New Texas Homeowners- Don’t Fall For This Convincing Scam
There's a mail scam that's been going around for years at this point, and I don't want you to fall for it. Purchasing a new home is already an arduous, stressful, and paperwork-laden process without shelling out cash for this dumb, albeit very convincing, scam.
What appears to be a letter from the Homestead Recording Service is actually a craftily designed solicitation. HRS is not a government agency, nor is it associated with any taxing authority.
Googling "hrstx.com scam" reveals multiple warnings from the Better Business Bureau that this business, "Homestead Recording Service" is not accredited with them and that "filing" with this company is a total scam. There are also tons of one-star Yelp reviews in which folks relay all the problems they had dealing with this service and how they got ripped off.
Really all you need to know is this: if you receive a letter asking you to pay a $35 fee to file for your homestead exception, it's a scam. Filing for a homestead exemption is free. This scam works because the document looks really official and because the fee seems in line with other legal filing fees. With how nickel-and-dimed you get buying a house, I can see why so many people don't even blink at another $35. The worst part is that it doesn't seem like they even file your document for you! I'm sure there's some sort of loophole that allows them to continue to do this, so let's put them out of business by being vigilant.
What to do if you already fell for it: one Yelp reviewer reported that she was able to get her money refunded:
... here to reassure folks that if you paid the $35 initial fee, and then the follow up $49 fee all you have to do is call them and ask for a refund. I called and left a message on the machine (I wish I had called first, the message is very clear they have nothing to do with the actual tax exemption), and Michelle called back promptly. She told me what I needed to send in to request the refund, and they promptly refunded both. No arguments. Of course, it still cost me time, and the fee of a notary, but at least I have the majority of my money back. Hope this helps for those of you, like me, realizing the service you thought you were paying for is not provided.
I'd also encourage folks to report this and any other potential scam to BBB:
Anyone who feels they have been victimized by this scam should go to go to www.bbb.org/scamtracker in order to report it and to stay informed on the latest scams affecting consumers and businesses.
If you just bought a home, congratulations. Here's hoping there's nothing too nefarious in your giant new pile of mail.