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Attorney General Warns of Fraudulent Document Scammers in Tri-Cities, Yakima

Watch for scams coming in the mail from document companies
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If you ever need copies of official documents (deeds, property titles, etc.) ALWAYS go through official government offices!

Janet Guthrie, Communications Director for the Attorney General’s office, says numerous residents have been receiving official-looking notices in the mail from a “Local Records Office” informing them they can purchase copies of their local government records for only $89. These include titles, deeds and other local government-related paperwork.

Guthrie says these are scams. The Yakima Herald-Republic recently noted such documents are often available for only $1 per copy through county auditor offices.

According to the news brief:

Local Records Office is not the first company to offer high-priced copies of property deeds to Washington residents.  In 2011, the Attorney General’s Office settled withState Record Retrieval Board, a company that sent deceptive notices to Washington residents, informing them that if they didn’t pay $87 to obtain a copy of their deed, they would be charged an additional $35 for missing the “deadline.”     

Guthrie says some of the things to look for on the letters when you check your mail:

These businesses deceive consumers by sending letters that look like they were sent by government agencies.  While the letters do include a disclaimer that the company is not affiliated with any government agency, the letters also employ a number of deceptive tactics, including:

·       Language on the outside of the envelope citing state or federal laws and advising that any person interfering with or obstructing the delivery of the letter faces a $2,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment;

·       A message instructing consumers to respond promptly;

·       A “Please Respond By” date which creates a false sense of urgency;

·       Sections for “Property Zone,” “Assessed Value,” “Use Code,” and “Legal Property Address” that create the impression of governmental action, responsibility and oversight; and

·       Out-of-state business and professional codes that create a false sense of authority and legitimacy. 

If you have received such a letter, or suspect any kind of similar activity, you are encouraged to report it to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-800-551-4636 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays for the Consumer Complaint Line.

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