Dominion Virginia Power is warning its customers about a scam involving phone calls from a person claiming to be a company employee, demanding immediate payment of utility bills. According to the power company, the caller claims electric service will be cut off unless the bill is paid within a matter of hours, usually by using a prepaid debit card such as a “Green Dot card.”
The caller also may claim that a problem with an electric meter could result in a fire if not immediately replaced, offering reimbursement from Dominion at a later date if payment is made now.
While Dominion may phone customers whose bills are in arrears to remind them payment is due, it will never ask for specific payment information, only direct customers how to make a payment.
The company encourages anyone who is improperly contacted about making a payment over the phone to call 1-866-DOM-HELP and local law enforcement officials. Dominion also will address any questions or concerns a customer has about a phone call from someone claiming to be a Dominion employee. In addition, customers should ask to see an official Dominion identification from anyone who comes to their residence and claims to be from the company.
“We hope this warning will be heeded and shared so that other customers can avoid traps like this,” Gianna Clark, vice president of customer service operations, said in a statement. “Scams are always troubling, particularly in these difficult economic times.”
The scammers have been targeting Spanish-speaking customers, elderly customers and businesses throughout Virginia, according to Dominion, but it says all customers should be aware of the scam and their risk.
The Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to avoid being the victim of 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.
• 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 information with friends and family so they do not become victims.