Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Do Not Fall For Bogus Property Tax Lien Notice

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today is warning consmers to watch out for a bogus tax lien notice that is being sent to consumers claiming their property is facing foreclosure, forced sale or that back taxes are owed. Do not be intimidated by this sort of notice.

If you have any doubts as to whether your property tax payments are current, or if you think there is a possibility that a lien has been placed on your property, contact your tax assessor collector or appraisal district directly for assistance.

An "Urgent - Property Tax Lien" notice is being sent to consumers who do not in fact owe back property taxes or who may owe taxes, but where no lien exists. The notice warns the consumer about possible foreclosure, forced sale or constable sale, and then offers a no-cash-down "home saver" loan. Small print advises the consumer to ignore the notice if no taxes are owed. Small print also mentions a number of possible "fees" in connection with the loan.

The tax lien notice is the latest false advertising in a recent trend of questionable businesses billing consumers for bogus debts (see our January 15, 2004 Consumer Alert ). Another version notifies the consumer of a large (but non-existent) credit card debt. The company offers a "debt recovery" service, promising to cut the fictitious debt in half. Even half of a debt is too much to pay for a debt that is not owed!

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.