MARBLEHEAD — There’s been an increase in scams across the town, and Police Chief Robert Picariello is asking residents to heed with caution.
“I don’t think the town is being targeted,” he said. “I have always gotten the sense they go through numerically and I think it just so happens they have gotten to our area code.”
Whether it’s someone claiming to be from the IRS or someone else claiming they have your family member who they won’t release without a payout, Picariello is advising everyone to be careful. The police chief said he isn’t sure whether there are more scam calls being made across the town or if the nationwide awareness is prompting people to report them more often. Either way, he appreciates every reported scam complaint because it helps the department keep track of the phone numbers.
“The more we can get the word out to people to keep their personal info safe, like phone numbers, credit card numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers, the better it will be,” he said. “Guard them like you guard your wallet, your pocket book or your house.”
The IRS website has a list of tell-tale signs that you are being scammed. The government agency will never call to demand an immediate payment or mention owed taxes without mailing a bill first. They’ll never demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to appeal the monetary amount in question. They’ll never require you to use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, for your taxes or ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone and they won’t ever threaten to bring in law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
Picariello also noted that no IRS worker or government official is going to ask you to pay a bill via gift cards from a 7-Eleven or a CVS Pharmacy. When a resident finds something off about the call and concerns begin to grow, the chief highly advises that individual to call the police department. Phone calls, however, aren’t the only medium scam artists are utilizing.
One Marblehead resident walked into the police station with a typed letter in her hand that claimed she is the only living relative of a person who died in a car accident in Portugal, therefore she inherited their millions. Another received an email from someone saying they had all their passwords and were going to expose all their secrets if they didn’t pay a large sum of money.
“Don’t be so willing to give people info over the phone,” said Picariello. “A certain amount of our information is available over the internet and these scammers do their research.”
Some stores have begun facilitating a prompt when people purchase any gift cards from CVS that makes them acknowledge they’re not being forced. Some residents do follow through with the scammer’s requests and once any gift card information or identification numbers are given out, it’s almost certain that money is gone, according to Picariello. He hopes residents continue to call the department before that happens.
Some of the called in complaints aren’t coming from the residents themselves, but from their local bank tellers or store clerks. That’s one great aspect of living in a small town, according to the police chief.
“We are lucky that in smaller towns, banks know their customers,” he said. “When someone comes in to withdraw a large sum of money for an odd reason, they seem to know that something is up and most of them call us.”