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from Local Attorney, Michael H. Wasserman

Thursday, September 30, 2010

REALTOR ALERT - International Scammers Have You In Their Sights

Realtors - What would you think of representing an all cash buyer who is moving his family to Chicago from out of the Country, and who needs your urgent help to find a suitable home? Sounds nice, right?  He needs you to send him listings ASAP as he really needs to move quickly. Even better. Oh yeah, one more thing, he wants to wire you money, lots of it now, so that he can have it ready for the closing. Still interested?


If you are, better take a deep breath before reading on. This is the script to a  fairly elaborate - and pervasive scam that is being perpetrated on unsuspecting Realtors all across the country. I have seen it now twice in just the last three weeks. One agent was approached via Trulia. The other received a lead directly from the brokerage's web site.

More details about the scam can be found in this Trulia posting, and this Orlando, Florida lawyer's blog.


The first time this came up, I advised the inquiring agent to take extra care to try to verify the would-be buyer's funds and identity. He sent photocopies of a passport and a bank statement, but quickly disappeared and dropped contact when we started making inquiries with the bank.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UPDATE: Cook County Property Tax Bills will be mailed out (eventually)

Some news is (finally) starting to leak out regarding those inevitable Cook County property tax bills everyone has been waiting for.

We all, of course, know that local property tax bills are sent out in two installments. The first installment, a/k/a the estimated bill, is always taken as a percentage of the previous years levy. Formerly half of the prior years taxes, the most recent bill demanded 55% of the last known taxes, owing to a recently changed state law. The County, it seems, needs more money sooner. A prior blog post alerted readers to this change earlier this year.

The second, of final installment of the tax bills is supposed to get mailed out in August, providing a theoretical due date of September 1st. These bills are very often mailed much later. Last year they went out in November  and were due December. There has been a good deal of rumor mongering and speculation about the timing of the second installment 2009 tax bills. Harken back to this report in the Daily Herald from back in April for a tasty example. Both the County Treasurer's office, and  Today's Tribune confirms that the tax bills will indeed be delayed until middle or late  November, well after the November 2nd elections. At least we can finally start preparing for the inevitable reckoning and divert worried eyes from the mail box for the next couple of weeks.

But news of the timing of the tax bill is only the beginning of the story. We still await word as to the size  of those tardy invoices. That news too is starting to leak out and the news is not very pretty, offering yet another reason why the delay is taking place.

At least one learned colleague is reporting that the 2009 Cook County tax equalization factor (a/k/a the "multiplier") is increasing by more than 13%. The multiplier is intended to achieve uniform property assessment throughout the state. The equalization factor does not cause individual tax bills to go up or down, local taxing bodies determine tax bills when they finalize their budgets and request the dollars needed to provide services to their respective citizens. The assessment process determines how the bill will be divided among taxpayers, from County to County and Township to Township.    

Tax bills are determined (essentially) by multiplying a property's assessed valuation by the local tax rate, and by the multiplier. In 2007, the Cook County multiplier was 2.8439. For 2008 it went up to 2.9786. This year, it soars to 3.3701.

Check out your assessed valuation on the Cook County Assessors's web site. That tax rate? stay tuned.