Assessors from Bay Area counties are warning property owners to beware of scam letters offering property tax reduction services for a fee, just weeks before a new law takes effect specifically prohibiting such solicitations.
The documents are formatted to look like official government documents, offering to help lower a homeowners’ assessed value, and by extension their tax bill, for a fee. However, property owners can request reviews of their property values from assessors at no charge.
San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting said he received one such fraudulent letter at his own home on Monday, offering a service his office provides for free in exchange for $189.
“They got my assessed value incorrect, and on top of that they offered me a proposed value that is absolutely not realistic at all,” he said.
Ting joined several other assessors from Bay Area counties and Assembly member Ted Lieu in San Francisco today to warn homeowners about these solicitations, which have been arriving in mailboxes over the past few days.
Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance in Southern California, sponsored a law targeting these scams, which takes effect Jan. 1. The legislation bars people from sending solicitations that resemble official government documents in an attempt to collect a fee.
Ting said this year’s batch of letters look almost identical to a similar batch that went out last year. His office never received a call from anybody attempting to provide the services advertised in the letter, he said.
Ting guessed that the sender wanted to distribute another round of letters before the new law took effect.
As the nation slowly crawls out of a major housing crisis, property values around the region remain depressed, and many homeowners are seeking a small amount of solace in a lower tax bill.
In San Francisco, residents who do want their assessed value reviewed can fill out a one-page application and Ting’s office performs the service for free. Ting’s staff has finished reviewing properties for the current tax bill, but will take applications for informal reviews from Jan. 4 through March 31.