Several unscrupulous companies are circulating materials in the Baltimore area that are aimed at taking advantage of homeowners, according to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, a Baltimore charity that counsels home buyers and people facing foreclosure.
One type of scam sends homeowners a letter by U.S. mail that says the homeowner should have on hand an official copy of their home's deed. The company then offers to acquire and forward to the homeowner a copy of the deed — for $70 or more.
In Maryland, which requires property purchase transactions to be recorded at local courthouses, it is rarely necessary for a homeowner to have a copy of their deed. If one is needed, a homeowner can go to the courthouse and request one for a few dollars.
There's no reason to pay a company for a certified copy of a deed after receiving an unsolicited notice, said Jeanette Cole, St. Ambrose's director of legal services.
Another scam, reaching people by email, phone and U.S. mail, tells homeowners that they should join an already filed lawsuit against their mortgage lender. To join the suit, homeowners are required to pay attorney "retainer" fees, which the scammers say will be fully refunded upon settlement of the case.
People should be very suspicious of law offices asking for plaintiffs for ongoing lawsuits against lenders and requesting up-front payment to join, Cole said.