Cascade County warns of tax payment scam

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-15 19:38:15-04

GREAT FALLS — The Cascade County Clerk & Recorder's Office is warning residents about a scam letter being sent out regarding unwarranted tax payments. In fact, one resident was being asked to pay more than $27,000 plus interest.

Cascade County resident Sue Converse knew something wasn’t right when her 83-year old widowed mother Mary recently received what appeared to be a notice of a tax lien.

“It looked very official and it says to contact if you had any questions, contact a phone number,” said Converse. “On the bottom it said Cascade County Treasurer.”

Marie Johnson is the Cascade County Deputy Clerk & Recorder and called the toll-free number listed on the letter. She found out it was tied to a California based company called Tax Network USA that claims to help taxpayers.

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Marie Johnson

“There's some key points where they're trying to point out that they are affiliated with Cascade County and they're not, as well as the Clerk and Recorder's office and the Treasurer's office,” said Johnson.

The letter said Mary owed more than $ 27,000 in taxes and almost $7,000 in interest and penalties.

“What's astounding is this person already paid off their tax lien and that tax lien is filed in our office and clearly shows that person paid it off,” said Johnson.

“I’m just encouraging others if they receive this letter to contact either the Treasurer or the Clerk and Recorder’s office,” said Johnson. “Double check and make sure it’s something you do owe. We do provide copies, all our records are public.”

Johnson knows of at least two letters that have been distributed in Cascade County, and that her office won’t send out a notice of a tax lien.

“We would never do that,” said Johnson. “The IRS would file a lien with you and then they would file that lien with us. Then when you pay off that lien, the IRS files the release as well.”

Johnson says the Treasurer's office sends out tax notices. She says the Clerk & Recorder’s office doesn’t correspond with people unless they’re trying to record a document in error.

Upon reading the letter, Converse told her mother not to call the number, avoiding an electronic trail.

Converse says many older residents, like her mom, are often scam targets.

“They target the elderly and they knew she was elderly,” said Converse. “It was publicized in the paper when my father passed. That's another good way that they find those things out.”

Johnson says anyone who receives such a letter is encouraged to contact the Cascade County Sheriff and can always get verification from the Clerk & Recorder or treasurer.

“If they ever receive anything that doesn't look right, that represents our office or the county, feel free to come and see us and bring them the document,” said Johnson

“It's better to be safe than sorry if you don't think you have a lien or you don't think you have a bill owed,” said Converse. “Go down there. They'll be more than happy to help you out.”