The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Be alert for phone scams


The City of Sidney has warned citizens about a phone scam going around the area.

In the phone call, those who call demand supposed delinquent utility payments and threaten that utilities or phone service will be shut off. The alert also said the callers have a "threatening and insistent tone."

Sidney Sapp Bros Petroleum was the first to get the call. According to Penny Borcher, manager at Sapp Bros, one of her employees received a call in the morning from a person claiming to be from the city and that they needed to pay their utility bill or the caller would come and take their meter if did not.

Borcher says the employee got the callers number so that she could call them back.

"I was confused about the call so I called the city to find out what was going on," Borcher said.

Kim Phillips, with the City of Sidney, was the first to get that call. According to Phillips, she got the call Feb. 8 and she called the number back that was given to the employee at Sapp Bros. The person on the other line claimed to be from the billing/disconnect department. When Phillips said she was from the City of Sidney, they immediately hung up. The city immediately put out an alert to the community on its website.

The City of Sidney has had similar scams in the past. In fact there is no shortage of these type of scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer information, scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money. Some seem very friendly, calling you by your first name, making small talk, and asking about your family. They may claim to work for a company you trust, or they may send mail or place ads to convince you to call them. Sometimes callers pretend to be your child/grandchild in trouble or in some need of money right away.

Everyone is a target, however certain groups of people are more prone to be scammed then others. For example, older people may be targeted because the caller assumes they may live alone, have a nest egg, or may be more polite toward strangers.

With everyone being a target there are ways to stop from being a victim. According to the Federal Trade Commission here are a list of ways to avoid a potential phone scam:

• Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.

• Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don't tell them to callers you don't know - even if they ask you to "confirm" this information. That's a trick.

• Don't pay for something just because you'll get a "free gift."

• Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.

• Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or guilted into it.

• If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer, and the offeror,are properly registered.

• Don't send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer rather than a credit card, you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges.

• Don't agree to any offer for which you have to pay a "registration" or "shipping" fee to get a prize or a gift.

"There were two or three of these type of calls from the same phone number. All were commercial businesses," Phillips said. "I think I cut them off when I called."

So far there have been no additional reported calls from this number to area residents. When the Sun- Telegraph tried to call the number, it had been disconnected.

If you have questions concerning the status of your utility bill, call the city of Sidney at (308) 254-5300.

"You should never give out your personal information over the phone without verification of the company," Assistant Chief of Police Joe Aikens said.


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