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Real estate scam pops up in county

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Letter recipients should ignore request for money

By Brandon Mattingly

A letter has been making the rounds to Washington County residents in recent weeks in an attempt to scam recipients out of money for a copy of their property deed.

The letters may look authentic, but Washington County PVA Chief Deputy Marilyn O’Bryan said they’re anything but.

“People get that letter thinking that it came from us because it looks so official,” she said. “We want to make it known that this is a scam and people need to be aware of it.

“We’re just afraid too many people in the county will get this letter and some may go through with the request, but it’s a scam,” O’Bryan added.

The letters even include a warning that there is a “$2,000 fine, 5 years imprisonment or both” for anyone obstructing the notice’s delivery, and includes the recipient’s public real estate information.

A copy of one of the letters, which was turned in to Springfield Police and shared with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, indicates a return address in Westlake Village, Calif. to a company named Record Transfer Services.

The company, as a quick Internet search reveals, has popped up in several publications around the country dating back to at least 2012. The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee reported the scam in their area in February of this year, while the Warwick Beacon (Warwick, R.I.) and Billings Gazette (Billings, Mont.) each had stories about the letters showing up in their area in December 2012. The Better Business Bureau gives Record Transfer Services a grade of “F” on its official web site (www.bbb.org) based on a high number of complaints.

It has also been noted that the company targets residents who have recently completed a real estate transaction, asking for $83 in return for a copy of their “Current Grant Deed” and “Property Assessment Profile.”

Copies of personal property deeds are available at the Washington County Clerk’s Office and can be purchased at 25 cents per page.

Though the document appears authentic, it does state that the service has “not been approved or endorsed by any government agency,” and that recipients are under no obligation to pay the stated amount.

Anyone receiving a letter from Record Transfer Services is advised to disregard the request.