From the emails, voice mails and other sources:
“My name is Keith Martin,” the caller said in a heavy accent. I didn’t realize Keith Martin was such a popular name in India or wherever. He proceeded to say he was calling because I had intentionally ignored his second attempt to reach me over my problem with the U.S. Treasury.
The only problem I have with the U.S. Treasury is that too much of my money is sitting in it. Anyway, he didn’t refer to me by name. He merely threatened that if I didn’t cooperate, I faced being dragged in front of a judge magistrate on criminal charges.
“I advise you to cooperate with us,” he concluded. “You need to allow us to help you.”
Obviously, he didn’t complete the sentence, which should have gone, “allow us to help you help us rip you off.” Indeed, people who fall for this scam will see their green, meaning money, and eggs, as in nest eggs, siphoned out of their accounts.
They’re busy ones, these little devils. According to a Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration press release posted on its web page in March, the scammers had reached more than 20,000 people and conned victims out of more than $1 million – numbers that obviously have increased since that time.
If you have unpaid taxes, the Internal Revenue Service will contact you by mail, not by a threatening phone call from a foreign country routed through a domestic area code. It won’t ask for payments using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers or ask for your credit card number over the phone.
If you get one of these calls, you can report it to the IRS by calling (800) 366-4484 or by visiting the Inspector General’s web page at www.treasury.gov/tigta.
Or, you could do what I did last week. I called the number left on my machine ( (206) 497-1628). A man identifying himself as Richard Harris (another name I’m sure must occupy page upon page of southern Asian phone directories) answered, claiming he was in the legal department. I told him I was responding to his call about my tax problem.
“What is your name, sir?” he asked.
“Barney,” I responded.
“No, Barney. B-a-r-n-e-y,” I answered.
“And what is your last name?” he asked.
“Google,” I answered. “G-o-o-g-l-e.”
“OK, Mr. Google. We can help you.”
Then I asked for his badge number.
“1153” he responded.
When I asked where he was located, he wanted to know why I wanted to know.
“Because there’s a big scam going on and I think you are part of it,” I replied. “You need to go to jail.”
“I’ll be sending an agent to take you to jail!” he said, just before slamming the phone down.
Somewhere in that shady back-office operation, I suspect a scam artist just added “Barney Google” to his Do Not Call list.
He should also Google “Barney Google,” once a popular comic-strip character.
Les Johnson of Modesto recalls another quake of note. An avid skier, he was at Mammoth Mountain on the Sierra’s eastern side when a 6.0 magnititude struck on Memorial Day weekend in 1980.
“That giant lodge looked like it was going to come apart,” Johnson told The Bee while still at the resort that year. “I kept wondering why it didn’t come apart, I saw the sun deck twisting. Windows looked like they were moving back and fourth four inches. I opened my mouth and said, ‘My God!’ ”
Johnson was part of a group that included Al and Betty Saletta. Betty is a local sculptor.
“I’ve felt earthquakes before, but nothing like this,” Johnson said. “It was a real temblor. It really shook you.”
Recently, someone sent Johnson a copy of the original newspaper clipping, and he brought it to The Bee newsroom to share during the Napa quake’s aftermath. The experience didn’t quell his enthusiasm for skiing, though.
“I’m still going at 81,” he said.
Davis was chosen for Team USA and will compete in seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.