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Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand warned Iowa school districts and government bodies to be on alert for scams involving fake checks and emails.

Sand issued an advisory Tuesday after two Iowa school districts recently notified his office of being targeted by such scams, resulting in the theft of more than $110,000 in tax dollars.

Sand’s office did not identify the school districts targeted.

In one case, perpetrators sent a fake email to the school district directing them to send payments to a new address, which resulted in the district being defrauded of approximately $100,000, according to the State Auditor’s Office.

In the other, perpetrators created fake checks that included the district’s account and routing numbers, which they successfully cashed at area banks. The check totaled $10,400.

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Sand’s office encouraged school districts and government entities to monitor financial accounts for irregularities, including unauthorized withdrawals or missing deposits. Requests to redirect payments should be verified by calling the vendor directly. Phone numbers and contact information contained in the suspect email, however, should not be used to verify the payment method, according to the auditor’s office. Public institutions should also institute policies and procedures to prevent fraud, Sand said.

“This kind of fraud is on the rise and can happen to anyone,” Sand said in a statement. “A year ago, I was personally targeted by email scammers trying to redirect my paycheck. Fortunately, the Iowa Department of Administrative Services contacted me to confirm the email was fake.

“That’s why it’s so important to be vigilant and develop internal controls and procedures to detect and prevent fraud.”

Iowa AG highlights school safety

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird is reminding Iowans of the laws around school travel and safety as Iowa students go back to school.

In a news release, Bird said Iowans should follow the rules of the road when it comes to school buses, school zones and school permits.

It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus, and drivers must wait until the bus’ red lights stop flashing and its stop sign is withdrawn before driving. Students with school permits can only travel between school, school activities, and their home, and only between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Bird’s office also advised Iowans to wear bright clothing when walking or biking in the dark, and tell authorities if they see something suspicious, like a suspicious package or vehicle.

“As a mom, I know that there is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe,” Bird said in the release. “And when we drop our children off at school, we trust that they will be protected. We all have a part to play in that by ensuring we follow the law, drive carefully around school grounds, and look after our communities.”

What can REAP do for you? Iowa DNR wants to know

Iowans will have an opportunity, beginning Wednesday, to share and discuss their vision to protect and enhance the state’s natural and cultural resources.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will hold assemblies this month in Marshalltown, Ottumwa and Shenandoah to hear from Iowans about outdoor recreation, soil and water enhancement, historical resources, land management and more funded by Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.

The first assembly is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center in Marshalltown, 2349 233rd St. The meeting is for Iowans in Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek and Tama counties.

Another is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Knights of Columbus in Ottumwa, 123 W. Third St., for Iowans in Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren and Wapello counties.

The remaining REAP assemblies will take place in October. A list of REAP assembly locations is available online at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/REAP/REAP-Public-Participation

During the assemblies, Iowans can discuss the program, recommend changes and discuss impacts in their area. Meetings last about 90 minutes.

“REAP assemblies provide Iowans a perfect opportunity to share their views and learn others’ views about parks, trails, museums and other amenities,” Michelle Wilson, coordinator for REAP with the Iowa DNR, said in a statement. “It’s critical that community members are engaged in these meetings to help shape the future of and enhance recreational opportunities in our state for the future.”

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