July 6, 2022

Stealing Houses or Scare Tactic Advertising? Office of Consumer Protection Provides Information on Home Title ‘Protection’

Stealing Houses or Scare Tactic Advertising? County’s Office of Consumer Protection Provides Information on Home Title ‘Protection’

Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is receiving inquiries from homeowners who are wondering if they need to subscribe and pay monthly fees to companies that claim to protect their homes from being stolen.

OCP has been receiving calls and email messages from homeowners who are concerned about the alleged ease with which a crook can file a “quitclaim deed” in the Circuit Court Land Records to change the ownership of a consumer’s house and property. Homeowners report that these heightened concerns are the result of receiving popup or radio advertisements on the internet from several firms that warn consumers about what might happen to their homes if they fail to purchase “protection” and “monitoring” services.

“These predatory advertisements seek to capture customers through fear and missing information, making consumers believe that they will be subjected to financial harm if they do not purchase their services,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman. “In fact, house stealing by filing fraudulent quitclaim deeds is extremely rare in Montgomery County, and there are several internal processes that make such activity highly unlikely. These advertisements do not disclose full information.”

OCP has collaborated with the Circuit Court Land Records Department, Montgomery County’s Finance Department, and the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation to compile and provide basic information about filing deeds. OCP has posted a newsletter to enable homeowners to better understand how deeds are recorded and to enable consumers to evaluate the veracity of the advertisements that are currently appearing when consumers are online. The Maryland Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Protection also has posted a news release regarding these misleading advertisements

More information about home title protection claims is available at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OCP/Resources/Files/OCP_Articles/Quitclaim%20Monitoring%20Services.pdf.

The Maryland Attorney General also is concerned about the predatory practices. Learn more at https://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/press/2022/062722CA.pdf.

OCP, the County’s consumer protection agency, was established 50 years ago and investigates thousands of complaints each year involving automotive sales and repairs, new home purchases, home improvements, credit issues, retail sales, internet services and most other consumer transactions. OCP also issues consumer alerts regarding unfair and deceptive trade practices; and provides in-person and virtual presentations to groups regarding consumer issues. OCP offers free mediation services to consumers and merchants. The OCP staff is assisted by trained volunteers.