The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
Many Michigan consumers have received solicitations from companies offering the opportunity to obtain certified government records. The solicitations inform consumers that the Federal Government says they have to have copies of these certified records with them, and the easiest way to get them is by sending the company a fee - usually between $50 and $100 - and they will send the records directly to you.
What many of these solicitations conveniently neglect to mention is that you can usually obtain certified copies of governmental records, such as deeds on your home, directly from your local, county, or state government for a nominal fee. Here are some tips on how to avoid paying for "services" from third parties that you can easily do yourself:
If you receive a solicitation in the mail or online similar to the one described above, remember that, in general, it is easy to obtain these records for yourself. For example, if you wish to obtain a certified copy of the deed to your home, many Michigan counties now offer the ability to order these records online, via their secure websites. Other Michigan counties may allow you to order records by mail or in person if you are able to get to the office.
Generally, you will only be asked to pay a nominal fee to obtain copies of these records. Such fees include copying fees (usually $1 per page) and certification fees ($1 additional fee on top of any other fee that you are required to pay). Any fees paid to your local, county, or state government will almost certainly be less than the fees a third party may ask you to pay.
For more information on how to obtain deeds and other government records, contact your county government. The contact information for your county government should be available online, or in the "Government" section of the phone book you receive at home.
Although some companies may provide the "assistance" after you provide them with your hefty fee, providing any third party with whom you are not familiar with your personal identifying information (including your bank account or credit card information to pay the fee) puts you at risk of identity theft. If you provide this information to a company that is purely a scam, your information is compromised, and you will have to take additional steps to prevent, or remedy, identity theft. The best way to keep your personal identifying information safe is never to provide any personal identifying information, including bank and credit card numbers, to any third party unless you are comfortable doing business with them and you initiated the contact. Never provide personal identifying information in response to any unsolicited mailing or contact!
If you have paid a third party to obtain government records on your behalf, and you are concerned about their service, consider contacting the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form