Courtesy of the Palos Hills Police Department
Palos Hills police and city officials are warning residents about a rise in scams that have been occurring during the pandemic.
By Joe Boyle
The pandemic is not the only concern in Palos Hills as local aldermen have been fielding calls from residents who have become victims of increasing scams.
Aldermen Dawn Nowak and Donna O’Connell have received an alarming rise in phone calls from neighbors, many of them seniors, who have been tricked out of their money by perpetrators who falsely claim they represent public agencies. In many instances, residents have been receiving mail stating these culprits are members of an organization under the COVID-19 Relief Act of 2020.
“I got one sent to my house,” said O’Connell, who along with Nowak cover separate sections of the Fifth District. “They get this mail or phone calls that informs them to transfer their money to a certain fund. It is all fraudulent.”
O’Connell said she has recently received two phone calls from elderly residents who have been tricked out of their money. However, O’Connell said it is not just seniors who have become victims.
“The biggest thing is that some of them know who is filing for unemployment and they are able to get the information,” O’Connell said. “I think it is important to get the information out there. It is kind of scary.”
O’Connell also brought the issue up at the Palos Hills City Council meeting that was held last Thursday night via YouTube. Mayor Gerald Bennett said that unfortunately, these scams occur far too often.
“This has been going on for some time,” Bennett said. “This has been a continuing problem and it seems like it is getting worse. A lot of it has happened during the pandemic.”
Bennett said that for the past few months during the pandemic, residents have been receiving letters from the Illinois Department of Employment stating that they will receive a stimulus check and need more information. The mayor warns residents that these are scams.
“A lot of it is phone calls and they manage to get information from people,” Bennett said. “Anytime anyone asks you to purchase gift cards from Walmart it should be a sign that something is not right.”
Police Chief Jeff Cucio also said that there has been an increase of scams occurring in the city.
“A lot of these people are victims of credit card and phone card scams,” Cucio said. “But it is difficult to see where they are all coming from. A lot of it is coming from overseas so it is hard to detect them.”
The Palos Hills Police Department on their website warns all residents that large increases in individuals calling people claiming to be an IRS official are being made. Unsolicited calls and robocalls to residents are occurring. These individuals are demanding that people send them cash, the police warn.
For more information on these increasing scams and how not to become a victim, visit I.R.S.PhoneScams.
“Again, I just wanted to get the information out there,” O’Connell said. “Many of the seniors don’t look at websites so it is important to remind them and warn them.”
On a more positive note, Bennett said that the free COVID-19 tests that took place on Jan. 16 at the new Public Works building was a success.
Roseland Community Hospital officials reached out to the city to sponsor the event that took place in the morning and into the early afternoon. Bennett said the hospital officials were pleased with the results.
“One of the directors said it was of the most successful events they have had,” Bennett said. “They were very, very satisfied. I told them we can work something out for them to return. They are very interested in returning. They would like to do more in the future. I thank them for sponsoring this event.”
The mayor also thanked city officials and residents who worked tirelessly to support the suddenly homeless residents of a condominium fire that occurred on Christmas Day. The blaze resulted in 56 residents being displaced. City officials and staff, concerned residents, businesses and local service organizations have responded to assist those people who were displaced by the fire with housing and every day needs, the mayor said.
No one was seriously hurt during the fire at the Green Tree Condominiums at 9954 S. 84th Terrace that occurred at 2:50 a.m. on Dec. 25.
Bennett thanked Ald. Mike Lebarre (3rd), a member of the Hills Kiwanis Club, for helping to coordinate the relief effort for the displaced residents. Lebarre also earlier publicly thanked Nowak and Kristin Violante, commissioner of the city’s Resource and Recreation Department, for their efforts in reaching out to the people who were suddenly left with no residence.
“I just want to thank all the people who have stepped forward,” Bennett said. “I want to personally thank a couple of residents who have helped out in Shari Schmidt and Michelle McDougall. They really stepped up to help the fire victims. “
Bennett said that at a later date he is going to give special thanks for all the agencies and individuals who have assisted the displaced residents.
O’Connell, who is the head of the development committee, said during the meeting that Hum Hum Chicken has opened for business. The new carry out restaurant is located in the Domino’s shopping plaza at 10412 S. Harlem Ave. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight.
In response to a question by Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th), Bennett said that in-person council meetings should resume on Thursday, Feb. 18.
Ald. A.J. Pasek (3rd) wondered when the results for the census would be made available? Bennett said that information is currently being reviewed and will be made available by this time next year.