Property Tax Deception?

February 3, 2009 12:18:24 AM PST
Action News has received several calls from people who've gotten these property tax letters. The Better Business Bureau and county officials say whoever is sending them is trying to collect money for a service you can get for free.This is what neighbors in Clovis and Fresno have been getting, last week they hit Madera. The return envelope is official looking with a return address that says Property Tax Reassessment, enough to fool many who aren't paying close attention.

Paulette Bakanoff almost fell for what authorities are calling a tax fraud scheme...Monday she got a letter offering a home reassessment that would save her hundreds on her property taxes. All she needed to do was write a check for $179.00.

Paulette Bakanoff said, "And then I got looking at it even more and thought this isn't even from the property tax people although the envelope says Property Tax Reassessment."

The notices look authentic and even charge late fees if property owners don't get them in before the end of the month. Fresno County Assistant Assessor Timothy Leming says there's one tell tale sign it's not really from county government offices.

"That's a solicitation to file an assessment appeal well for the current fiscal year, the deadline to file an appeal was on November 30 of 2008, so that time frame has already expired," said Leming.

Better Business Bureau representatives say while the letter may be misleading, it is not unlawful.

Cindy Dudley from the Better Business Bureau said, "They do the mailings most generally in sections of the state so they'll move up and down the state and again, while they are not doing anything that's illegal- we feel it's very deceptive."

What makes this letter legal is toward the bottom of the first page, the company discloses it is not a government agency. But unless you read it entirely, that may slip past you. Tax collectors say what this company is offering for a few hundred dollars, any property owner can request for free in July.

Now another giveaway that this was not authentic is the Los Angeles return address. Fresno County officials say all real documents from the assessor have Fresno addresses.

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