Snohomish County officials warn of scam threatening property seizure

An illustrative image of Master car, Revolut, Visa and Visa debit cards. On Tuesday, January 11, 2021, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Snohomish County officials are warning residents of a new scam involving letters accusing recipients of owing taxes and demanding immediate repayment.

The letters pose as correspondence from the county and threaten consequences like wage garnishment and property seizure if fees aren’t paid. The fake notice also directs the taxpayer to call a toll-free (800) number “to avoid enforcement” and references federal tax liens.

Envelopes appear to be postmarked from Sacramento, Calif. containing a return address that includes a Tax Processing Unit “Public Judgment Records” Department.

Snohomish County Treasurer Brian Sullivan says the scammers appear to be pulling names from public records on federal lienholders.

“They pull these names from our public records and send them these distraint warrants,” Sullivan said. “It is somewhat of a laser operation, where it appears they are going after people with federal liens.”

Sullivan says their goal is to scare recipients into calling bogus call centers, something he refers to as “boiler rooms.”

“These boiler rooms will answer the phones and then browbeat you. It’s very similar to IRS scams,” Sullivan said. “The idea is what I think it does is it scares people into paying something that they thought they were unaware of.”

The treasurer’s office has referred the matter to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, but he describes the scam as “sophisticated” and says it will be difficult to catch those responsible.

He also reminds the public that legitimate Snohomish County Treasurer communications typically contain the official seal of the treasurer and a local return address, and the county treasurer is also not responsible for collecting or enforcing federal taxes.

Sullivan urges anyone who has received letters like this to contact their local treasurer and the state’s attorney general.

“Talk to your local treasurer’s office related to the county that you live in, and the state attorney general as well,” Sullivan stressed.

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