Hawaiian Electric warns of surge in scam calls

Here are some of the other COVID-19 related announcements from Wednesday.

Public warned about phone scams

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Hawaiian Electric is reporting a surge in scam calls to customers.

“Scammers are trying to capitalize on coronavirus fears by pretending to be Hawaiian Electric and threatening to disconnect customers’ electric service unless ‘overdue’ bills are not paid,” the utility said in a statement. “Don’t be scammed.”

The utility said it has received dozens of fraud reports from throughout the state since late last week, with many more likely going unreported. On Wednesday alone, there were 23 fraud reports received by 1 p.m. on Oahu.

Customers also have reported receiving threatening texts from Hawaiian Electric asking for payment. Hawaiian Electric does not text customers to request payment.

On Wednesday, an Oahu customer lost more than $300 after a scammer called and threatened to cut off electric service to the customer’s home. The scammer requested and received funds via Cash App, a mobile app that allows peer-to-peer payment.

Hawaiian Electric does not accept Cash App payments, bitcoin, gift cards or prepaid debit cards.

Hawaiian Electric suspended disconnections through at least April 17 so customers facing financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic are able to contact customer service and arrange payment options and schedules.

To make payment arrangements or for more information, visit www.hawaiianelectric.com or contact representatives at the following numbers: Hilo, 969-6999; Kona, 329-3584; Waimea, 885-4605.

AG cautions parents about internet

The state attorney general is urging parents and legal guardians to be vigilant to keep children safe while using the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internet activity by children and teenagers is anticipated to increase during this period of school shutdowns and social distancing. The AG’s office asks that parents and legal guardians increase their focus on online safety.

“The current situation with COVID-19 presents many challenges, including massive disruptions to our children’s daily routines and school life,” said Attorney General Claire Connors. “I urge the whole community to be vigilant about how our children are accessing the internet and who they are interacting with online.”

Parents should ensure their children’s safety from internet predators by talking to them about how they are spending their time online, explaining the dangers and setting parental controls on apps and systems to set boundaries that appropriately moderate their usage and increase safety.

A web page with information and links to help parents keep their children safe while on the internet can be found at https://ag.hawaii.gov/hicac/.

Changes to sort station service

East Hawaii Regional Sort Station services are closed to businesses hauling commercially generated wastes, according to the county.

The sort station located at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill will only accept residentially generated waste for disposal starting Monday, March 30, until May 2. Regular operations are expected to resume Sunday, May 3.

Businesses hauling waste picked up from households will still be allowed to use the sort station during regular business hours from 7 a.m.-4:15 p.m.

The Department of Environmental Management is taking these measures to reduce and minimize extended delays in hauling and disposal times and to insure families at home have a place to take their household trash each day, every day, until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Visit www.hawaiizerowaste.org for future closure information and locations, or call the Solid Waste Division Office at 961-8270.

NHCH seeks masks, other gear

Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea is participating in a statewide drive to collect personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers.

The hospital is asking the community for PPE donations to help supplement the its supply, should needs increase.

Items requested include medical-grade goggles, face shields, surgical/N95 masks and gowns/disposable protective suits. All items must be new and in original packaging.

In addition, interested community members with sewing skills are asked to sew face masks. Supplies of face masks at the hospital are adequate. The hand-sewn masks would only be used if supplies became completely depleted, but this is not anticipated.

Two types of hand-sewn masks are requested with video links for size/style/pattern specifications and instructions:

• 4-pleat (www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL9D6ZFtZHM).

• Cone style to cover N95 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdVO9emZhyQ).

If sewing masks, two different fabrics are requested so staff can quickly tell the outside from the inside of the mask.

People can drop off items from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the hospital’s front entrance. Donation receipts are available.

For questions, call Julia Ramos at 881-4420 or email JRamos2@queens.org.

Help for rural residents, businesses

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Details can be found at bit.ly/3dErBSy.

Tuberculosis clearances waived

The state Department of Health is waiving routine tuberculosis clearance requirements for selected groups through May 31 to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including annual clearance for health care workers, annual clearance for patients in long-term care facilities, food handlers, children entering child care, preschool or school (K-12th grade) and post-secondary school students and employees.

The suspension will support social distancing in the community to protect the public, especially vulnerable seniors and individuals with medical conditions that could increase their risk for COVID-19.

Clearances will continue to be required for new health care workers, new child care and school employees and new residents of long-term care facilities.

AARP offers help via new website

AARP Community Connections, a new online platform launched Wednesday by AARP Innovation Labs, allows users to organize and find local volunteer groups to help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance or lend emotional support to neighbors, friends and loved ones.

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Visit aarpcommunityconnections.org to find resources to help those who are feeling isolated, depressed, overwhelmed or anxious. Users are able to request a call from an AARP volunteer or a trained counselor, create an account with Savo to make connecting with families easier and join “The Mighty,” a safe, supportive online community for people facing health challenges and their caregivers.

The platform is free to use, and an AARP membership is not required.

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