homepage logo

Calls claiming you owe money are likely scams

By ERIC P. FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law | Mar 23, 2023

Eric P. Feichthaler

Mr. Feichthaler:

I closed a loan refinance title transaction with you and your team two years ago, and everything went great. We locked in a low interest rate, which looks really good now with the massive increase in interest. Now to the problem. I received a call from someone at the Florida Department of Revenue saying the taxes on the mortgage were not paid. They said it was the documentary stamp tax and the intangible tax, for a total of $2,900. I thought this was paid at closing, but they insisted it was not, and that I could have my house seized or even be arrested if I don’t send the money by next Friday. Is this an ongoing tax? Did you pay it for me?

– Angela M.

Dear Angela,

Thank you for the compliments, and congratulations on the great interest rate. Yes, I paid the documentary stamp tax and intangible tax two years ago. We actually pay these taxes when we record the mortgage, so they were all paid at once, and paid to Lee County. Both of these taxes are one-time charges on notes and mortgages in Florida.

The Florida Department of Revenue (and the IRS) will never just call a taxpayer and demand payment. There will always be written notice that there is a deficiency, audit, or other issue that has arisen. I am very suspicious of this phone call. We have seen a lot of attempted fraud with people pretending to own properties they do not (previously covered in my column), as well as people sending fake wiring instructions. This scam appears to be a new one, where thieves are targeting large mortgagors in the hopes the fear of jail or liens on property will lead to a quick payment.

I am so happy you reached out to me before paying any money, because, at best, they are incorrect. However, they are more likely scammers hoping to take advantage of you. I do recommend if you receive written notice of tax amounts due, you work with a professional to confirm it is real. And, for unsolicited calls or texts that are seeking any kind of payment, never fall for it! Scammers are becoming more sophisticated by the day, and we must be ever vigilant to make sure we are not a successful target.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 35 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Museum of History, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 20 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator. He can be reached at eric@capecoralattorney.com, or 239-542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.