A notary public is a public official appointed by the state government to serve as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. Notaries help prevent fraud by verifying the identity of the signers, ensuring that all parties are entering into agreements knowingly and willingly, and witnessing the signatures. Notaries can also administer oaths and affirmations, perform jurats (where the signer must swear or affirm that the content of the document is true), and execute acknowledgments (confirming identity and voluntary signing).