Published in the February 1, 2016 edition.

WAKEFIELD — Last year was no tax refund picnic for several Wakefield residents who reported being scammed out of their rightful federal money. As a result, Police Chief Rick Smith reminds residents to be cautious with their financial information.

Here was the warning from the Wakefield Police Department:

Chief Rick Smith and the Wakefield Police Department are reminding residents to be careful with private and financial information during this tax season and to never send money to anyone who has contacted you that you do not know.

These scams generally originate from someone you don’t know who asks for payment in ways that are nearly untraceable. Other reports of tax fraud consisted of residents having fraudulent information on their tax returns or that they had fraudulent tax returns filed under their social security numbers.

Wakefield Police advise residents to complete and submit their taxes as soon as possible to give potential scammers less time and opportunity to submit a refund using your information, which police received several reports of last year.

“I am strongly encouraging the public to take that small extra step to ensure that your personal security and identity are protected,” Chief Smith said. “Never assume that anyone trying to contact you who you don’t know is who they say they are. If you have any doubt do not give them any information. Call the police department if you experience or are aware of any fraudulent activity.”

Scammers usually claim to be from the IRS or another government agency and inform the victim they did not pay or incorrectly filed their taxes. The victim is told they owe money to the IRS and must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.

Residents are advised to never give out their social security numbers, dates of birth or any other private or financial information to someone whose identity is in question. The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail and will never ask for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone.

If there is any doubt, call the IRS official hotline at 800-829-1040 or 800-829-4059 (TDD for the hearing impaired).