Dominion Virginia Power is warning customers of a scam in which a person on the phone claims to be a company employee and demands immediate payment of a bill.
The caller tells customers their electric service will be cut off if the bill isn't paid within a few hours and usually requests payment by prepaid debit card. The caller might falsely claim there's a problem with the customer's electric meter, which could lead to a fire if it isn't replaced immediately. They say Dominion will reimburse them later if they pay for it right away.
Dominion says while they do call customers who have delinquent bills to remind them their payment is due, they never ask for specific payment information. Instead they direct customers on how they can make their payments.
Dominion is encouraging anyone who may have been contacted by those running the scam to call 1-866-DOM-HELP and their local police.
Dominion also tells customers they should ask to see an official Dominion ID from anyone who knocks on their door claiming to be from Dominion.
"We hope this warning will be heeded and shared so that other customers can avoid traps like this," said Gianna Clark, vice president of customer service operations in a press release. "Scams are always troubling, particularly in these difficult economic times."
The phone scammers have mostly been targeting Spanish-speaking customers, elderly customers and businesses in Virginia, but Dominion says all customers should be aware of the scams and contact Dominion to report suspicious activity.
The Dominion press release included these Better Business Bureau tips to avoid falling for a scam:
- Do your research. If you receive a call claiming to be from your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. For Dominion customers, that number is 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
- Beware of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident about the person with whom you are speaking.
- Use your own personal information. Always pay your bills with your own personal information; never pay your bills with information that is not your own.
- Beware of the door-to-door sales approach. Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.
- Be proactive. If you have already provided information to someone claiming to offer this service, contact your bank immediately. Also contact the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and have a notation made on your account so it doesn't impact your credit rating.
- Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not become victims. Elderly victims are common in this type of scam, but anyone who pays a utility bill is a potential target.