County residents warned about tax lien scam

Property owners are cautioned to be wary of official-looking notices that claim there is a tax lien investigation on their property.

Private companies, calling themselves “consumer advocacy firms that specialize in tax negotiation and settlement,” are sending a document titled “Notice of Tax Lien Investigation” in the mail to residents indicating that their property is under a “tax lien investigation,” according to Middlesex County Clerk Elaine M. Flynn.

The authentic-looking notice provides a date and file number and lists a settlement figure, usually $1,000, along with a telephone number that recipients are advised to call.

Telephone calls to the number offer investigation assistance into the tax lien for a $99 fee. Some of these firms charge an additional per-minute fee just for calling them, according to Flynn. “This is a scam being visited upon the public by unscrupulous vendors who are playing on the fears of homeowners on their single most treasured possession: their home,” Flynn said. “Our office has received inquiries from homeowners who have received these notices, and when we check our records, we find that no liens have been filed on the property.”

Flynn said she has taken the matter to the county’s legal department for further investigation.

Flynn said this is the second scam that has been discovered. In the first, vendors offer to provide a certified copy of a property deed at a cost of at least $79.50.

She said homeowners can obtain a certified copy of the deed to their property directly from the county clerk’s office at a more reasonable cost. Homeowners can contact the clerk’s office at 732-745-3002 or 732-745-4236 with their complete property address, purchase date, and lot and block number to be advised of the costs for such documents, which are usually between $4 and $20.

“I would like to thank the county clerk for making our residents aware of these scams,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said. “As public servants, we must remain vigilant in discovering and then notifying our residents of these schemes that could potentially cost them time and money.”

For more information, contact Flynn’s office at 732-745-3002 or 732-745-4236.