INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A letter received by homeowners across Indiana has been labeled as misleading by the state's attorney general.
On Tuesday, a number of county recorders joined Greg Zoeller in announcing the filing of a series of lawsuits against companies that send out a document labeled as a "deed processing notice."
The state claims three individuals in California have targeted Indiana homeowners using multiple company names.
Fishers Realtor Marsha Lingle got one of the documents in her mailbox last fall.
"At first, I thought it was legit. I thought--what is this? It must be a bill. It said, send this much money in to this location within 21 days. There was a deadline," she told 24-Hour News 8.
Lingle put the bill aside and said she forgot about it. But, then she received another bill.
"And, I thought, now wait a minute: maybe this is something I'm supposed to do. So, I looked closer. And, that's when I saw it," she said.
24-Hour News 8 obtained a letter received by a resident of Boone County. In that example, the paper originated from a company called Record Transfer Service.
The mailer included detailed information of the specific property and suggested the homeowner send $83 to 1776 I Street NW ninth floor in Washington, D.C.
Descriptions of the service included within the letter clarify that it is not a bill.
"Record Transfer Service is not affiliated with the county in which your deed is filed in, nor affiliated with any government agencies. This offer serves as a solicitation for services," the mailer states.
The lawsuits allege the companies violated the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the Deceptive Commercial Solicitation Act, by sending mailers that suggest recipients pay for a copy of their grant deed.
"It looks as if these are government enterprises," Zoeller said. "They appear to be like a government agency.
They've even used a P.O. Box from Capitol Street, so it looks like it came from the Capitol."
Homeowners do not need to keep a copy of their grant deed, as it is kept by the county recorder's office, Zoeller said.
"That's what they do. They have a copy of your deed. And their position helps those who do need a copy of their deed for transfer of title, insurance, things where a deed is necessary," Zoeller said.
"They are relying on the lack of knowledge that the county residents have," agreed Marion County Recorder Julie Vorhees. "You can receive a copy of your deed, upon request to any records office in your county for one dollar. And, you can get a certified copy for five dollars."
"I'm a Realtor, and I almost got fooled, because it looks so real," Lingle said. "I'm glad someone is doing something to keep people from being taken advantage of like this."
The Attorney General's office is seeking an injunction, consumer restitution, civil penalties and investigative costs in lawsuits filed against the three California-based companies. If you believe you've been a victim of a misleading mailing, contact the Attorney General's office by clicking here.
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