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MARSHALL CO. â€” County Auditor Penny Lukenbill recently warned the public of a scam seemingly targeting first-time homebuyers.
In the past few weeks, some new homeowners in Marshall County have received a letter from a Washington, D.C. company asking them to pay an $83 fee for a copy of their property deed.
â€śA lot of people are falling for thisâ€¦itâ€™s just another attempt to scam the public,â€ť said Lukenbill to county commissioners in their regularly scheduled meeting Monday.
Property deeds â€” which are public record â€” are available for $1 a page at the county recorderâ€™s office, and the typical deed is only two pages long. A copy of the deed is also included in paperwork received from a title company when purchasing the home.
County recorder Marlene Mahler said that new homeowners are at risk because they may not be aware the letter is not an official document.
â€ś(The company) is looking for first-time homeowners because they donâ€™t know what they are doing,â€ť said Mahler. â€ś(The letter) looks official. If you read the small print it says that it is not a bill, itâ€™s a solicitation. But people tend to not read the small print.â€ť
The letter is emblazoned with the words â€śDeed Processing Noticeâ€ť along with a due date and a threatened late fee of $35.
The bottom of the letter reads â€śSecured Document is not affiliated with the county in which your deed is filed in, nor affiliated with any government agenciesâ€¦you are under no obligation to pay the amount stated, unless you accept this offer.â€ť
Mahler said that sheâ€™s called the company and asked them to stop sending the letter to residents of Marshall County.
â€śBut itâ€™s not illegal, so they can do what they want,â€ť said Mahler. â€śThe only thing we can do is make sure people know they donâ€™t have to (pay the fee).â€ť
Mahler said that according to other county recorders she spoke with at a seminar last week, this type of situation is happening all over the state of Indiana.
â€śThis same letter came out of California about six months ago, and now itâ€™s started again â€” from Washington D.C. this time,â€ť said Mahler.
If youâ€™ve received a letter like this, Mahler said the best thing to do is ignore it. If you are interested in getting a copy of your property deed, visit the county recorderâ€™s office, located on the second floor of the Marshall County Building. With questions or concerns, contact Mahler at 574-935-8515.
Mahler also mentioned that homeowners concerned about property fraud can sign up for a free service called property fraud alert. This service notifies homeowners by phone or e-mail any time an action is taken on their property at the recorderâ€™s office. For more about how to subscribe, visit www.propertyfraudalert.com, call the hotline at 1-800-728-3858, or call the recorderâ€™s office at 574-935-8515.