Scammers are approaching new home owners and trying to trick them into paying $83 for unnecessary property records — including deeds that are available for a few bucks at county government offices or are already supplied at the end of a real estate transaction, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports.
Fake companies reportedly are soliciting customers with a formal-looking letter that resembles a government bill. The companies are using multiple names for their business, such as Record Transfer Services, Property Transfer Services, Conveyance Transfer Services, Record Retrieval Department, and National Deed Service. They often use a similar phone number: 888-874-4669.
In a recent case in Wisconsin, new home owners were asked for an $83 "document fee" for a deed and "real property records" by a certain deadline.
"Some people don't even call and ask the question," says Sherieda Wilder, a records clerk with the Milwaukee County register of deeds office. "They just automatically send [the money]. They're just excited they get their house."
Graig Goldman, a real estate broker with RE/MAX Lakeside Realty in Milwaukee, first alerted the Sentinel about the scam after two of his clients approached him separately within two months of purchasing a house to ask why they had received another bill.
At the bottom of the letter was a disclaimer: "The company Record Transfer Services is not affiliated with the State of WI or the County Recorder. ... This offer serves as a solicitation for services and [is] not to be interpreted as a bill due."
"For people who don't understand the real estate process or that a deed exists, they think they have to pay this," says Cori Lamont, director of regulatory affairs with the Wisconsin Realtors Association.