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Consumer Alert: Homeowners are getting deceptive letters. Are they legal?

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Watch your mailbox.  Irondequoit police warn you could be getting a letter that is not what it appears.

On Thursday, we told you the letter looks like it came from the town of Irondequoit, but instead was sent by a company trying to sell home warranties. So, is that legal? That’s the very question investigated on Friday.

Superior Home Protection is the home warranty company that is sending letters to homeowners in our community. But the letters look like a government notice.  Each has the phrase “private and confidential” at the top along with the words “final notice” in bold print.  And beneath that the phrase, “Lender: Town of Irondequoit.”

“But I think the real problem is that people are going to confuse this with mortgage insurance that your mortgage company is going to make you have, but you are under no obligation to have any additional warranties on anything in your home,” said Leslie Silva, a partner at the large New York law firm Tully Rinckey.

The notice goes on to say that the property’s warranty, secured by the town of Irondequoit, may be expiring.

“The way that it is misleading the reader to believe that it is somehow connected to the town in the way that it is presented in the correspondence, that is a problem, said Silva, “But is it an illegal problem?  No.”

But I wanted to know how the company explains that phrase, so I called them.

“I was wondering why it says here it’s secured by the town of Irondequoit,” I asked the representative.

He said that the Attorney General forces them to include that so the customer knows where the letter originates from. Now that’s irony. The phrase actually misleads customers, making them think the town is somehow connected.  Again, it’s deceptive but not illegal.

“These are typical high-pressure sales tactics that are kind of on the border of legality,” said Silva.

But if you were deceived by one of these letters and bought a warranty, you do have recourse.

“Call and try to get your money back right away, and if you’re having a hard time contact the Attorney General’s office,” said Silva.

To file a complaint with the consumer division of the attorney-general’s office, click here.

This is not the first time I’ve investigated a private company that sends out letters that look like official government notices. If you’re suspicious of any mail or email, it’s important to reach out to the actual government office, not the number in the letter or email.

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