TACOMA — “A box of drugs and money being shipped has your name on it and it has been intercepted at the border.”

That’s what a recorded voice is telling Washington state residents in what is a phone scam apparently targeting Latinos.

The message then instructs the recipient to press 1 to speak with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent.

Bernal Baca and Yazmin Aguilar both have gotten the calls. The executive director and deputy director of Tacoma’s Centro Latino didn’t fall for it. But Aguilar did investigate.

“I did press the number 1, and I actually talked to them,” Aguilar said. The voice on the other end of the line said he needed a payment from her. When she asked too many questions, he hung up.

Aguilar has had four family members get the calls. They originate from a variety of ever-changing numbers.

“I blocked one number and then I kept getting the phone call again and again,” she said.

Centro Latino advises its clients to never divulge personal information to an unsolicited caller. Government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration usually communicate through the mail. They do not call citizens, demanding money.

Washington is not the only state on the scammers’ list. The deception dates back to at least early December.

“Many places around the country have reported receiving these same calls,” said Kris Grogan, a CBP spokesperson.

CBP does not solicit money over the phone, the agency said.

“If such calls are received, people should make a note of the number and any other pertinent details about the call, and report the incident to the authorities for investigation,” a CBP advisory states.

Phone scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission online at usa.gov/scams-and-frauds or by calling 877-382-4357.



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