Utility takes to social media to combat coronavirus fake news

With uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and how it’ll transform the Las Vegas Valley, tricksters are playing with people’s nerves by sharing tales on social media of crimes that haven’t occurred, according to authorities.

Here’s how one of them goes: A robber disguised as an NV Energy employee holds a Henderson family at gunpoint while their cash, food, water and other supplies are taken.

It didn’t happen, said Officer Aden OcampoGomez, spokesman for Metro Police, which on Wednesday took to Twitter: “We have seen a lot of misinformation on social media regarding criminal events occurring within the valley. Please verify the information before sharing.”

He said the post circulating online is partially true. There once was a case of a perpetrator who pretended to be a utility worker in the Las Vegas area, but that was a few years back. Whoever posted the rumor made up the rest of the details, OcampoGomez said.  

Police have been unable to contact the person behind the post — claiming an acquaintance was one of the victims — to gather more details, OcampoGomez said. They’ve also searched for records for a reported robbery and have found nothing.

The post gained so much traction that Henderson Police also spoke out about it on Facebook: “We have learned of a social media rumor frenzy casting a broad net upon the fears of our community members. We would like to swiftly and immediately dispel any rumor designed to impose panic amongst our city.”

NV Energy also tried to get ahead of the rumor on social media, by sharing safety precautions customers can take, just in case.

Utility workers wear photo IDs that feature prominently on their uniforms, NV Energy said. Workers are only required to enter homes to respond to gas safety emergencies, to reconnect gas service or if you have a previously scheduled appointment for a thermostat assessment. Those thermostat appointments have been canceled due to the COVID-19 scare. 

If a utility worker knocks on your door and asks permission to enter your yard, you should see a marked NV Energy vehicle parked nearby. Also, NV Energy doesn’t send anyone to homes and businesses to collect money, threaten disconnection or for unscheduled service, the utility said.

“Reliable gas and electric service is essential to the well-being of the community,” said the utility, noting that crews remain on the job to respond to emergencies and restore outages.

“Please do not allow ‘Stay Home for Nevada’ to generate unnecessary anxiety and fears within our community,” said Henderson Police, referencing the motto unveiled by Gov. Steve Sisolak Tuesday in announcing recommended restrictions to keep people away from the public during the coronavirus scare. “Together we stand!”

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