The North Bend Eagle

 

NBC target of scammer

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 12/19/18

As Senator Deb Fischer warned in her Dec. 12 column, scammers are out there.
It hit close to home last week when a person claiming to be from OPPD called the elementary school with threats of shutting off the power if an overdue bill was not paid immediately. The call was forwarded to superintendent Dan Endorf.

Endorf called the number, pressed some numbers as instructed and spoke to a man called “Anderson.” He knew the school’s account number and according to Endorf, sounded legitimate.

“They really had me for a while,” Endorf said.

Anderson cited the amount due, a number Endorf said did not sound like their usual payment. Anderson had good excuses, saying there were penalties for missing payments and mailed notifications.

When Endorf asked how the school should make payments, that was when it got a little fishy. They wanted him to make a payment at a variety store in Schuyler.
Meanwhile, someone had called OPPD on another line and verified that the school’s bill was paid up.

School Resource Officer Deputy Jesse Sladky was in the building and was called in.

“We continued to play the game to find out more information,” Slady said. “They are very guarded to protect themselves, very discrete and vague.”

Slady said they were on the phone with the scammer for about 45 minutes.

“When they finally got the idea that it wasn’t going to happen, they said ‘Have a good day,’ and hung up.”

A Nov. 21 press release from OPPD said that the calls could increase from Thanksgiving through the end of the year.

OPPD stresses these callers do not work for the utility. Authentic call center representatives would never cold call a customer demanding immediate payment in such a threatening manner. If customers were truly overdue on their bills to the point where service could be disconnected, they would receive written notice first.

Slady said that the payment method often is a give away.

“You really have to verify any payment over the phone,” Slady said. “Take a step back and verify. Unfortunately they get some people.”

If a person should appear unannounced at your door claiming to work for the utility, do not allow them 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.

Customers with any questions about their account, in general, or making a payment should always call OPPD directly. After hours, or outside of Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.

 

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