CONSUMER ALERT: COSTLY DEEDS MAY BE BAD DEAL

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September 11, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – When Arkansas consumers sort through their mail, one official-looking solicitation may get their attention. It’s the hope of the solicitor to get their money, too.

Arkansas property owners have received solicitations from a company offering to obtain and sell to consumers a copy of their property deeds for $89. The solicitor’s mailing encourages consumers to purchase a “property profile” and a copy of “the only document that identifies you as a property owner.” That document is a deed, which many property owners already possess or can purchase at a much lower price.

Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today so that Arkansas consumers can avoid paying for an unnecessary service.

“While solicitations of this type may not violate Arkansas consumer protection laws,  they are cunning attempts to convince consumers to buy a document rather than just go to the county courthouse and obtain a copy for a lot less than $89,” McDaniel said.

The solicitor acknowledges in its mailings that it is not affiliated with any government entity and that its solicitation of services should not be interpreted as a bill that is due. It also contains a disclaimer that states that property owners may obtain deeds or records of title from the county in which their property is located. However, the solicitation is presented in a fashion suggesting that it is somehow “official," and that might cause consumers confusion, even with the disclosures.
 
Property owners are asked to send a check to cover an $89 “processing fee” for a deed and property-profile document that it would create. That profile would include comparable values, neighborhood demographics and reports about schools in the area.

Though receiving such documents through a private service may be convenient in some instances, that’s not necessarily true in every case. McDaniel encouraged consumers to weigh convenience versus cost. Additionally, copies of a property deed are usually included with settlement papers at closing, so most homeowners already have a copy of their deed.

McDaniel urged consumers to do their homework when considering whether to pay a fee for services. There are a number of solicitations that consumers may receive seeking payment for services, despite the fact that consumers can do research in many cases on their own, and often for free. Other types of solicitations include offers to search government databases and records to see if the government owes money or unclaimed property.

Before pursuing such services, consumers should contact local or state government agencies to determine whether they can save time and money by handling the matter on their own.

In addition, McDaniel said consumers should remember to be cautious about what entities they provide with personal or financial information, especially if the information is provided in response to unsolicited mailings or phone calls.

For more information about this or other consumer-related issues, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982.
 

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