Warning: Deed scam

Published 4:11 pm Sunday, July 27, 2014

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – In Latin they call it ‘caveat emptor’: “Let the buyer beware”.

Now Registers of Deeds across North Carolina are sounding out a warning about a California company that is mailing a “Recorded Deed Notice” to property owners instructing them to send a document fee of $83 within a certain deadline date in order to obtain a current grant deed and property assessment profile, according to a news release.

At the second monthly meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners during public comments, the county Register of Deeds Annie Wilson put some punctuation with the warning.

“I wanted to make the citizens aware of the mailing that’s circulating here and in the surrounding counties, and I have a letter I typed up and I’ve shared it with Jonathan (Huddleston, Assistant Bertie County Attorney) and Lloyd (Smith, Bertie County Attorney) and the County Manager (Scott Sauer) that I wanted advertised in the newspaper so that our citizens can be aware and let them know that if they need copies of their deeds they can visit our office or our website,” Wilson said.

The document company is called Record Transfer Services and is based in Westlake Village, California. The Better Business Bureau has given it an “F” grade for 11 complaints filed against the business in the past three years, according to the “Daily Journal” in Rockingham.

Wilson hesitated to call the document processing service a ‘scam’ as some of her fellow Registrars have, but admits that it began showing up in the western counties of North Carolina and spread eastward. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office and the N.C. Department of Justice are asking Registers of Deeds statewide to forward any reports of the solicitations to its office. The Attorney General’s Office has also gone to court to stop similar mailings, including one mailed into the state 18 months ago by another California firm named Local Records Office.

“They sent our association (the North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds) an e-mail telling us that we may want to alarm our citizens of it, and now it’s here,” Wilson said.

The Registrar went on to say that one lady in Bertie County received a notice in the mail and called her office to inquire about it.

“It’s here because I had a lady call about two weeks ago and she said that she did get this notice in the mail and she wanted to know if it came from us,” Wilson recounted. “I just wanted to alert them and let (them) know that they can come into our office and they can get a copy as cheap as 20 cents a page, or they can go on our website and get it for free.”

The Commissioners thanked Wilson for the information.

The Register of Deeds and Bertie County want you to be aware this information is available for free and you can acquire it yourself without paying a significant fee by visiting the Register of Deeds website www.bertie-live.inttek.net. A copy of a deed can be obtained by coming into the office for a minimal fee of as little as 20 cents per page.  Certified copies are $5 for the first page and $2 for each additional page. Those needing more information may call the Bertie County Register of Deeds office at (252) 794-5309.