Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Avoid assessment scams

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Scam Jam 2010 takes place today at the Decatur Active Living Center (231 Sycamore Street). The DeKalb County TRIAD event will provide information about scams and fraud to seniors.

Although property tax scams are somewhat rare, property owners should still be aware of recent developments in other states.

In March, Oregon property owners were flooded with solicitations to send in $189 fee to get your property taxes lowered. The letters were made to look like official government documents but were fake. The attorney general of Oregon issued a fraud alert to state residents. Fraudulent letters were also sent to cities in California in late 2009.

Although we have not heard of fraud like this recently in Georgia, we are likely to see an increase in the number of owners trying to appeal their taxes in 2011 because of assessment reform enacted by the state legislature. The new law will allow any property owner in Georgia to appeal their assessed value every year.

The new Georgia law may also result in an increase in the number of companies and consultants saying that they’ll help you file your appeal and reduce your assessment. While some of them may be true, be careful. Just remember:
  • You can file your own appeal for free
  • No government office in Georgia charges you a “service fee” to lower your assessment.
  • When in doubt, call. The City of Decatur tax office can be reached at 404-370-4100, and the DeKalb County tax commissioner’s number is 404-371-2000.

The city tax office will have a booth at the Scam Jam with information about homestead exemptions for the elderly.

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