LITTLETON — Chief Matthew J. Pinard and the Littleton Police Department would like to remind residents to be vigilant of potential scams and scams relating to COVID-19, such as suspicious activity relating to the distribution of the federal CARES Act stimulus bill.
The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that the automatic distribution of the upcoming economic impact payments has begun. These payments will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people.
The IRS urges people to be on the lookout for scams relating to these payments, as criminals could exploit these confusing and stressful times to take advantage of taxpayers by committing fraud and identity theft.
Ways to spot a potential scam relating to these payments include the following:
- Usage of phrases such as “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
- Being asked to sign over your economic impact payment in exchange for receiving additional funds.
- Requests by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information. Fraudsters may claim the information is needed to receive or speed up your economic impact payment. The IRS will not call you asking you to verify financial information to expedite a payment.
- Being asked by someone for personal information in order to get an economic impact payment faster by working on your behalf.
- Being mailed a fraudulent check and asked to call or verify information online in order to cash it.
You can learn if you are eligible for the economic impact payment and how any potential payment will be disbursed to you via the IRS website here.
“During uncertain times, scammers tend to take advantage of vulnerable populations,” said Chief Pinard. “In the past weeks, we’ve seen an increase in people reporting credit card, identity and COVID-19 scams. We would like to reiterate that anytime you receive a call and you are concerned or in doubt about the truthfulness of the call, you should immediately contact the Littleton Police Department.”
Common telephones scams that target residents – especially seniors – include:
- IRS Impostors: Callers contact you demanding immediate payment for back taxes.
- Arrested Relative: Scammers contact you claiming that a friend or relative has been arrested and needs bail money.
- Kidnapped Relative: Scammers call to report a friend or relative has been kidnapped and a ransom must be paid.
- Threatened Arrest: Scammers call to tell you that you are subject to arrest (by a variety of different agencies: U.S. Marshals, FBI, etc.) and must pay to avoid arrest.
- Utility Scam: Scammers pose as bill collectors from utility companies and threaten to shut off service if you do not pay.
- Sweepstakes: Someone calls to notify you that you have won a contest or sweepstakes and must send money to collect any winnings.
- Tech Support/Malware: Someone contacts you claiming your computer needs repairs and to send money for service or asks to connect to your computer. Additionally, a pop-up can appear on your computer, stating that it is infected with malware, and to call a number to pay to remove the virus.
In many of these calls, the scammer demands payment via electronic money order or pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag.
To help people protect themselves from similar scams, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers several tips on its website, including:
- Do not take calls from unknown numbers.
- Do not share personal, identifying information like Social Security numbers, account numbers, or mother’s maiden names.
- If a caller claims to represent an organization and you are doubtful, hang up and contact that agency to verify whether the call was truly from a representative.
- Caller ID is not always accurate. A call from a “local” number might not be coming from a local person or organization.
- Never pay a caller using a gift card or prepaid credit card.
- Be wary of callers who talk quickly and pressure you to make a decision quickly.
- Do not send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you pay for a product or service with cash or a money transfer, you run a risk of losing the right to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Report rude or abusive callers, even if you already sent them money, by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or by visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
Any Littleton resident who believes they have been contacted by a potential scammer, or who believes they may have been a victim of such a scam, should contact the Littleton Police Department at 978-540-2300. Scams should also be reported to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.