Jeff Jardine: Costly Treasury phone scam strikes again

09/01/2014 7:31 PM

09/01/2014 7:36 PM

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

GREEN EGGS AND SCAM? Came home the other night to find the light flashing on the answering machine.

“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.

“Martin?”

“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.

JOLTING MEMORIES – Whenever there is an earthquake such as the 6.0 magnitude that hit the Napa area Aug. 24, it reminds people of the ones they experienced at another place and in another time. If you were around in 1989, you probably remember exactly where you were when the Loma Prieta quake struck, whether you were in the Bay Area or in the Valley at the time.

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.

WOUNDED WARRIOR – In 2012, I wrote about Steve Davis of Turlock, a Navy aviation engineer who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident just hours after returning from a cruise in the Pacific. He went on to compete in the Wounded Warrior Games in Colorado in 2013. Prince Harry of Great Britain attended the games and took the idea home to England. The result is the Invictus Games, in which wounded warriors from 14 nations will compete in various events in London on Sept. 8-15.

Davis was chosen for Team USA and will compete in seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

HALF DOME MILESTONE – I’ve written about Turlock’s Steve Hutton, who set a goal of climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome 100 times. The 100th is set for Sept. 13. Friends who plan to join him will meet up at the Happy Isles snack shack, leaving there at 5 a.m. Others will begin their hike to Nevada Fall at 8 a.m., where they’ll wait for the Half Dome contingent to descend the boulder. Everyone will then celebrate his achievement with a party in the Curry Village parking lot.

CART-OGRAPHY – Per my Aug. 21 column, reader Jonathan Couchman believes that if Modestans knew how to reach the shopping cart retrieval services, they would be picked up more frequently. He said calling the stores directly isn’t particularly effective. Cart retrieval services, though, are paid for the number of carts they retrieve. Modesto is down to one. California Shopping Cart Retrieval Corp. is the only one licensed by the city. Call (818) 563-3070.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Mike Monson, an author from Modesto, is partnering in a publishing company based in Modesto called All Due Respect. The company will publish crime fiction. Managing editor Chris Rhatigan said the company will publish new books every month or so, among them print and electronic versions of Monson’s “Criminal Love and Other Stories.”

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