Settlement requires refunds for Washington residents who bought deed copies from "State Record Retrieval Board"
SPOKANE – The “State Record Retrieval Board” notice mailed to Washington residents last year directed them pay $87 to obtain a copy of their property deed, or face an $35 fee if they missed the tight deadline. At least 45 of the 5,000 Washington residents who received the notice dutifully sent checks. But the Washington Attorney General’s Office says they were misled – and are owed refunds.
“The notices were deceptive junk mail designed to trick people into buying something they don’t need,” said Assistant Attorney General Jack Zurlini. “Even if there were a government agency named the ‘State Record Retrieval Board’ – which there isn’t – it wouldn’t charge you $87 for a property deed.”
The Olympia address on the mailers is just a UPS Store drop box – the real sender is a California-based business that’s spread similar notices across the nation. “State Record Retrieval Board” is owned by Neil L. Camenker and has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. After the Attorney General’s Office issued a warning about the mailers on its All Consuming blog in December 2010, a number of readers chimed in that they, too, received the deceptive mailers and were considering sending money.
The Attorney General’s Office took Camenker and his company to court and today announced a settlement that ensures the defendants won’t be mailing any more solicitations in Washington that include misrepresentations or make consumers feel compelled to respond. They’ll pay $3,915 in consumer refunds plus $1,085 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs. The defendants also face $15,000 in civil penalties, should they fail to comply with the settlement’s restrictions on their business practices.
The Attorney General’s Office notes that should you need a copy of your property deed for some reason, you can pick one up for about $10 from your county auditor.
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