Santa Cruz County
In Santa Cruz County, the property taxes can be paid in two installments. The first is due in December and the second is due in the following Febraury.
In 2010 the tax bill were sent with the option to pay on-line (with an added fee). Property owners who looked into this feature, discovered several options to pay taxes on-line. None had any involvement with the County of Santa Cruz. The internet address printed on the tax bill was incorrect. The correct address included the website of the county of Santa Cruz (http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us). The tax bill did not have the important ".ca" in the internet address. (A company in Virgina owns the ca.us domain and leases the "co.santa-cruz" to the county.) The same form has a second tear-away to be used in 2011.
Anyone using santa-cruz.us went to the site of a company that bought several internet domains that were alike to what people might accidentally type. Since they were getting a lot of hits from people wanting to pay taxes, they provided links to several companies that accept money on-line. (Some may not have been legitimate.)
To be fair, the telephone recording for the county tax office did give the correct internet address to pay taxes. There was even an option to press a number and wait to speak to a tax office worker. This feature did not work after 4pm. The clock for the answering system was off by an hour. After the perceived "quitting time" it would not route calls. It is possible the county set the answering system clock ahead one hour instead of back one hour for Daylight Savings Time in Fall. (This error continued into 2011.)
The county tax office was aware of the error, but sent no correction and did not make an announcement. The goof only affected those who would pay by credit card and the fee would have been 2.5% extra. This would be about $60 for a typical home tax bill for one installment. That would be more than the reward points on the transaction.
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