PLATTSMOUTH – Telephone scammers don’t take any holiday break, according to the Plattsmouth Police Department.
“We see them the entire year,” said Capt. Ryan Crick.
Scammers particularly prey on two different emotions, according to Crick. They either prey on a person’s fear, like the threat of disconnecting power in the house, or preying on their generosity in helping others.
Such was the case recently in Plattsmouth, according to the police department’s Facebook page.
A text message was sent asking a favor of the person receiving the text for a specific amount of I-Tune gift cards for an unknown cancer patient.
The gift cards were to be in separate denominations and a snapshot of the codes sent to the number on the text. No name was ever given and the scammer requested more gift cards and/or credit card numbers to help the cancer patient.
Crick recommended people should ask the name of the patient and what hospital the patient is at. If it’s a scam, the scammer will likely hang up, Crick said.
If the caller claims to seek money for a charitable organization, hang up and call that organization to learn if it has people seeking donations, he added.
There may not be an organization that the scammer claims to represent, an obvious scam, Crick said.
“Do research,” he said. “If people take the extra steps, they wouldn’t be victimized.”
Meanwhile, reports of phone calls from scammers claiming to represent Omaha Public Power District continue to climb, according to a company press release.
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And, if past trends hold true, the calls will pick up speed over the Thanksgiving holiday and through the end of the year, according to the release.
Generally, according to OPPD, scam callers claim customers are overdue on bills and need to buy a gift card or Visa card, call them back and make a payment. If they don’t, the scammers claim power will be disconnected. Sometimes, they falsely claim customers owe money for equipment, such as a meter. Often, their tone is aggressive and threatening.
One new twist that OPPD has heard about in other regions is that scammers are making hollow promises of a gift card in exchange for payment. A newer twist in this area is that scammers are using robocalls to leave a message, asking customers to call back and make a payment. When customers do, they may even hear an authentic utility message, which scammers have recorded to sound more convincing.
OPPD stresses these callers do not work for the utility. The call center representatives would never cold-call a customer demanding immediate payment. If customers were truly overdue on their bills to the point where service could be disconnected, they would receive written notice first.
Scammers often “spoof” OPPD numbers, making it look like the call is coming from the utility. For this reason, OPPD advises customers who receive a questionable phone call from a legitimate-looking phone number to hang up and call OPPD directly to be sure they are speaking with an actual OPPD employee.
Here are other tips provided by OPPD:
- NEVER give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited telephone call.
- If such a person should appear unannounced at the door claiming to work for the utility, do not allow that person or persons to enter.
- Always ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should always be a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.
- Be wary of sales pitches from companies claiming to represent or work with OPPD.
- For any questions about products, services, payments or an individual’s account with OPPD, always contact the utility directly. Cass County customers may call 1-877-536-4131.
Scammers have stepped up efforts in recent years, targeting both residential and business customers.
In 2017, OPPD logged 514 reports from customers who had received calls from scammers. In 2018, that number jumped to 714, with 28 customers paying them.
So far in 2019, OPPD has logged nearly 1,300 reports from customers of scam phone calls. Of those, 21 paid the scammers.