All over the U.S., consumers opening their mail this year have read official looking solicitations from a Washington, D.C., company stressing the importance of possessing a certified copy of their property deed.

Law enforcement officials say the mailing is part of a clever scheme that, while technically legal, seeks to exploit vulnerable consumers.

The solicitation, from the National Deed Service, offers to provide the homeowner a certified copy of their property deed for just $59.50.

The deed, of course, is a public record and is available at most county courthouses for fees as low as $2. National Deed Service concedes as much on its Web site.

Many government records are available free or at a nominal cost from government agencies, the company states.

The company says its clients are willing to pay $59.50 for a public document to avoid the hassle of a trip to the courthouse.

It is not an easy process to obtain public records from a governmental agency. It often requires people to travel to the recorders office, lose time from work and pay, locate the proper office, deal with the people at the office, and locate their document and wait for the document to be produced. Sometimes, the process will take two trips, and in some cities the cost of parking alone could be $20 plus each day. This is not an easy process. When considering all of the above, the service provided by National Deed Service, Inc. is a cost and time effective service, the companys Web site says.

Not true, says the people who issue those documents.

The National Deed solicitation was a big topic of discussion recently at the Recorders Association of Missouri, whose members returned home to warn local residents to be on the look out for the pitch.

In most cases, the homeowner already has a copy of the deed, provided to them at settlement when they purchased their property. Whatever they might receive from the National Deed Service is completely unnecessary, officials say.

The threat to consumers could be greater than the $59.50 fee charged for the superfluous deed. Solicitations received by some consumers in Missouri recently asked for consumers name, address and credit card information.

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