As the economy improves, property prices are rebounding... and so are property taxes. Most municipalities mail tax assessments each spring. Scammers are often close behind, posing as government programs that claim to lower your taxes for a fee.
How the Scam Works:
You get a letter in the mail that appears to come from a government agency with names that include “tax adjusters” or “tax reassessment”. It's really a private business, and it promises to get your property taxes reduced by disputing your tax assessment. For this, the business charges from $30 to hundreds of dollars. A typical letter reads:
"The XYZ County tax authorities may have made an error when they recently assessed your property. The mistake means you may be over taxed by $2,000... For 10 minutes and a one-time fee of less than $100, it's well worth the potential savings of $2,000."
As always, several variations of the scam exist. Sometimes, scammers simply pocket the fee. Other times, it's more a case of misleading advertising. The businesses file the paperwork on your behalf and/or provide you with a government report. However, in most cases, the business is simply doing something homeowners can do themselves for free.
Finally, some scammers use filing a property tax assessment dispute as a pretense to collect personal information for use in identity theft.
Ways to Spot a Property Assessment Scam:
Reputable businesses are available to help you dispute your tax assessment, but watch out for the following warning signs. It may be a scam if the business:
Scam artists look for opportunities to generate money for themselves and if they can create a sense of urgency or perceived savings for you, then they stand a much better chance of separating you from your hard earned money.
For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com