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Assessor warns of alleged scam

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Polk County Assessor Rita Lemmon said her office has been recently contacted by several locals who have received mysterious letters offering to buy their land. 

“We’ve had people call or come by the office to say they’re getting real estate companies mailing letters wanting to buy little pieces of their property,” Lemmon said.

The problem, Lemmon said, is that in many cases, the companies don’t appear to be legitimate, and their cash offers usually are too low. 

“One isn’t credited with Better Business Bureau,” she said. “One of them, when you look up its address, it’s an empty field.”

Lemmon said while it’s possible the prospective buyers are finding information online through Polk County’s geographic information system, which displays parcels and owners on a map, they didn’t get the info from her office. 

“We’ve had a few upset. They think we’re giving these companies their records,” she said. “We’re not.”

Lemmon said she’s heard from assessors in other counties who have been contacted with similar complaints. She said she raised the issue with the state tax commission, as well. 

“I told them, ‘This is going on, you’uns might want to take note of it up there,’” she said. 

Lemmon said since the end of July, she’s been contacted six times, including by landowners who have received offers on multiple pieces of land. 

The letters generally offer to pay all associated costs, back taxes, and title and escrow fees. They ask the recipient to complete an attached agreement, which includes a phone number and email.

“My advice would be to check out any buyer and to do research,” she said. “What I know for any real estate company is that they would go and talk to the people face to face. I don’t think they would just send them a letter with an agreement.” 

If it is a scam, Lemmon said she isn’t quite sure how it works. 

“People just need to be very careful,” she said. 

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