By Emily Bialkowski
A scam first reported in October by Houston County Recorder Bev Bauer has spread through the state like a bad weed and prompted Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson to issue a public service announcement warning consumers about the problem.
The scam works like this: A deceptive letter is mailed to homeowners that, at first blush, looks like a bill from a government agency. The mailings attempt to get homeowners to pay upward of $90 for a copy of their real estate deed or property profile. Buzzwords like “U.S. Government,” “official” and “certified copy” may be used to get homeowners to pay, the attorney general wrote in her announcement.
Homeowners in Houston County can obtain a certified copy of their deed at the recorder’s office for just $10.
In October Bauer told the county board about a resident who received such a letter. Since then, the attorney general’s office has fielded the same complaint.
“I guess it is a bigger problem than what I thought in October,” Bauer said. “It’s becoming a big deal. I think we really need to get it out there.”
In that light, Bauer is posting information on Houston County’s website, www.co.houston.mn.us, while also using local media to spread the word.
The attorney general said these mailings count on the fact that many homeowners don’t know how, where or when to get their deed to the home. Situations in which you need a copy of your property deed may include:
• Buying or selling your house
• Refinancing your mortgage
• Transferring title to your house
When in doubt on property documentation, call or stop by the Houston County Courthouse where Bauer and her staff can provide accurate information. Homeowners do not need to pay a private company to obtain documentation.