By Steve Lord

GENEVA — In one breath, Kane County Recorder Sandy Wegman referred to it as a “scam.”

But in the next breath, she referred to it as “not illegal” and a case of someone utilizing free enterprise.

Either way, Wegman wants to warn Kane County residents about a letter circulating throughout the county advertising a service that will provide property owners with a certified copy of the deed to their property. What makes the solicitation from Illinois Deed Provider, Inc. questionable, Wegman said, is that the company is offering a service taxpayers can provide for themselves — at a much lower price.

The letter provides an order form so property owners can order the certified deed — at a cost of $85, and $4.50 in postage and handling. The form even allows orderers to use credit cards.

But Wegman said a certified copy of any property deed is available directly from her office for $25. A non-certified copy is $1 a page.

“It’s not illegal, but they’re ripping people off,” Wegman told members of the County Board’s Public Service Committee Monday. “If you do need to have a copy of your deed, you can come to us and get it for a reasonable price.”

Wegman’s office became aware of the letter last week. As people started receiving them in the mail, they began calling the recorder’s office with questions. The letter does not claim property owners need to have their deeds, but it strongly suggests they should. It quotes the “U.S, Government Federal Citizen Information Center” Web site with recommending that property owners have a deed to protect ownership of their property.

Wegman said she received counsel that what keeps the service legal is a disclaimer at the bottom that says, “Many government records are available free or at a nominal cost from government agencies.”

A call to the toll-free number provided in the letter offers more explanation. The tape recording clearly tells people a deed “is not something you need to have,” and also says the company is not affiliated with any state or government agency.

Wegman agreed property owners should have a copy of their deed. Most property owners would have received one at their closing, or with their mortgage package, she said.

She said the company Illinois Deed Provider, Inc. apparently also is doing business in Milwaukee, Nevada and Florida, but under a different name. The letter lists a Dundee Road address in Northbrook. The company did not return a phone message left at its toll-free number Monday afternoon.

The letters received in Kane County were received earlier this year in DuPage County. In July, DuPage County Recorder Fred Bucholz posted a Web site warning about the letters. He, like Wegman, pointed out that the deeds are available through the recorder’s office at a cheaper rate.