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Driveway repair, deed scams surface here

Two scams are being foisted on people here in Lamar County. One involves driveway repair; The other property deeds. Driveway repair scam: Yet another scam has surfaced in Lamar County. This time, elderly couples ‘“ at least one each in Barnesville and Milner ‘“ have been approached with the classic driveway repair scam. Often used by itinerant travelers, the ruse works when a man or group of people posing as a legitimate work crew approach someone about sealing or refinishing a driveway, possibly even pointing out cracks or other weathering, for a reasonable to very low cost. In the Barnesville case the price quoted was $300. In that ripoff, 15 minutes later three large men were telling one Lamar homeowner the job had been underbid, was halfway finished so they had to complete it, but the price had risen to $1,350. The 88-year-old homeowner, intimidated more by the men’s size than their manner, wrote out the check. ‘We were scammed. They get the old people by saying they’ll fix the roof or driveway,’ said his wife. ‘We should have gone to the sheriff’s department but now there’s nothing we can do about it.’ Anyone approached by strange contractors offering to do a job that has not been sought out should be wary. While many scammers will have trucks, business cards and other items to make them look legitimate, ask for a written estimate to provide proof in case a scam is being committed. Never agree to a suddenly increased price. Business licenses and references should also be requested ‘“ and when in doubt or if being intimidated contact law enforcement immediately. Deed scam: A company from Delaware is sending out official-looking notices to homeowners in at least two counties wanting them to pay $63 to get a copy of their deeds. While it is legal to pay a company for this, a property owner can get his or her own deed from the Lamar County courthouse ‘“ at a much lower price of $2.50 for the first page and 50 cents for each additional page for a certified copy, the equivalent of an original deed. Regular copies are $1 per page. ‘I hear this from time to time. Please don’t pay them that amount of money,’ said superior court clerk Frank Abbott. ‘People can get their deed from our office.’ The envelope design from Property Transfer Services had warnings that interference with the delivery of the letter is a federal crime. This could make senior citizens or others overlook the statement inside that the company is not a government agency, not endorsed by one and people can get a deed copy themselves for less. ’I encourage our citizens to call us anytime they receive this type of mail,’ said Lamar County sheriff Brad White. ‘We’ll do our best to check the validity of it and point them in the right direction. We’ve had numerous scams over the years that appear to be from the federal government.’ Calling the document to be received a ‘grant deed,’ the letter also promises a ‘complete property profile.’ There are other telltale signs something is amiss with the letters. Of two obtained by The Herald Gazette, one is in the real owner’s name and the other is not. Both letters make it seem as if the property has been sold this year when it has not. Also, items like document and land value identification numbers, improvement and lot codes, use codes, zoning codes and parcel numbers are identical on both forms. One property is in Lamar County and the other is in Upson County. Three people who have called and one who came in to the superior court with similar letters have said their information is correct, according to the clerks there. Property Transfer Services has a return address from Delaware but the enclosed, postage-paid envelope sends the payment to California. According to the Yelp website, numerous people in several states have reported the letter as a scam, one even sending it to the local district attorney only to find out it was not illegal but was ‘unethical and distasteful.’ Another described his 90-year-old father’s dismay at receiving the solicitation. A third had turned the company in to the Better Business Bureau.

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