Beaufort County is warning residents that a company sending letters promising copies of property deeds is overcharging for the service.
Record Transfer Service of Washington, D.C., has mailed notices to some homes offering copies for property deeds for $83. The notices request a payment or response by a certain date, much like a utility or credit card bill.
In a less conspicuous place, the notice acknowledges it is a solicitation and that no action is required.
Dale Butts, the county's register of deeds, said property deeds can be obtained through his office, usually for less than $5. He says anyone who receives the notice in the mail should disregard it.
"Throw them away," he said Wednesday. "While they may appear somewhat 'official' in nature, if someone is offering to obtain a copy of your deed at that price, you can consider it junk mail."
Deeds offer proof of ownership. Although some people keep them at home, Butts says they are occasionally lost or damaged. Copies also are kept in the registry of deeds, where they are public records.
The county learned about the mailings from residents who received them and contacted their attorneys. Similar mailings from an Illinois company charging $60 for the records showed up in local mailboxes about five years ago. Even Butts received one.
"To my knowledge there is nothing illegal about the deed processing notice that is being sent out right now, but we want to let our citizens know that ... you can get a certified true copy of your deed from us if you need one," he said.
Indeed, a spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General's Office, who reviewed the notice, said it doesn't appear the company is breaking the law.
It's not clear why certain people receive the mailing. They don't appear to target the elderly or low-income residents, the county says.
Record Transfer Service, the company sending the notices, appears to be based in downtown Washington. Little else is known about the company. It has no website or online company listing.
Attempts Wednesday to reach a company representative were unsuccessful. A receptionist said the spokeswoman was away and her voicemail was full.
News articles in recent months indicate the company has sent similar notices to residents of Rhode Island and Arizona.
"Incidentally, there are most likely other companies doing the same thing. (This) is just the most recent one brought to our attention," Butts said.