This week’s column touches on topics that are disparate by nature but share timeliness.
The week before Thanksgiving, approximately 25 residents called or visited our police department, reporting very official-sounding calls they received from the “IRS.”
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Convincing callers claim to be IRS agents. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They know a lot about their targets, often using one’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official. They even know how to manipulate the caller ID system so IRS can appear on your phone. These bogus call centers have recently originated in Virginia and even Turkey.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and must pay promptly through a preloaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to agree to the demand, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Conversely, victims may be told they have a refund due in order to be tricked into sharing private information that will be used to defraud at a later date.
If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Please note, the IRS will never:
call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for nonpayment.
If you know you don’t owe any taxes or have no reason to think that you do, give out no information and hang up immediately. Then, reach out to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, TIGTA, to report the call, use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
If you owe or think you owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
Our village police department lacks jurisdiction to be of immediate help since the scams are out-of-state transactions. However, they too are alerting the appropriate agencies when a scam is reported.
The IRS has received reports of 736,000 scam contacts and approximately 4,550 victims have collectively paid more than $23 million to scammers.
Local scammers have imitated the IRS scheme and are currently calling merchants and residents impersonating Con Edison and United Water staffers, demanding immediate payment with threat of a service cutoff. Hang up at once.
Changing gears, this summer saw many trees die in our business district, resulting in unattractive stumps and unsightly tree pits. Professional arborists told us they were probably the wrong “street tree” when planted as the root systems most likely died due to space constraints. For example, oak trees would need 20-foot-wide sidewalks for the size of the tree pits they need to flourish.
We sought professional advice and in recent days have planted Swamp White Oaks and European Hornbeams trees which are much more conducive to longevity in a well-traveled business district.
We surrounded the trees with Flexi Pave Tree Surround, a relatively new product just installed in the Georgetown, Md., shopping district and the trails of Yellowstone National Park.
Flexi Pave is made with recycled rubber mixed with gravel and then combined with a binding agent. No particulate matter, debris or fumes are ever released. It is LEED certified, environmentally sound and qualifies for energy credits.
Its pervious surface filters and cleanses rain and runoff water, removing harmful chemicals including nitrates and phosphorous before they reach the root system and groundwater.
Flexi Pave is an excellent solution for well-traveled sidewalks when space is limited for pedestrian, stroller and wheelchair passage. The composite, unlike grates, allows tree trunks and roots to grow freely, and unlike concrete and asphalt, it does not crack or heave.
Of great importance, given the proliferation of slips and falls in the village in the past few years, is its perfectly level surface. The lack of a tree pit depression also prevents trash accumulation and any resulting rodent infestation.
Granted, it is less aesthetically pleasing than green grass or expensive wrought iron grates, but it makes sense for the village as our goal is to have healthy trees, strollers, walkers, outdoor dining, floral displays and book stalls all co-exist safely to create a busy, vibrant downtown.
Lastly, our public works staff has reported that this is the worst year they can remember for leaves being deposited on the roads, right-of-ways and near sewer grates. This is particularly distressing, as we spent thousands of taxpayer dollars cleaning our sewer systems only to now have leaves clog the system after every rain event. The slippery leaves are also contributing to car accidents and pedestrian slips and falls.
We ask that you or your landscaper move the leaves back on your property and instruct any helpers about the proper disposal of leaves going forward.