I’ve run into a couple of situations recently where clients received mail that looked “official” but turned out to be a company trying to make my client pay for something that they could get for free.
The first was an unsolicited mailing from a company offering to help my client transfer some stocks after her husband passed away. I was at her house going through paperwork with her, and the papers looked different than the ones we normally use. I read through the entire thing to see if there was a catch, and sure enough there was. In small letters it said something to the effect of “we will keep 20% of the value of the stock transferred as a fee for the convenience of locating these stocks for you.” The thing is, this client didn’t need the stocks “located.” She had known about them all along. And even if she hadn’t, the abandoned property division in Massachusetts doesn’t charge a fee for its services. We threw those forms away and called the stock transfer company to get the actual official ones.
The second occurrence was shortly after we had filed a deed at the Registry of Deeds. After you file a deed, they mail the original back to you. If you ever need a copy, you can request one directly from the Registry of Deeds for about $1.00 per page. This client, however, received a mailing telling her it was vital for her to have a copy of her deed and they could mail her one for the low price of $85.00. Again, I told my client to throw away the paper, since in a few days she’d be receiving a copy of the actual deed back from the Registry.
It dismays me to imagine the people who started these companies, whose sole purpose seems to be “trick old people into paying us money for something they can get for free.” Somewhere on the paper it usually says in very small letters something about the fee, but the forms also tend to look like government paperwork which can lead people to think that they have to pay the fee.
If you, or your parent, get mail you didn’t expect asking for money for something you haven’t ordered, read it over, have your attorney or other trusted advisor look at it. In this case, calling the stock company directly (not the phone number on the forms) or the Registry of Deeds directly would have provided my client with the information they needed.