In mid-July the Internal Revenue Service began distributing extra monthly payments to families in New Jersey with children age 17 and younger as part of the expanded child tax credit program.

Now comes word scammers are trying to cash in on the program’s expansion.

Mike Geraghty, the director of the Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell at the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said bad actors are making calls and sending out texts and emails telling parents to validate their eligibility for the program.

He said scammers are directing people to fraudulent websites to collect their Social Security numbers, brith dates and other information.

“In some cases they’re saying that they could expedite the payments that are coming, $300 per month, and instead get a lump sum,” said Geraghty.

And in other cases, victims are told they have received a tax credit over-payment, and they must return the money by sending it in the form of gift cards or otherwise face serious penalties.

“The IRS will never contact individuals via phone, via email or via text asking for personal information or demanding payment," Geraghty said.

He said if you are contacted in this manner, and you should either hang up or notify the IRS on their website and report the scam.

“Whenever the government is giving away money you can be sure these bad actors and scammers will take advantage of it," he said.

So how do you know is somebody is trying to scam you or if something is on the level?

Most of the time, phony pitches involve a sense of urgency that capitalize on victims' fears if they don't act quickly.

“Take a deep breath and then go do your due diligence: a simple internet search will show that these are scams that have been reported," he said.

Two weeks ago the Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell put out an alert about phony New Jersey MVC texts that informed people they needed to update their driver’s license information, and directed them to a bogus website to fill out the needed personal data.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

NJ teachers and educators caught in sex crime busts

Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

The follow individuals were arrested over the past several years. Some have been convicted and sentenced to prison, while others have accepted plea deals for probation.

Others cases are still pending, including some court delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NJ arrests 31 accused child predators in "Operation 24/7"

A roundup of 31 men have been accused of sexually exploiting children online, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on July 14 while detailing "Operation 24/7."

The suspects “possessed and or distributed videos and images of child sexual abuse, including in many cases videos of young children being raped by adults,” Grewal said.

Chat apps and gaming platforms remain favorite hunting grounds for child predators and even as the pandemic winds down, many children have continued to spend more time online.

State Police received 39% more tips in just the first 6 months of 2021 than they received in the entire year in 2019. The following are suspects charged in "Operation 24/7."

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