When you purchase real estate or take out a mortgage, the vesting deed and security deed are recorded in the county’s real estate records, which are open to the public. The information made public is the purchase price, loan amount, and names on title. The real estate documents do not disclose the terms of your mortgage, like interest rate or monthly payment amounts, however.
A few bad actors use this public information to generate misleading letters and fake invoices to the homeowners. This has been going on for years.
These letters are usually marked as “Urgent” or “Final Notice” to incite panic in the homeowner to get them to act without thinking. The most common scam is a letter charging you to get a certified copy of your deed for $80 to over $100. Only the fine print will state that the company selling the certified copy is NOT affiliated with any government agency, and it is not an invoice. Yet the notice is formatted to look exactly like an invoice, even including a payment coupon.
Do not pay $80 or more to any company to get a certified copy of your deed. As a buyer, you will receive the original recorded deed, (and title insurance policy if you purchased title insurance), shortly after closing without any additional costs. If you ever need a certified copy, clerks usually charge less than $5 to provide one.
A newer scam is to find people who have owned their home for about a year and send out a “Final Renewal Notice” for a home warranty. It is not a renewal at all, but an offer to enroll in a home warranty program. The mailing hopes to get people who had a home warranty to enroll with this new company. The notice will have “Immediate Response Requested”, or “Please Call Immediately”, and other statements on the document to put as much pressure as possible on the homeowner to just sign and send in the voucher. The voucher requires a signature, which enrolls the person in a new home warranty program.
The whole point of these notices is to get people to sign up without providing the coverage information of the home warranty. The mailing about the “Home Warranty” does not even provide the name of the home warranty company or the cost of the warranty.
Do not sign any notices or forms without reading them carefully and knowing who sent the document.
John C. Bennett is a real estate closing attorney and owner of Origin Title and Escrow, Inc.. Since 2003, Origin Title has handled real estate transactions – purchases, refinances, reverse mortgages – quickly and professionally. There will be no surprises, nothing misunderstood. Title searches are thorough and well-reasoned, to avoid unpleasant surprises later down the road. Calculate your closing costs in Georgia or Florida using our calculator or contact Origin Title using this form.