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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Real Estate Fraud

 

Sally opened her mail and found an “official” looking notice that contained a great deal of her personal information. The notice listed her home address, the parcel number and the year her house was built along with other details that indicated to her that the agency sending the notice must be a governmental. The notice stated that “Record Transfer Services recommends that all CA homeowners obtain a copy of their Current Grant Deed and Property Assessment Profile.”  It went on to state that for $83 she could get a copy of the recorded deed and also gave reasons why you should pay the money to obtain a copy of your deed. The reasons listed included that the grant deed would show evidence of ownership, evidence of legal description and evidence of the transfer to her. Sally felt that it would be important to have this in her file so she sent off the $83 for a copy of the deed.

 

While the company that sent the notice may or may not be a legitimate business, Sally could have simply called her attorney for a copy of the deed or she could have contacted the title company that handled her escrow. Either would have provided her with a copy at nominal, if any, cost. More importantly, while it is nice to have a copy of your grant deed – that is not how you “show evidence of ownership!” If there is ever a question of ownership, you can get a copy then – the grant deed is always available to you from the County Recorder’s Office. 

 

Robert received a letter from a company that said that he was overpaying in property taxes and, for a “flat $99,” the company would prepare “an appeal” for him that could save him thousands of dollars each year in property taxes. He could call an 800 number and they would do all the work from there. Again, could be a legitimate business but, instead of calling the 800 number, Robert called the Tax Assessor’s Office and they guided him through the steps he would need to take to make such an appeal – at no cost!

 

We are fortunate to live in a county – and in a country – that is very diligent with regard to real estate ownership and the taxation of that real estate. Monterey County, under the supervision of Steve Vagnini, the county assessor, is vigilant and fair in the assessment of properties for tax purposes. When we had the great recession and property values dipped, his office voluntarily reassessed properties at the lower values and sent those lower tax bills out to owners.

 

Robert also received another notice and the first line read, “Your social security may be reduced.” That will get anyone’s attention – especially seniors on a fixed income. Reading further, it became clear that it was a politician looking for campaign contributions. Part of this politician’s “promise” was to make sure social security is not reduced.

 

Unfortunately, the U.S. mail brings many opportunities for us – and especially those of us who are elderly - to get taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals. Be careful about what you agree to or what services you sign up to receive. If you are older, you can always get a free consultation with Legal Services for Seniors – they have an active consumer law service and are happy to help.    

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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