Little Compton town clerk warns about scam

LITTLE COMPTON — Town Clerk Carol Wordell is warning town residents about a mail scam that may be under way statewide or in Little Compton and Tiverton.

What’s happening, Ms. Wordell says, is that “some Rhode Island residents are receiving a notice in the mail from a firm suggesting that they need to obtain, for an $83 fee, a copy of their property deed and a report.”

This is false, Ms. Wordell said. “Technically, a resident only needs to pay for the photocopying cost of the document, usually a page or two in length, at $1.50 per page,” and there is no additional charge, she said.

The $83 referred to in the scam notice some people are being sent appears to be going to the individuals perpetrating the scam, she said.

Accompanying Ms. Wordell’s warning was a reprint of an article about the scam that appeared in The Westerly Sun (by writer Cynthia Drummond) on December 7, 2012.

Ms. Wordell said a blast e-mail, attaching the article, was sent to all town clerks in the state informing them about the scam. The article notes that the Town Clerk’s Association referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Fraud Unit.

Ms. Wordell’s warning was followed Thursday afternoon by Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin’s own warning to Rhode Islanders about “deed processing notice” letters that purport to offer a “complete deed and property profile” for a fee.

The attorney general said the notices look official, and list the property information, including parcel and zone identification. Recent home buyers are targeted and are urged to respond quickly. Since the companies are sending the letters shortly after a property closes, the attorney general said, new homeowners may not think it unreasonable that there may be additional title fees owed.

“You do not have to pay exorbitant fees for a copy of your deed,” said the attorney general. “When you purchase a home, your title company should process the deed so there is no need to pay a secondary agency for what you probably have already or can obtain yourself from your Town Clerk’s office for a few dollars. These solicitations do not come from a governmental agency; they are private companies trying to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.”

The notices have originated from several different companies purporting to be “record transfer” or “deed retrieval” services, said the attorney general. News reports warning property owners of this type of solicitation have surfaced across the country.

“Without close inspection, people may just toss these notices in their pile of bills to be paid,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “Especially at this time of year when finances are tight for many families, we do not want new homeowners to fall victim to this deceptive marketing.”

If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, the attorney general asks that you contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Department of Rhode Island Attorney General at (401) 274-4400. You can download a consumer complaint by visitingthe attorney general’s website at www.riag.ri.gov. You can also e-mail the attorney general at contactus@riag.ri.gov.

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