Lane County residents may be targeted in a tax scam that has made its way across the country in recent months.
Letters claiming to be a “Notice of Warrant and State of Oregon Tax Lien Action” have been reported by some Eugene-area residents. The notice claims that property seizure is imminent and provides a non-local number for resolution.
“It’s sick, but these con artists rely on creating enough panic that their victims will overlook all of the red flags,” said Lane County Assessor Mike Cowles.
Property seizure does not occur with a legitimate State of Oregon income tax lien. For liens related to unpaid property taxes, real property seizure only occurs after five years and many notices to the property owner.
Property owners can check the status of any legally recorded liens by visiting Lane County Deeds and Records at 125 E. Eighth Ave. in Eugene.
Other indicators that this letter is a scam:
• A full agency name is not clearly provided.
• No agency address is provided on the envelope or in the letter.
• The logo is a generic seal that does not properly identify any agency.
• Lane County does not have an “Office of Lien Filings.”
• There is no “Bureau of Tax Enforcement” located in Eugene.
Suspected scams should be reported to your local law enforcement agency or the Oregon Department of Justice by calling 1-877-877-9392 or visitingwww.oregonconsumer.gov.
“These documents are fake,” said Ellen Klem, Director of Consumer Outreach and Education for the Oregon Department of Justice. “Crooks impersonating the government cost people their time and money. The Oregon Department of Justice urges people to stay vigilant against schemes and scams and avoid becoming a victim.”
SCAM SAFETY TIPS:
• Don’t panic: Con artists will use aggressive tactics to rush you into making immediate payment to avoid legal action or prosecution.
If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a notice, pause and look for signs of potential fraud. Use terms or names in the notice to conduct online research to see if a similar scam has been reported by others.
• Spot imposters: Con artists often pose as a government entity. If you are targeted by a con artist through the mail, phone or email, do not provide personal information or money until you are sure you are speaking to a legitimate representative. Try contacting the agency directly through telephone numbers listed on the agency’s official website rather than using phone numbers provided by the con artists.
• Look carefully at the letter or email: Fraudulent notices are usually vague, so they apply to as many victims as possible. Examine the notice for identifying information that can be verified. Look for blatant factual errors and other inconsistencies, such as a fake return address or fake logo. If the notice is unexpected and states ‘This Is Your Final Notice,’ take a moment and verify its legitimacy. Agencies will send multiple letters to taxpayers if there is a legitimate liability owed.
• Avoid strange payment systems: Legitimate government agencies will not ask you to pay a debt with reloadable debit cards, gift cards or money wiring services.