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Brussels residents receive scam letter asking to pay property tax

11:00 24/01/2023

Residents of Brussels – and the Schaerbeek neighbourhood in particular – have reported receiving fraudulent letters in the mail asking them to pay a housing tax within seven days.

Police have confirmed that the mailing campaign is a scam and say they have opened an investigation into the matter.

The letter – which is written in French – offers the choice of payment through either using an account number or easily scanning a QR code.

The account in question corresponds to Wise, a money-transfer company that allows people to transfer funds between bank accounts that are located in different countries. Wise said it had banned the user who had "abused our platform and against our Acceptable Terms of Use".

A spokesperson said: “Safety and security are paramount at Wise and we are truly sorry to hear about the scam people have fallen victim to.

"Immediately after becoming aware, we deactivated the profile, which only received a small number of payments. We advise those affected to contact their bank and report they have fallen to this scam. Wise will then refund the money to those affected.”

The scam letter refers to a "taxe habitation à charge des chefs de ménage" but such a tax does not exist.

The scammers likely got their inspiration from a "taxe régionale à charge des chefs de ménage et des personnes isolées" that was abolished in 2016.

But unsuspecting residents may be fooled by the letter if they only glimpse at it briefly before simply paying and moving on.

The letter looks professional and legitimate at a glance, but it purports to come from the City of Brussels while asking for a tax specific to the municipality of Schaerbeek.

Another tell-tale sign is that the address listed is PO Box 1444 - 1000 Brussels, which is the address of the bureau tasked with parking enforcement and not housing matters.

The letter also contains grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, misplaced capital letters and double spaces, whereas the city administration generally takes care to have official documents properly proofread and edited.

Furthermore, it was only sent in French whereas any official correspondence for city or municipal matters would also be offered in Dutch.

People first began sharing warnings about the letter in a Facebook group for people living in Schaerbeek, with some long-time residents noting that they’d never seen such a letter in all the years they had lived there, which made them immediately suspicious.

One resident said they had lodged a formal complaint and called on others to do the same so that vulnerable people can be notified before they fall for the scam.

More information on scams can be found on the official FPS Economy website in French and in Dutch.

Written by Helen Lyons