Brian Sandford: If a caller is demanding and seeks money, hang up
December 29, 2013
The card arrived at the Appeal in mid-November, addressed to Editor Brian Sandford and marked "personal." It quickly became a topic of discussion and amusement among our staff.
The sender suggested in cursive writing that I'm clearly out and about often in the course of my job (very true), and that a good haircut was imperative to making a good impression. He/she wrote that I should get a haircut from a particular local stylist, then have a new picture taken to replace the one that runs with this column.
The obvious implication was that my current haircut is lacking, and my co-workers and I laughed endlessly over that. The sender explained that a free haircut awaited me if I visited the stylist in question, and it seemed pretty clear that the stylist herself had sent the card. Reporter Teri Vance rarely shies away from expressing a viewpoint different from my own, and we argued at length over whether the stylist was the "anonymous Nevada Appeal reader" who'd signed the card or whether it was a prankster.
I decided to finally call the stylist, who runs a salon in Carson City, this week to thank her for the card. She had no idea what I was talking about. Teri was right; someone had tricked me.
It's an innocent prank, and it doesn't particularly bother me. But it served as a reminder of how easy it is to be fooled, and I've spoken with a number of readers who've been the targets of more-sinister deception.
Multiple people have told me recently about receiving phone calls from a person purporting to be from NV Energy, explaining that if they didn't transfer money immediately to the company, their power would be shut off.
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NV Energy spokeswoman Faye Andersen said Friday that the company never demands money via phone, and that if people are behind in payments, they get a 10-day notice in the mail before their power will be shut off, followed by a 48-hour notice. She also stressed that the company is flexible with those who are behind.
"We also don't accept payments in the field, so if someone comes to your home asking for money, that is not our employee," she added.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said the scam problem "has been widespread for quite a while and continuing." The Sheriff's Office contacted utilities within the past six months, he said, and the companies have been notifying customers of the issue via the billing process.
Unfortunately, scammers target our region's most vulnerable residents. As Andersen says, if the call seems fishy, it probably is. And if the caller is insistent and demanding, it's definitely not aboveboard. I've been reminded recently of how easy it is to be misled, and I don't want to see something worse happen to anyone in our community.
Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.