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.

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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.

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