YORK – Law enforcement officials continue to warn about COVID-19-related scams that have begun circulating amid these times of uncertainty.
“There are unfortunately people out there making claims, asking for money, committing these crimes, preying on people,” said York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka. “We just want to make sure no one gets taken, loses money, is scammed. We need to get ahead of this now and get the word out, because scammers know people might be vulnerable right now. We don’t want anyone becoming a victim.”
Sheriff Vrbka echoes a warning from the state’s attorney general’s office regarding calls in which people are being asked to contribute money toward a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus. Vrbka said these types of endeavors are being pursued by the federal government and medical agencies – private individuals will not be asked to contribute donated money toward the research and clinical trials. And as the attorney general’s office said Wednesday, there are currently no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, prescription medication or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus, according to the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
There have also been reports of Nebraskans receiving calls and texts, asking for people’s personal information under the guises it is needed to “release funds” or “verify a relief check” from the government. Law enforcement officials say these must be ignored.
Sheriff Vrbka reiterates what he has said previously – the federal government is not and will not reach out to folks, asking for their social security numbers and down payments to hurry the check along.
There have also been reports of people claiming they are collecting donations for small businesses that are having financial difficulty at this time. Sheriff Vrbka said “do not give these people money. Assistance in those areas is governmental in nature. Again, do not donate money to any cause unless it is 100 percent reliable.”
“Donations to legitimate charitable entities are needed now more than ever,” says the attorney general’s office. “Don’t let scammers prey on your generosity. Before you give, research the organization by visiting its website and confirming its charitable registration status with the IRS. Keep in mind, many sham charities use names that appear similar to legitimate organizations.”
And tips to avoid scams continue to be offered by officials with the Nebraska Public Power District. The entity says that predatory individuals have made calls, saying bills must be paid immediately or the power will be shut off and they will recommend several methods of payment. And they are good at what they do, because sometimes the scammer’s caller identification is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company which is a practice known as “spoofing.” NPPD does not call to ask customers for credit card numbers, NPPD does not demand payment with a pre-paid card. Any customer receiving such a call should not attempt to make payment over the phone using a credit or debit card.
If anyone receives such calls and claims, they can call the York County Sheriff’s Department at 402-362-4927 or the York Police Department at 402-363-2640. If someone receives a potential scam call involving electrical bills they can call NPPD at 1-877-ASK-NPPD to let them know (or their rural public power district if that is how they are served).