AG halts mailing scamPublished 6:04pm Friday, November 30, 2012
Letters claim consumers need to pay California company $89 for deeds
A California company has been ordered to stop sending misleading letters to North Carolina consumers, trying to get them to pay $89 for a copy of a property deed available for free or at little cost from their local government, Attorney General Roy Cooper said yesterday.
“Trying to trick people into paying for free public records isn’t honest business,” Cooper said. “Consumers let us know about these letters and now we’re taking action to stop them.”
According to a press release from the Attorney General’s Office, on Thursday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. temporarily barred LA Investors and its agent Juan Roberto Romero Ascencio from sending the letters to, or processing payments from, North Carolina residents. Cooper is seeking a permanent ban on the mailings, refunds for consumers who paid the fee and civil penalties.
In the complaint, North Carolinians report getting letters from “Local Records Office” telling them to send $89 in order to get a copy of their property deed. While the letters look official, they come from a California company, not a government agency. The letters tell consumers to send payment to an address in Raleigh, which is actually a mail drop at the UPS Store in Cameron Village Shopping Center, according to the release.
Nicole Talley, public information officer for the Attorney General’s Office, said no one region was targeted by the scammers — the letters have been sent to consumers across the state. It will only be through the discovery process as the case moves forward that officials will find out exactly how many North Carolina residents have fallen prey to the scam, she said.
The press release said that The UPS Store is cooperating with the investigation, but the scammers may have started sending letters using another mail drop address located in Washington, DC. The United States Postal Inspection Service is helping Cooper’s office investigate the case.
According to the release, Cooper contends that LA Investors routinely sends out letters to people who have recently been involved in a real estate transaction. The letters include language such as “respond promptly” and have a “respond by” date to make the matter seem urgent.
There have been similar scams in past years: State Records Retrieval Service, which sent similar property deed mailings; Corporate Services, which claimed that businesses owed it $125 for failing to file their corporate minutes; and The Mandatory Poster Agency, which claimed to sell workplace labor law notices that are really available for free.
“Scammers know a mailing that looks like it comes from a government official will get your attention,” Cooper said. “Don’t respond to an unexpected letter asking you for money without checking it out thoroughly and don’t pay good money for something you can get for free.”