Texting For Taxes

(Memphis) The On Your Side Investigators got a phone call from a Memphis woman about what she thought was a scam.

She got a text message explaining she was late paying property taxes and needed to send the money or face legal action.

What’s worse is the resident was afraid thieves already had her personal information, because her property taxes were, in fact, unpaid.

Turns out, it wasn’t a scam at all – it’s your local government turning to technology to collect taxes!

If you get a text that reads, “You owe…county taxes and will be sued for those taxes on March 2014,” you may not want to ignore it or delete it.

The text isn’t coming from crooks trying to steal your money, but rather the Shelby County Trustee’s office attempting to collect money you owe.

“We recently rolled out through the different social media platforms an increased emphasis on collecting delinquent taxes,” explained Trustee David Lenoir.

The Trustee’s office is using texts, emails, and even Facebook to collect from delinquent taxpayers.

The communication provides information about the amount the taxpayer owes, plus a link and further details about how to pay.

“With the increase in technology, we consider ourselves stewards of taxpayer dollars and texting, email is a good platform, it’s very cost, effective and it’s very efficient.”

According to Lenoir, the text and email campaigns alone have brought in just under $800,000.

His office sent out more than 9,300 texts and roughly 6,000 emails.  The text costs five cents each, much less than 40-cent postage.

Lenoir admits it may not be popular with those on the receiving end, but for a county that loses roughly $50 million every year in unpaid taxes, it’s worth a try.

“Every now and then you get the taxpayer who thinks it’s a scam and then you get some who aren’t thrilled we communicated with them in this fashion, but for the most part, it’s been a very favorable response and we’ve collected quite a bit of money.”

Lenoir says they get taxpayers phone numbers and emails through communication with the Trustee’s office.

Area residents can expect to see more from them in the way of technology.

Customers can already use auto pay, an online service to pay taxes, and Lenoir hopes to eventually go to e-billing.

If you do get a text or email claiming to be from the Office of Shelby County Trustee, you should still verify the information and links, before turning over any money or personal information.

2 comments

  • JustMe

    Do they verify that the phone number and email addresses are actually in fact the person that owes the taxes? If they send it to a wrong email or phone, they could be in violation of privacy laws, not to even mention the laws that specify what they can and can not do as far as collecting a debt.

    Sounds like a very good reason to me to NOT give your email address or cell phone number to any of those agencies.

  • Will

    This seems like an incredibly stupid idea. Most people who get a text like this would think it’s a scam and ignore it. I sure hope no judge would consider it adequate notification in case of an actual suite.

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