Question: I received an official-looking letter from a company identifying itself as a records office. The letter contains specific information about my home including my address, Assessor’s Parcel Number, property tax values and other personal information. The letter states that I should send them $89 and they will send me a “complete profile” of my property. Is this one of those title stealing schemes I hear about on the radio? Should I report them to the sheriff or is this a legitimate business? Should I spend the money to get my property profile?
Answer: Every now and then a reader writes in after receiving a solicitation like the one you describe. While the “records office,” as the solicitor calls themselves may be a legitimate business, it is not something you need, nor should you send them any money for a profile.
When we buy real estate in California and unless we buy it using an LLC or other entity, our name, address, APN, and property tax assessment information is recorded in the County Assessor’s office and is readily available to the public. What this company has done is researched the county records, located your information and sent you a letter to see if you want a copy of what they have found.
If you send them money, they will send you a combination of the information on your property deed and the assessor’s tax information. This is all information that you should already have in your real estate purchase documents and your annual property tax bill.
If you are working with an attorney and have established a trust agreement, chances are your attorney also has a copy of your deed and would be happy to send you a copy. Alternatively, you can contact your county recorder’s office yourself and get the information for a small copy fee.
Property “title stealing” is when someone does the research at the recorder’s office to determine the owner of a property and then fraudulently transfers the title to themselves. They then obtain a loan, using the real estate as collateral and abscond with the funds. Months later the true owner of the property gets served with a foreclosure notice for a loan they did not get. Title theft is rare, and I doubt the company that contacted you falls into that category. They are just looking to profit from information that you either already have or can easily obtain on your own.
Question: My stockbroker is asking me for the name of a “trusted contact.” My investment information is confidential and I do not want it shared with anyone! He tells me it is required, and he cannot continue to work with me unless I provide a name. What is going on here?
Answer: In 2017, the Security and Exchange Commission approved the Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults rule which requires brokers to make reasonable efforts to obtain the contact information of a client’s trusted contact. This is a person who the broker can contact if they suspect their client is being financially exploited or is experiencing health issues that could make the client vulnerable to exploitation. This is a good thing! Your personal information will not be disclosed but it is great to know that if things look odd or your broker is worried about you, they can contact someone you trust to make sure you stay safe.
Liza Horvath has over 30 years’ experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is a Licensed Professional Fiduciary. Liza currently serves as president of Monterey Trust Management. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a question, call (831) 646-5262 or email email@example.com
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