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Have you gotten a 'Distraint Warrant' letter? Erie County warns of new scam

The letters claim that you owe money to the government. Distraint Warrants are a real thing, but Erie County says residents have been getting fake ones in the mail
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — You open your mailbox, and open a piece of mail. The first thing you read is this: 

"Tax Processing Unit Erie County Public Judgment Records TOLL FREE:1-800-258-0955"

Then the words, "Distraint Warrant."

You're probably confused, and you're not alone. According to Erie County, residents have been getting fraudulent letters like this, which is part of a scam. The letters claim that you owe money to the government.

So what's an actual Distraint Warrant? 

You would get this letter if you owe back property taxes or have a lien. It's a legally enforceable document. But if you get this notice, you should be cautious.

Scammers often create documents that look like they're from the government, and they're not.

Erie County says that these scam letters often say they're from the "Tax Processing Unit." But Erie County doesn't have such a thing. If you owe back taxes, you're going to be dealing with the office of Erie County Real Property Tax Services.

And if it's a federal tax issue, expect that it would come from the IRS. 

Erie County is encouraging individuals who get letters like this to the link critically, saying on their website that the following are red flags: 

  1. "Why is there no address on how to contact the company sending this letter?
  2. What company is attempting to collect this tax debt? 
  3. Who is "Federal Tax Authorities? "The Federal Tax Authorities uses this warrant in collection action, such as a garnishment of wages and bank accounts, property seizures, federal tax refund offset, and creation of a property lien."
  4. What taxing authority is collecting the outstanding tax debt?
  5. Why doesn't the letter identify the actual tax owed?
  6. What tax period is the debt covering?"

For more information on this scam, click here. 

You should contact the Erie County Office of Consumer Protection if you get this letter.  You can also report the incident to the New York State Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission

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