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Governor’s office warns of STAR property tax exemption scam

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It’s a scammers’ scam.

Apparently some people are determined to make money off the free registration process for a property tax exemption program intended to prevent other people from unfairly taking advantage of the program.

According to the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, taxpayers should be on the lookout for solicitations offering a fee-based service to apply for the School Tax Relief property tax exemption program.

The STAR program, which allows residents to save an average of $700 a year on their primary residences, has been abused in the past by taxpayers who have registered multiple homes for the exemption.

This year, for the first time in the program’s 15-year history, the state is requiring homeowners to register directly with the state for the exemption. They are able to register online for free at www.tax.ny.gov.

But some enterprising swindlers have sent out letters to new homeowners offering to enroll them in the STAR program for a substantial fee, according to the governor’s office. An example of these letters can be viewed here: http://wdt.me/STARscam.

“New Yorkers should not be fooled: registration to the STAR program is free, convenient and provides taxpayers with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars in property tax relief each year,” Gov. Cuomo said in a news release. “I encourage any homeowner not receiving a STAR exemption to apply on their own and avoid disingenuous schemes that seek to charge you for the tax relief that is rightfully yours.”

Paul J. Warneck, director of Jefferson County Real Property Tax Services, said that his office has not yet received any complaints from residents who have been victims of the scam.

He encouraged anyone who receives a fraudulent letter to first contact the local office of the state attorney general and then contact his office, where staff will assist with the STAR exemption application for free. The number for Jefferson County Real Property Tax Services is 785-3074.

There are two STAR exemptions: Basic STAR for homeowners with incomes less than $500,000, and Enhanced STAR for senior citizens with incomes under $81,900. The registration deadline for the STAR program is Dec. 31.

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