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“This is crazy” Tax preparer tells clients he’s not dead

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - A veteran tax preparer in San Luis Obispo knows all about dealing with complicated issues. He’s been preparing his clients' taxes for more than 50 years.

But even he had a problem that was so frustrating, he had to call the NewsChannel 3 Tipline for help.

Paul Torba said it all started in November 2020, when he decided to retire and sell his tax preparation business after this year's tax season.

But his personal and business phone lines were on the same account since he does much of his work at home. To sell the business, he would have to separate them. 

Torba found out that's easier said than done. He asked several phone companies to help him with that process and during an interview with NewsChannel 3, he spent about 10 minutes describing in detail everything that went wrong.

“So now I’ve got three companies involved, one more than I had when I first talked with you,” said Torba via a Zoom interview with NewsChannel 3. “Wow, I need a two-hour TV show to try and explain this one," responded Tipline Reporter C.J. Ward. "It’s getting worse,” said Torba.

Torba went to AT&T to figure out a way to separate the different phone numbers into different accounts.

He said AT&T told him they could do it.

Even better, they could give him internet at home, the office and bundle it. However, AT&T ran into problems.

“I didn’t even know my phone wasn’t working until somebody came up to me, ‘God, am I glad to see you. I thought you were dead.’ I’m going what do you mean? He goes, ‘Well your phone says it’s disconnected’ and he’d been trying to reach me through my office phone,” said Torba.

The phone number that was disconnected has been Torba’s business line since 1972. He found out it wasn’t working in February right in the middle of the busy tax season.

“If your clients think you're dead, it certainly isn’t good for business right?” said Ward. “ It’s not gonna help,” said Torba as he laughed.

Torba said it’s definitely hurt is business and he’s lost money.

“I don’t know how many customers didn’t contact me this year, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen there. I’m probably 40 tax returns down from where I was a year ago,” said Torba.

Torba also described how, at one point, all three phone companies were billing him for the same lines and he spent more hours than he can count trying to resolve everything.

“This is crazy. You know, I mean you can’t believe the frustration,” said Torba.

That’s when he called the NewsChannel 3 Tipline for help. We contacted AT&T on Torba’s behalf and the next day he received a call from the office of AT&T’s president.

About a week later, Torba said AT&T figured out the problem and his business line is back in service. 

"I'm tickled that NewsChannel 3 could help me out because I couldn't get anywhere."

AT&T also agreed to give Torba a $450 refund to resolve the billing errors. We reached out to AT&T for a comment for this story and received the following reply, "We have been in contact with this customer and his line is now operating normally."

Business Matters / Money and Business / NewsChannel 3 Investigates / San Luis Obispo County / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Ventura County / Video / Your Money
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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter. To learn more about C.J., click here

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