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Fraud warning for property owners

POSTED June 27, 2009 3:23 p.m.
The Stanislaus County Assessor’s office is warning the community about a scam that tricks property owners into paying for a service that the county offers for free.
The assessor’s office reported that property owners in Stanislaus County have been receiving solicitations from a firm called Property Tax Adjustment Services, offering to file a reassessment application with the county assessor for a fee of $189. The county assessor’s office provides this service free of charge, said Stanislaus County Assessor Doug Harms.
“I am worried that property owners will feel they need to pay $189 for a service that is free,” Harms said. “For the 2009-2010 assessment year we are reviewing most of the residential properties in Stanislaus County to make sure the owner is not paying more in property taxes than the property is worth,” Harms added.
The mailer being sent out to property owners includes a brochure from the Stanislaus County Assessor’s office, which Harms says is factual, but may lead people to believe the solicitation is legitimate.
“While the brochure is from the Assessor’s office they did not have permission to use it in their attempt to trick property owners,” Harms said.
The Assessor is required by law to review the properties as of Jan. 1, to determine if the current market value is lower than the established assessed value.
Property owners who receive assessment related mail should check the validity of the sender and contact the County Assessor’s office if they have questions or concerns related to their assessment. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit warns homeowners to be especially vigilant when receiving solicitations such as these and to contact them if they
have concerns.
Owners of properties with resulting reduced assessments will receive a value notice by the end of June notifying them of the results. Owners who disagree with the results may call the Assessor’s office at 525-6461 and/or file an application for reduced assessment with the Clerk of the Board at 525-6414 between July 2 and Nov. 30.
If anyone believes they have been a victim of real estate fraud they should contact the district attorney’s office at 525-5550 and ask to speak to the real estate fraud unit.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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