NC license plate agency customers question $5 cash notary fee

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Customers are raising questions about a license plate office that is charging a $5 cash fee for notary services.

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles does not issue license plates but it oversees privately run agencies that provide the service.

Recently, a CBS 17 viewer complained he was charged a $5 notary fee for the title application – which had to be paid in cash when he went to the license plate office on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh.

He claimed he was told there was no notary at the office but had to pay the fee anyway.

Dan Johnston Jr., co-owner of the license plate agency, wouldn’t speak on camera but told consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia everyone in his office is a notary.

Johnston also said he hires ex-DMV employees who are already trained in Notary practices.

But, some customers wonder why they were double charged by the person who took their title application.

“We switched two titles over and one title had already been notarized for him (his son) but they charged us two fees—two $5 fees,” said John Wilfong.

Some customers also complained they paid the notary fee but never saw their documents stamped.

Margarita Velazquez says she’s registered titles for 10 vehicles over the years. “I’ve never seen anybody stamp anything for a new title. I always pay my $5.” 

Johnston says under state statutes, a notary only has to witness the signature and that they are under no obligation to put their seal on it at that moment.

Johnston says when the office gets extremely busy, sometimes documents are set aside by the employee to be stamped later.

Customers like Velazquez also wonder about the cash fees.

“I’ve been asking myself a question – where does this go? Why does it have to be cash? Why can’t I pay the same way I pay for my registration?” she said.

Johnston says the credit card system in the office sends money directly to the state highway fund and so the cash fees collected by the agency are part of the employee’s compensation.

He admits having to pay cash frustrates many customers who are forced to use an ATM machine in the office which also charges a transaction fee.

He says he’s looking into some other way to collect those $5 cash fees.

Johnston says if anyone has any questions about whether their document was stamped, they can come to the office and he will pull the records to show the notary seal.

He says because they are required by state statute to notarize titles, office employees couldn’t get away with taking the fee without notarizing the document before it’s submitted to the state.

The North Carolina Secretary of State oversees those who are commissioned as a Notary Public.

Elaine Marshall’s office says you can file a complaint on their website which allows you to provide any supporting documents.

As for fees, Marshall says $5 is the standard fee for notarizing documents ($10 for electronic notarizations).

Her office also indicates a document may need to be notarized more than once in some circumstances. 

More headlines from CBS17.com:

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