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Misleading property tax advertisements could trick you into unnecessary fee

Property tax time is stressful enough. Now you've got to watch out for a misleading notice that comes in the mail. It could trick you into paying for something that should be free.

Property tax time is stressful enough. Now you've got to watch out for a misleading notice that comes in the mail. It could trick you into paying for something that should be free.

Property tax statements will be mailed out next week. But some official looking letters have already been showing up in San Antonio mailboxes. They offer to help you get a discount on your taxes.

They aren’t really government documents and you don't have to pay the fee they're ask for.

Mark and Sherri Merlo are glad they applied for a homestead exemption when they bought their house 16 years ago. It reduces their tax bill by thousands of dollars each year and it was easy to get.

“It didn't cost us anything we just went and filled out the forms and that was it," Sherri Merlo told us.

So don't be fooled if you receive a notice in the mail that says in bold letters “Bexar Designation of Homestead Request Form". It continues, "You must use this form or we will not prepare your designation of homestead."

It instructs you to send in $45.

It looks so official, Chief Appraiser Michael Amezquita says his own daughter almost fell for it.

“She thought it looked believable because it looked like a government document and when she showed it to me I was like, ‘You're not going to pay for that! This is your homestead exemption you don't have to pay for that,’" Amezquita said.

These types of solicitations have surfaced in past years but Amezquita says the price has gone up. They used to ask for $35. You have to read the fine print at the bottom to find the words: "not affiliated with any government entity."

“The Bexar Appraisal District will process your application absolutely for free. In fact, they’re available on our website at bcad.org," Amezquita said.

The Merlo's knew that, but they worry about first time homeowners and the elderly.

Those are the individuals that are being taken advantage of. Whoever does it should be locked up forever," Mark Merlo says.

One particular notice came from Homestead Designation Services in Austin. We called the phone number at the bottom, but it was a recording that doesn't allow you to leave a message. The address is a post office box.

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