'Money for nothing': your deed is FREE! - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Money for nothing': your deed is FREE!

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(WMC TV) - The mailer reads, "Deed Processing Notice." Looks official. Looks like a bill.

The sender is Record Transfer Service of Washington, D.C. 

Its notice says that it "...recommends that all MS (and TN) homeowners obtain a current copy of their (property) deed." For $83, the service claims it will send you a report that "...includes the property address, owner's name, comparable values, and legal description or parcel identification number."

Tom Leatherwood's seen it before.

Leatherwood, Shelby County's Register of Deeds, said nearly every homeowner in Tennessee -- and some we've already documented in Mississippi -- will receive the notice. He said the information Record Transfer Service is selling is free of charge from his county register web site or any county register/court clerk's web site.

The notice, he said, is a gimmick to get you to pay for something that's free.

"These letters are very misleading," he said. "They are very deceptive."

The Action News 5 Investigators called the toll-free number on Record Transfer Service's notice. A customer service agent who identified herself as "Alexa" took the call:

(Andy):  "This is information our viewers here can get for free from their local government."

(Alexa): "(PAUSE) ...Yes...we understand that."

(Andy):  "So you are charging people for something they can get for free."

(Alexa):  "We've designed the service so that if they move, it could be more convenient for them (to use our service) if they live out of state, and they can't go to their own county clerks, and we let them know if they were to call us or e-mail us, we would tell them exactly what I'm telling you."

The fine print on the notice also discloses that Record Transfer Service "...is not associated with any governmental agency. You can obtain a copy of your (property) deed or other record of title from the county recorder in the county where your property is located..."

If you receive this notice, don't even bother to open the envelope. Shred it. Destroy it. Your property records are always free online through your county register, recorder or clerk's office.

Relocating doesn't prevent you from accessing your former county register's web site. The record's still free.

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