We at your island newspapers wanted to take a moment to look at some of the public safety concerns currently affecting our community.
Pocket-dialing emergency services
In an attempt to assist iPhone users in contacting emergency services when needed, Apple has apparently made it easier to pocket-dial 911.
While it isn’t a new phenomenon — there are articles about accidental iPhone emergency calls going back years — San Juan County Sheriff’s Office has noted an increase in the number of 911 calls with no one on the other end lately.
“Pocket dials have increased tremendously and most people do not even know their iPhone has this feature. All the trouble unknowns that are [unfounded complaints] or [no reports] are usually pocket calls. We have to continue to reach out to each caller to confirm they are not in any danger,” San Juan County Lead Dispatcher Robin DeLazerda said.
Depending on what generation of iPhone you have, the emergency call is initiated in two ways. On iPhone 8 and newer pressing the side button and the volume up button will bring up slide options to restart or call emergency services. If you press and hold the two buttons longer, a countdown will automatically begin and when completed, the phone will make the call.
On older iPhones, pressing the side button five times will initiate the call after a countdown period. You can turn on this feature on newer phones as well.
If the countdown starts, you can still stop the phone from making the call.
We’ve noticed an uptick in fraud reports in the Sheriff’s Log lately and wanted to remind readers of various attempts to defraud residents of the islands and beyond.
Earlier this year, the country and the world were all but shut down by the spread of COVID-19. Millions of people applied for unemployment. Washington was one of a handful of states in the country where a Nigerian fraud ring applied for and received unemployment benefits for people who were not in need of them. The state lost more than $300 million in payments before catching on to the scheme.
Fraud like this doesn’t only hurt the state but hurts the people whose identities were stolen to make the claims. If you receive a letter in the mail from Washington’s — or any other state’s — unemployment office regarding benefits you did not apply for, report it to the originating state immediately.
The Federal Trades Commission also notes scammers pretending to be contact tracers are attempting to defraud people of private health information and private financial information and money. Another fraud the FTC warns against responding to phone calls, text messages, or emails from entities claiming to be the government attempting to pay you your stimulus.
Fake and/or unproven “cures” or vaccines for COVID-19 are also being sold to unwitting audiences. The FTC, Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all warn against people who are hocking such items. The FTC also says to be wary of ads for test kits. Most test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and may not provide accurate results.
According to the FTC, scammers are also using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes and advises anyone who receives such a call hang up immediately.
Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or World Health Organization, the FTC warns. Using reputable websites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information is your safest bet. And don’t click on any links from sources you do not recognize.
Finally, the FTC suggests you do your homework when it comes to making donations. It advises you to never make donations by cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
For more information about scams to watch out for from the FTC, visit https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice.