By Larry Ajalat
Every day, we are inundated with advertisements. They are all over: on floors, walls, ceilings, signs, plates, cups, buses, and cars. They are in movies and on our clothes, and magically pop-up on our phones, computers, and, of course, TVs. Estimates are that we may see as many as 5,000 advertisements in a single day. Companies spend millions upon millions of dollars looking for new and improved ways to capture your attention – and your business. They say the best ad is one that the people (or “targets”) don’t even recognize as being an ad.
One of the sneakiest forms of advertisements that we are constantly being asked about are those that come via regular mail after a person has taken very common, but also very public actions, such as recording a mortgage or a deed transferring real property or even forming a corporation. Because these actions require government involvement and filings, they are typically matters of public record and therefore present an excellent source of potential customers to unscrupulous advertisers.
For example, if you form a corporation with the Secretary of State, within a week, you will likely receive an “official notice” that a Statement of Information must be filed; and to submit the fee of $249 to do so. The “notice” won’t tell you – at least not in an obvious way – that you are hiring a private company to file the Statement for you, nor will it tell you that you can file your own Statement of Information online for about $25. Often, even the company name will be misleading, such as the “Internal Review Service”, which sounds official, but is not.
Or, if you convey real property, it may only be a week before you receive an “official” letter telling you that you need to obtain certified copies of your deed. All you need to do is “submit the $150 fee for the certified copies”, it will say. Again, the “notice” won’t tell you that you can obtain copies directly from the County Recorder for about $6.
There are laws in place to prevent companies from sending intentionally misleading ads. While many companies do their best to comply, often their primary focus is on ensuring that their ad campaign will be successful. Unfortunately, they believe that “misleading” usually equates with “successful.”
So whenever you file or record anything with the government and soon thereafter receive an “official looking” correspondence – especially one requesting money – read every word of the letter. Look for the fine print that will often say: “Not affiliated with any governmental agency” or “This is an advertisement”. If you can’t find a definitive statement that the letter is an ad, feel free to fax or e-mail a copy to your attorney to review. Chances are you will save yourself some money and save yourself from supporting an unscrupulous marketer.
For questions or comments regarding this article, or any other legal matter, contact Lawrence A. Ajalat at 818.506.1500 (voice), 818.506.1016 (fax), or email him at Larry@Ajalatlaw.com.