Beware of Deed Scam in Maryland by Alexander M. Pagnotta (Audio)
If you have recently purchased a home or transferred real estate into your Trust, beware of scammers who try and fool you out of at least $90. They try to make you think that you need to purchase the deed and other documentation to your home, when in reality you do not need to pay top dollar for these documents. To combat this problem, you should know why the recording process is important, what information is public record, what the scam entails, things to look for to spot the scam, and what you should do if you receive the scam in the mail.
What does it mean to record a deed and why is it important?
Whenever there is a real estate transaction, a deed should be recorded in the Maryland Land Records. This gives notice to the public as to whom has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the property. Without this recording process, there would be no way to establish clear title – there would be no way to know for certain who owned what property. While recording a deed is a necessity, a potential downside is that information then becomes public record.
What information is public record?
Whenever a deed gets recorded, information related to the transaction becomes available to the public through the Maryland Land Records. In particular, your name, address, price, and a description of the property is available online at https://mdlandrec.net/main/index.cfm. Since this information is readily available, scammers use it to try and convince you that you need to pay top dollar for certain documents. The key to not getting tricked is to recognize the scam when you see it.
What is the scam and how do you spot it?
A solicitation will come to you in the mail. It will look official. It may include information such as your name, address, and property information. The solicitation will then ask you to pay $90 or more to receive the deed and other documents related to your property. Scammers get your information by searching the land records. If you get a solicitation with the above information, do not pay any money. The deed to the property is mailed to you free of charge after the deed gets recorded. If at any time you need a copy of your deed, you can contact the County Clerk who will issue a copy for much less than $90.
What should you do if you receive the scam in the mail?
First and foremost, do not send any money. In general, any solicitation asking you to pay money after you purchase property or transfer it into your trust is a scam. If you have any questions about a deed prepared by our office, please contact us at (410) 573-4818. If you still feel uncertain, you can also contact the County Clerk for further guidance.
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