Police warn locals of coronavirus-related scam artists

📸 Screenshot of livestreamed briefing from Southbridge Emergency Operations Center on April 9, 2020.

SOUTHBRIDGE — There have been 23 positive COVID-19 tests of local residents, as well as one death, in this town, local officials announced on Thursday afternoon.

Southbridge Police Chief Shane Woodson provided the updated numbers as part of a weekly livestream from the community’s Emergency Operations Center at the police station.

While Governor Charlie Baker’s administration is no longer publicly reporting town-specific data on confirmed coronavirus cases in deference to patient privacy, local officials said they will continue to report the total number of cases in Southbridge in an effort to be transparent and keep residents informed.

Woodson said town officials have agreed to continue reporting the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in order to combat erroneous information and rumors.

“We want to be as transparent as possible to avoid false information on social media,” Woodson explained.

In addition to reporting the number of confirmed cases and deaths, town officials plan to begin reporting the number of individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.

Town Councilor David Adams said there have been numerous requests for information as to how many individuals have recovered.

“It’s important to report recoveries,” Woodson affirmed, noting that data is expected to become available on the Town website in a matter of days.

Adams later thanked first responders as well as local residents and businesses who have stepped up to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to push through this the best we can,” he said.

Increased tips on crimes, scams

Woodson said local police officers have seen an uptick in anonymous tips and reports of potential crimes through the police department’s  Tip411 app. Woodson did not elaborate as to the nature of the tips or whether there is more criminal activity or simply greater participation due to COVID-19 precautions and guidelines.

While there may be more tips coming to law enforcement, Woodson said police are not actively pursuing a number of minor complaints in an effort to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, though more pressing issues and emergencies are being addressed promptly.

“We’re only addressing serious threats to public safety at this time,” Woodson explained. “Our police and fire departments are going to respond to emergency calls without delay.”

The one specific type of crime officials referenced were coronavirus-related scams.

“Unfortunately, there are bad people out there taking advantage,” said Adams. “We don’t want our residents or anybody getting scammed.”

Woodson explained that phone calls from individuals seeking personal information while claiming to be government officials or otherwise are dangerous.

“Nobody from the government, no legitimate person, will call you at home and ask you for your bank account information,” said Woodson. “The government will never ever call you.”

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