under what circumstances could a notary be sued? What are the chances that a notary will be sued and will be personally liable? Would good faith be a defense, and would bad faith prevent you from collecting on the policy? If that did happen, would a $25,000 policy be worthwhile?

The designers of this solicitation are probably hoping you won’t ask these questions, or any questions.

This is the type of solicitation that runs very close to provoking an inquiry by authorities for deceptive advertising. In fact , this "Phony Invoice" may be illegal (scroll down to Federal Law).

So would you believe that our Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer has formed a “partnership” with this group? Whatever was she thinking about?

In 2005, the Secretary of State’s office took over responsibility for notary registration. This “partnership” was evidently formed shortly thereafter. As a notary, I have been receiving solicitations from this group for years and have always promptly disposed of them in the recycling, after some muttering.

On our Secretary of State website and in the mail, Mary Kiffmeyer has urged us notaries to take seminars put on by this group (at minimum $59 per show). We are warned that we could face serious legal and financial problems if we don't follow proper procedures, that we should recognize the importance of attending "Survival Skills for Notaries," that we need this to avoid common and potentially costly pitfalls.

Truth is, everything you need to know as a Notary could be expressed in ten bullet points, and if the Secretary were concerned about Minnesota notaries she would put those bullet points on the SOS website in a prominent place instead of scaring us into spending our money and time (or our employer's) on a seminar.

I don’t doubt that the seminars are entertaining. Some of the attendees have told me so. Stories about fraud are interesting. But the seminars are not promoted as interesting--they are promoted as necessary. This group also puts on seminars advertising Notary Signing Agent as a Rewarding New Career. In Minnesota, notaries are restricted by law to charging $1. You’d have to do a lot of notarizing to make a living–-you probably wouldn’t even make enough to pay for the insurance they’re tricking you into buying.

Minnesota doesn’t need partnerships with organizations that have to resort to deception to get revenues. Mary Kiffmeyer has exercised poor judgment–-again.

I would be happy to hear from anyone who has taken these seminars or bought this insurance. I would be particularly interested to know if any notary out there has been sued. Write to bruce@bk4sos.org