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Public Records Used To Scam Mass. Taxpayers

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts taxpayers and homeowners are being warned of a new scam. As Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve reports, thieves are using public records to try to con you out of your money.

William Philbrick is a Worcester accountant. “I think it is absolutely atrocious,” he says. “It is despicable.” He is talking about a scam involving tax liens which one of his clients fell victim to. Recently, people who owe tax liens have been getting official looking letters suggesting they can quietly pay back those state tax liens for a fraction of what they owe. And Philbrick says, “it is like the answer to their prayers… and they will send the money off before they ask anyone. If this is really true. And then when they do ask it is too late.”

Liens that are placed on someone’s property are a matter of public record and anyone can look them up the information. It is even available online. That’s how scammers are getting the information but they really have not been hired to collect the debt.

Collection notices obtained by WBZ appear legitimate with all the correct legal information. One scam company is offering to settle a real $10,937 lien for just $ 536.

Another a tax debt of $2032 will be forgiven for just $795. And in both cases the homeowner is given a short deadline by the scammers.

Secretary of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony says her office sees a spike in these types of scam every tax season. “It is necessary to raise the red flag and warn consumers,” she says.

“People do fall prey. People do lose money. Their liens do not go away. They still owe the local tax authority the money they have always owed them.”

Anthony says her office along with the Department of Revenue will be posting new consumer warnings this week.

If a taxpayer ever has questions about a tax related letter, they can the DOR at 1-617-887-MDOR.

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