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Kearns: Scammers sending letters alleging underpayment of transfer tax upon real estate closing

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Wed, Aug 26th 2020 06:45 pm

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns is warning Erie County residents of a letter scam where a letter, purporting to be from an employee of the “Erie County Department of Equalization,” demands further payment before the end of the month of transfer tax owed to the county upon conveyance of real property. This tax is paid to the county of Erie and state of New York at the time of a real estate closing.

This letter was detected as a scam for the following reasons: The Erie County Department of Equalization does not exist; the letter’s signatory is not a county employee; and the payment link provided in the letter has been disabled. Further, the county would not send a letter in this instance, as any disputes regarding underpayment of transfer tax would be handled by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

“Sadly, scammers see an opportunity during times of distress,” Kearns said. “If someone or some entity you’ve never dealt with before is trying to get you to part with your hard-earned money, stop and question it.”

If residents receive this letter, they may contact their attorney to confirm that there are no issues with their respect to their conveyance. They may also contact the legal department of the Erie County clerk’s office for more information at 716-858-6348.

As with many of these scam cases, Kearns advises residents to follow the advice often given by law enforcement agencies: Just recycle it.

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