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3 On Your Side: Misleading Mail

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some call it a scam that arrives in your mailbox. Official looking envelopes that appear to be from a government agency. But 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan warns, you may want to look twice before you get taken.

Tony Diamond gets lots of mail. But a letter from South Dakota stood out.

“It has all kinds of penalties and fines quoted on the envelope, looks real official,” said Diamond.

And inside, it looked even more official.  There was a bar code, details about his home and a notice that Diamond should send $83 dollars to get a copy of his deed.  A document used to transfer or prove ownership of a property.

“It did look like it was from the tax people,” said Diamond.

“They look in many cases like a bill,” said Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds, Nancy J. Becker.

But Becker says, it’s anything but a bill.

“Some of their information I think is a little bit misleading,” said Becker.

She says companies can purchase homeowner’s information, then resell it at greatly inflated prices.

“There are other ways of getting it in other than paying these companies these exorbitant fees,” said Becker.

If you own a home, there’s a good chance you already have these documents.

“You get the deed to your house right after you make settlement,” said Becker.

And if you do need to get copies, the price is much more reasonable if you get them on your own.

For example, in Montgomery County, you can walk in and request deed information for 50 cents a page.

A written request will run $5 to $10 depending on whether or not you need a certified copy.  Or you can get an electronic copy for 10.50 online.

So Nancy Becker has advice if you get a letter trying to sell you your deed information.

“Throw it in the trash,” said Becker.

Something Tony Diamond figured out on his own and hopes others will too.

“I’d like it to stop.  And I’d hate to see somebody else that falls for it,” said Diamond.

Deeds are considered public records. So anyone can get a copy.  So don’t be tricked into paying just because someone else has your information.

Calls to the company that sent out Tony Diamond’s letter were never returned.

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