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Long Island Homeowners Warned About Foreclosure Scam

NASSAU COUNTY (CBSNewYork) – A scare in the mail has some Long Island residents believing they could be on the brink of losing their homes.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, 2,700 letters sent to Nassau County residents in recent weeks have included warnings such as "you need to take immediate action to keep your home" or "property taxes have not been paid."

"Well that is frightening… it takes years for someone to not pay their taxes to actually go into foreclosure, it takes two to three years," Donald Clavin, a receiver of taxes in the town of Hempstead said.

The mailers reportedly came from a private law firm. Town of Hempstead and North Hempstead tax receivers say dozens of recipients rushed in to find they were up to date on their taxes, or were only behind by a few months.

"This scares people into thinking they're going to be thrown out of their homes tomorrow," Clavin added. "This is an attempt to drum up business by scaring residents."

If a resident is late in paying taxes, there are simple steps to catch up: Contact the Nassau County treasurer's office. Free clinics are also available through the bar association.

"It shouldn't come out of the blue that somebody would get a letter like this notifying them that they're about to lose their home by an outside private lawyer," said Clavin.

Galarza law firm of Massapequa sent the mailer, Gusoff reported. The list, it claimed, was a public record obtained through a tax lien auction website. It later learned some of those listed had paid their overdue taxes prior to letters going out.

"There was never any attempt to frighten, deceive or mislead anyone," the firm said in a statement. "When it came to our attention that some of the homeowners on the list were in fact current on their taxes, we apologized to them and sincerely apologize again."

Local officials have referred the case to the bar association's grievance committee.

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