Kenwood Press

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Elderlaw: 12/15/2015

Elderlaw Advocates

Holiday Scams

Dear Readers:

The holidays are upon us, and our thoughts naturally turn to generosity and goodwill to all men and women. And if you can fake that, you can make a quick buck. Thereís a scam we want to write to you about.

In recent years, with the rapid expansion of the Internet, public records, including recorded deeds, are available online. Several companies have been created to take advantage of this by taking advantage of you. These companies obtain information about recently recorded deeds and send out solicitation letters to unsuspecting consumers.

What they offer you is this: For the low low price of Eighty-Nine Dollars and Zero Cents, theyíll obtain a property profile for you and also mail you a copy of the deed that was just recorded. The deed that you probably have already received in the mail from the County Recorder or your attorney. What a bargain!

Whatís a property profile? Itís just a printout from a database of the publically available information of the last deed recorded for a property. When we order property profiles for our clients, our cost is $1.50, and when we pull a deed, our cost is a whopping $10. We pass these costs on to our clients, for sure, but without a markup. Even after paying for the mass mailing, most of the $89 or so these companies make is pure profit.

Itís a rip off. You donít need to buy another copy of the deed to your home. Itís been recorded at the County Recorderís office. Even if you lose the deed to your home, or itís burned in a fire, you can get a copy from the County Recorder at a very low price. If your lawyer prepared the deed, then he or she has a copy in your file. Even if the County Recorderís office is damaged or destroyed, the records still exist and are all backed up. The Napa earthquake on Aug. 24, 2014, damaged the Napa County Recorderís office, which had to move to a new location. None of its recorded documents went missing.

These solicitation letters include disclaimers stating that the company is not affiliated with any government agency, but these letters are also intentionally designed to look official, and even the names of these companies (ďLocal Records OfficeĒ and ďRecord Transfer Services,Ē for example) imply an official government purpose. People who donít read the fine print, mostly seniors, the uneducated, uninformed, and cognitively impaired, read these letters and buy a copy they donít need of the deed they already have. Every year, we hear from a few clients who have been suckered by these letters. Donít do it.

What we find difficult to comprehend, is why these operators havenít been prosecuted, sued, or legislated out of existence. What they are doing reeks of unfair business practices under the Business & Professions Code. If you get one of these letters, donít throw it away. Instead, make copies, and mail them to the District Attorney, the California Attorney General, and your state legislators with a cover letter asking why they arenít doing anything about this.

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