Revenue office reports possible scams


Revenue Commissioner Jerry Guthrie said Thursday a couple of possible scams were noticed taking place that day at the office, although people should be warned that the office is not calling or texting people to pay. 

Calls are made after the first of the year on past due notices, but payment is still not taken over the phone. Only paper bills are sent out with envelopes, and then people can go online to the office's website or come into the office to pay. 

Guthrie said even now, payments are not being taken until after Oct. 1 for the upcoming bills. 

Lela Vicente, an assessing clerk, met a woman who came into the office Thursday. "Her grandmother had received a call today," she said. "They claimed to be the Walker County Tax Collector. They said she owed taxes and needed to pay them before the end of the month." 

Vicente didn't recall, according to the person who called the woman, if the payment was to be made to a website or a mailing address, although she did recall the payment was purported to be due on the property.

"It gave the address where she receives the mail. She doesn't own that property. She rents that property. So that is why she was concerned," she said. 

The granddaughter was assured by office staff her grandmother does not owe taxes on the property.

"She doesn't owe any taxes at all," Vicente said. 

The information in question was available on the  department's website, which is where officials think the information came from.  "She does own property in Walker County, but the mailing address is not where she lives," she said.

A short time later the same day, Kimberly Pate, a collection clerk, said a woman called to say she had received a text message from the office stating she owned taxes. A link provided through the text message was provide or she could press 1 for more information. 

"When she clicked on the link, it brought her to the website and she said it was and it had a list of her prior taxes and all their information on it but no where to pay for the taxes," Pate said. "I told her we were not collecting taxes because out 2018 year didn't start until Oct. 1." 

She checked for back taxes on the woman, but found she was paid up, she said. 

"The woman wanted to know what was going on and why we were sending her text messages," Pate said. The official noted the office doesn't send out text messages. The office's official website is Links at the top of onthe home page and a section under the Real Property section has links to pay the taxes online. 

A check for brought up a real estate website with a Columbiana address. 

Guthrie said, "The only way we would notify people is through one of these (paper) bills, he said. The green-and-black ink bill is called in the top right hand corner a "courtesy property tax notice." The bill also has contact information and comes with an envelope and a detachable bottom to send the money. 

Payments are only made online or in person, but not by phone or by text, he said. Notices are only sent by mail with paper bills. 

"This almost has to be a scam," Guthrie said, saying he wanted to warn people, "Don't fall for it."