Hank Investigates: Deceptive Deeds

(WHDH) – We all get bills in our mailboxes, but Hank’s found one you may not need to pay! She reveals certain consumers are being targeted with official-looking invoices, when they actually don’t owe a dime. Will one be delivered to you?   Hank Investigates.

After she closed on her new home in Millis, Elizabeth thought she was through with all the real estate documents and legal paperwork. Then she got an official-looking letter.

Elizabeth: “I actually did do a double take.”

It looked like a bill from Norfolk County with her name and info about her home, like square footage and the year it was built. It had a requested response date and said Elizabeth needed to pay 83 dollars for her “current grant deed” and a “property assessment profile” to “provide evidence” that the property “transferred” to her.

Elizabeth: “And I said do I really need this?”

Well, Elizabeth, the answer is no.

Hank: “This looks like a bill. Is this a bill from you?”

William O’Donnell, Norfolk County Register of Deeds: “It’s not a bill at all. I think they’re taking advantage of the consumer.”

Everything on the list this letter offers – from your deed to your tax assessment, you can get free.

Not for 83 dollars. Free! You can walk into your local registry of deeds or go online and get it all yourself.

Hank: “Is there any cool secret information on this list?”

O’Donnell: “Not that I can see, not at all.”

And we found registry officials across the country suspect letters like this are being used to target people who just bought a new home.

What’s more: Attorney General’s Office in Massachusetts and Minnesota has issued warnings about the letters —saying people should “beware of deceptive mailings”

O’Donnell: “It may be legal, but I think it’s unconscionable.”

The California company that sent Elizabeth her letter told us they’re providing “a property report which includes a complementary deed.” They admit it’s something homeowners can obtain themselves at no cost – but they say they’re offering a service.

They point to the disclaimers saying “it’s not associated with any governmental agency”—see that?  And “this is not a bill. This is a solicitation.”

Homeowners like Elizabeth who was savvy enough to finally toss the letter, put it another way:

Elizabeth: I just don’t think it’s right.

Experts say you don’t ever really need to have a copy of your deed. If you sell or refinance your home, the bank or closing attorneys will get a copy.

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