I am under the gun with a rush project when my office phone rings. “Hello” I distractedly say as I continue to peruse the document glaring back at me from the bright computer screen.

“This is Karen, from the Franchise Tax Board, and I have some questions for you regarding your estimated first quarter tax payment for this year.” She rattles off a dollar amount, which sounds plausible. When I ask what the problem is, she informs me that there was no voucher attached to the payment.

I have no time for this. Deanne, my office manager, will know where to find my tax payment records.   I offer to take Karen’s number and have Deanne call back the next day.

Sensing my distraction, Karen says, “I simply need to confirm the payment and that it is credited to your taxpayer ID. Can you provide your Social Security number please?”

Warning bells begin to jangle somewhere in the back of my head. “Karen, I will have to take down your phone number and have my office manager call you back.” Karen ungraciously provides a number and hangs up.

Franchise Tax Board Telephone FraudThe next day, I hand a scribbled note to Deanne and relay the strange encounter. She scoffs. “That is ridiculous! I have a digital file of the letter, payment voucher and check sent as well as the date the check was cashed by the FTB. Are you sure this was the FTB”?

I am chagrined to realize that I almost fell for such an elegantly simple scam. Clearly, “Karen” was not from the FTB. Unsurprisingly, Deanne confirms that “Karen’s” phone number did not match any numbers for the FTB.

The moral of the story? Be very suspicious of any caller, even (and especially) one claiming to be an IRS or FTB agent, who asks for your social security number or other sensitive data. The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) cautions taxpayers to be wary of phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). TIGTA has received reports of around 290,000 contacts since October 2013 and is aware of almost 3,000 victims who have collectively paid more than $14 million as a result of being scammed by these phone call scammers.

This is just a basic overview and is not legal advice specific to your situation. If you would like to speak with Jonathan about your tax or business situation, please email him at jcw@eastbaybusinesslawyer.com or call him at 925-217-3255.