Public information holds potential for use in common scams

Most people are aware that scammers run rampant trying to collect private information in order to exploit people for their hard earned money, whether it’s through “extending your car warranty” or “verifying your bank account number”, they are indeed crafty. What many people may not be aware of is the very specific information that scammers can get a hold of by simply accessing public records.

A  document was recently delivered in the mail to a Humboldt County resident’s home, charging $99 for the company, “Property Records,” to send the resident a copy of the deed to their home—which may not even be an official document, according to Humboldt County Recorder, Debby Engstrom. All information encompassed in the document is public and can be found by accessing information on public sites.

The document contains the resident’s address, property identification number, purchase/transfer date, value of the land, and other details that one may not know are accessible to the public at any given time. 

An official copy of property records or a deed can be obtained for free online most of the time or for just one or two dollars at the Humboldt County Recorder’s Office (HCRO), according to Engstrom. 

If one does not have a physical copy of the deed or other documents to their home or property—perhaps they have an electronic copy or have misplaced it— receiving this document in the mail might seem like an urgent matter. Companies like “Property Records” send out these documents right after it is publicly recorded that one has just bought or sold property,  refinanced a home, or performed other actions that are put on record. This document could easily be mistaken as a regular part of the process or a bill that needs to be paid. 

Humboldt County Deputy Recorder, Tia Lange, said that receiving this in the mail could be especially concerning for elderly people because the document looks so official.

The document does include a disclaimer, stating that the service is not affiliated with any governmental agency, but that could still be confusing if someone does not know that most documents are recorded digitally/electronically now, according to Engstrom.  

The Recorder’s Office has a free notification system—Recording Notification Services (RNS)— that allows people to register up to five variations of a name and will send an email in the event that a document has been recorded at the HCRO under that name. 

Lange explained that the HCRO cannot refuse to record something if the fees are being paid and the individual meets all of the necessary criteria. Things cannot be “unrecorded” either, but the RNS does help notify if something has been wrongly recorded under their name so they can pursue legal recourse. 

Lange, a registered notary, also explained that there are strict regulations that must be adhered to in order to have something recorded, but with the recent push of “electronic notaries”  throughout the pandemic, there are ways for people to get around the system. 

A notary is someone who has taken the designated training in order to be an official and impartial witness to someone signing a document. They help protect against fraud and are required to maintain the utmost integrity. 

An electronic notarization does not require that someone be there physically to witness the signing of a document. The notary is present virtually, which, according to Lange, might open up situations to commit fraud. 

Documents can be notarized in person at the HCRO and when the validity of a document is in question, it is always wise to bring it to the HCRO to have it verified, according to Engstrom and Lange. 

To utilize the RNS visit: and follow the simple steps in order to register.