Don't fall for fake promises of lower property taxes

  
     
If you are like me, you probably recently received your tax assessment letting you know that your property taxes have increased. 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.
July 21, 2017

If you are like me, you probably recently received your tax assessment letting you know that your property taxes have increased. 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.     

Here is how this scheme 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 non-governmental 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: 

  • Poses as a government agency
  • Requires an upfront fee instead of billing you after the service is rendered. 
  • Guarantees it can lower your property assessment and/or taxes. You can file a dispute, but the local government needs to approve it.   
  • Requests a certified copy of your property deed and charges you more than a few dollars for it.
  • Asks for your Social Security number or other personal information. 

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. This is where a little education and always asking for more information can potentially save you from becoming a victim.  

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.

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Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB by visiting bbb.org, by emailing info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org, or by calling 800-763-4222.