Photo of Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley, Massachusetts Police Department

Week of April 25, 2020

A weekly column by Police Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley Police Department

The COVID-19 situation continues to result in several financial “scams”.  Unsuspecting people can unwittingly become the victim of a larceny or identity theft.  Some of the latest surround the distributions of stimulus monies being provided to people by the Federal Government (via the Internal Revenue Service).  The IRS is providing some warnings for people that I wanted to bring to the reader’s attention. 

According to the IRS, they have begun to distribute funds to people who have filed tax returns. This provides scammers with opportunities.  Victims have been called, or notified electronically, and told they must verify their personal information for the transactions to be completed.  For those who receive paper checks, victims may be convinced to sign over the checks to them. Generally, victims who are contacted are asked for their social security number, bank account information, and other personal data.

The IRS states, “they will deposit your economic impact payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check). The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your economic impact payment. Beware of this scam. With COVID-19 scams, they may urge you to pay this fake “debt” with your economic impact check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward to them for “payment of past debts.” If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Do not click on any links in those emails.”

They also warn of “Reports about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud –- it will take the Treasury Department a few weeks to distribute the payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.”

The IRS reminds everyone they do not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.  Additionally, they do not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement actions.  Being able to recognize these tell-tale signs of a tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.  Visit IRS.gov or IRS.gov/coronavirus for the latest information. Some simple actions can allow you to make informed decisions and avoid becoming a victim.

Thanks again go out to the men and women from my department for their continued dedicated service to the Town of Dudley.  Thanks also go out to the many Fire and Emergency Services members, public works and government employees, hospital workers, grocery and retail workers, and all other “essential” personnel for their continued hard work and service thorough this situation.  We will get through this and hopefully we will be back in full swing soon, with as limited negative impact as possible. 

Thanks again for your questions and comments.  Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St., Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at swojnar@dudleypolice.com.  Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.  

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