$3.2 million stolen from Hoosiers in tax sale scheme, says Attorney General

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 2, 2016) — The Indiana Attorney General’s Office claims dozens of Hoosiers have been unwittingly falling victim to a tax sale scheme.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Tuesday his office was suing three out of state companies for allegedly swindling 48 Hoosiers out of a total $3.2 million.

He said FLRC, Oak Tree Title, and Coastal Title targeted homeowners who were behind on their real estate taxes. When a homeowner owes taxes, the County will put their house up for auction. If the house is purchased for more than the county taxes owed on it, there is a surplus. Then the homeowner is given a year to pay the owed taxes in order to reclaim the home.

Most people get scared and don’t understand how the tax sale process works, which makes them the perfect target for scam artists, said Zoeller.

He said companies will contact these homeowners and convince them to hand over the deed to their house in exchange for a few hundred dollars.

“This company comes along and offers them $450 in cash to take the deed off their hand,” said Zoeller. “Sometimes they’ll explain that this streamlines the process or makes it quicker for them to take ownership.”

But what’s actually happening is that the company is taking your deed to the county and cashing in on the surplus that actually belonged to you.

“They might be losing out on the surplus which in some cases is $40,000 or more,” explained Zoeller. “Homeowners who don’t know they’re entitled to the surplus can be conned in to selling their title for little or nothing.”

The Marion County Auditor’s Office said their legal counsel was tipped off when he noticed the same names calling to claim surpluses on homes over and over again. The auditor got the Attorney General involved.

“These bad actors used court records and public records to identify the homes that are sold at a tax sale for a surplus,” said Zoeller.

Now he wants to work with lawmakers to strengthen security in the tax sale process and he plans on calling other Attorneys General to make them aware of the scheme.

If your house was just put up for auction and you’re wondering if you’re owed a surplus, contact your County auditor’s office to find out.