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The Certified Copy Racket

by Robert Franco

 

Most of us have heard of National Deed Service. They are the outfit that sends very official looking letters to homeowners offering to provide them with a certified their deed for around $70. A copy which is available from the county for just a few dollars.

Recently, David Bloys, founder of News for Public Officials, sent me a one of the letters that National Deed Service sends to homeowners.

 

Our records, obtained from public information, show that Property Deed Document #XXXXX recorded December 11, 2006 indicates your ownership interest in the property located at 123 Main St.

At the time you purchased your property, a deed was prepared that shows the title was transferred to you. This deed was recorded by the Lubbock County County Clerk.

The U.S. Government Federal Citizen Information Center website recommends that property owners should have an official or certified copy of their deed. If you don't already have this important document, you may obtain one now. This document provides evidence that your property was transferred to you.

To obtain a Certified your Deed, complete the order form below and return it in the enclosed postage paid envelope with your payment of $69.50 which includes location, retrieval, postage and handling or fill in the credit card information below and either mail or fax your order to XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Due to the large number of transactions, this will be your only notice of our service.

All orders will be handled promptly.

National Deed Service, Inc.

[below this, is a stub to tear off and mail in with payment.]

The problem I have with this type of service, is that it takes advantage of the elderly, and those who don't know that they can get this copy themselves for next to nothing. The other side of this, as some people see it, is that it is a convenience that may be worth the fee. However, they don't sell it that way; they don't let people know how to obtain it themselves for a few dollars and offer to provide the convenience. Instead they create a sense of need and hope that people will pay the fee out of a fear of what could happen if they don't.

Regardless, the scam seems to have caught on with another company that saw a way to make a fast buck. Florida Record Retrieval, Inc. is doing the same thing and officials in Florida have issued warnings.

An excerpt from Sun-Sentinel.com, Don't be fooled by letter offering $60 deed, county officials warn.

Broward and Palm Beach county officials are warning residents not to be fooled by the official-looking letters from Plantation-based Florida Record Retrieval Inc. They say most people never need a certified their deeds, and the documents can be easily and cheaply obtained directly from county records. They fear elderly and other unsuspecting homeowners could be fooled.

An investigation last year by state Attorney General Bill McCollum led the company to agree in writing to follow laws against misleading advertising, contribute $10,000 to a consumer-protection program and pay $25,000 in state legal bills. An investigation in the spring by Broward County's Consumer Affairs Division resulted in further changes to Florida Record's letters.

"This looks like a very legal note that people are getting, and they might think that it's something that they really need," Broward Clerk of Court Howard Forman said. "You shouldn't charge people $60 for something they can get at little cost."

I find this tactic appalling, personally. I'm glad to see at least one state's attorney general taking some action. It would be nice to see investigations across the country into these scams. I can only assume that this has been a profitable venture... otherwise, you would think the cost of the direct mail campaign and the $35,000 expense Florida Record Retrieval paid would be enough to put an end to the practice. But, apparently, they are still going at it.

What do you think? Is this just a creative, legitimate way to earn revenue in a down market? Or, is it just another scam? What would you think if your grandmother paid $70 for a her deed?

About the author:

Robert A. Franco has been in the title industry for nearly 15 years in the state of Ohio. The owner of VersaTitle, a full service abstracting and title company, and the founder and president of Source of Title, a Web site devoted to providing media and marketing services to the title industry, Franco has dedicated much of his professional career to furthering the role and significance of title examiners in the title insurance industry. 

 

 

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