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IRS scam possibly targeting Hispanics

WORTHINGTON -- Although many people across the United States were rushing to finish their taxes by the deadline, Jose had no such problem. He had filed his taxes and already received his return. So he was surprised to receive a phone call Tuesday from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stating he owed more than $800.

"He said he belonged to the IRS and that I owed $845," said Jose, of Worthington, during a phone call to the Daily Globe. "He said he was with the department that collected the money."

Jose, who asked that his last name not be released, said the caller stated his name was Carlos Smith, and asked if he preferred to converse in Spanish or English.

Either was fine, Jose replied, so the conversation took place in Spanish.

The main reason he called the Daily Globe to report the call, Jose said, is he feared Hispanic people were being targeted by a scam. And he is very likely correct. According to articles written by the Texas Attorney General, fraudulent calls from false agents can take several tacts. Many of them claim there are refunds of taxes through direct deposit, and con the victim into giving out bank account information.

As for the call to Jose, it is unclear what the tact was to be, because after getting over his initial shock, Jose asked the right questions.

"He asked if I had received letters from them and I said no. He told me I owed him money and they would come to my house to get it or take things," Jose explained. "I asked him how I knew he belonged to the IRS, and he gave me a phone number to call."

The phony agent also gave Jose a "case number." Rather than call the number he was given, Jose went online, looked up information for a local IRS office and called that number.

The real agent checked Jose's name and information and assured him he did not owe the IRS any money, and that the call was probably a scam.

"The guy who called me was trying to scare me," Jose said. "He said he could come to my house and take away things. I asked him what I had to do. 'Can I go to the courthouse to fix this?' I asked."

But at the mention of courts, the caller turned even more threatening.

"You want to go to court? Go ahead and get an attorney," the caller told him. "We'll get ours."

The legitimate IRS agent told Jose the IRS does not threaten, nor do they come to people's houses and take things. They work out payment plans, and they normally send letters. If they do call someone, they will not ask for a social security number or bank numbers, but will verify information.

"(The caller) never asked me for money because I asked him how I'd know he was from the IRS," Jose said. "He tried to scare me and threaten me. They know their way around this kind of stuff. But I study computers, so I knew to go online and look it up."

The Daily Globe called the phone number Jose was given, which resulted in an answering machine that states, "The person you are trying to reach is not available at this time."

The phone number originates from Santa Barbara, Calif., and has been registered several times as a number used in scams on reverse-number look up websites.

Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey said Wednesday his office has not receive any similar scam complaints that he is aware of, but that Jose acted in exactly the way any law enforcement official would have advised.

According to the IRS, if a person receives a letter from them, they could contact the IRS to see if it is legitimate. With a phone call, the person should ask for an employee badge number and a call back number. If the call is not legitimate, they should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at