Letter to the Editor: Shelby County public records scam

For the third time in several weeks, I received from different scammers an unsolicited scam letter to purchase property I own in Shelby County for a fraction of what it’s worth. It was in an unmarked envelop and began, “I would like to purchase your real estate in Shelby County, OH as referenced in the enclosed ‘Purchase Agreement.’

The source of your ownership record is from the Shelby County, OH Assessor and this information is of public record and available to anyone who requests it.

Attached to the letters I’ve received is a document titled ‘Purchase Agreement’ containing the parcel identification number and description along with lines to sign and print owner’s name accepting the offer.

This is not a concern to me and those with a good mind. It is a concern for those with reduced mental capacities, perhaps brought on by advanced age. Those in that category often worked for wages much less than what money is worth today. The offer to purchase at a fraction of a property’s value may seem reasonable to them.

I don’t know what legal recourse one has if this ‘Purchase Agreement’ is signed and then next-of-kin or beneficiary learn of it and contest it. For those without next-of-kin, the transaction may go unnoticed. It’s shameful for a con artist to scam a person or their next-of-kin out of the true value of hard-earned real estate because their property records can be easily accessed online.

This letter comes from Liberty, Missouri, but could just as easily be from a living room in Nigeria, Africa. It’s a fishing letter and if they get one out of a thousand with reduced mental capacity to fall for it, they’ve hit payday.

I understand that real estate records are public records and must be available to the public, but does that mean we should put them online in the electronic world so scammers in Missouri or Nigeria can conveniently and easily access them from their living room? I suggest that we consider that those records be accessible only by going in person to the location of the files in Shelby County. That would make scams like this more difficult.

Dave Hemmert