Hundreds in Hampton Roads affected by utility scams

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(Courtesy Utilities United Against Scams)
(Courtesy Utilities United Against Scams)

If you receive a phone call threatening to turn off your utilities unless you immediately pay a bill, you may be the victim of a utility scam, according to Dominion Virginia Power.

In 2015, about 2,800 Dominion Virginia Power customers fell victim to utility scams, totaling about $1.2 million in fraudulent requests for money, according to a Dominion news release.

Of that $1.2 million, Dominion customers paid almost $200,000 to scammers, the release said. The scammers typically threaten immediate disconnection of services unless a payment is made immediately, the release said.

According to Le-Ha Anderson, a Dominion spokesperson, 464 customers in Hampton Roads were contacted by scam artists in the past year.

“While we are working in concert with law enforcement to identify, track and stop these scams, it’s important for customers to recognize the red flags,” Marc Gaudette, director of corporate security, safety and health said in the release. “Unfortunately, the scammers frequently target the elderly, non-English-speaking communities and businesses during their busy times, and use caller ID spoofing software so a customer thinks Dominion is calling.”

Dominion does not require payment over the phone and never demand immediate payment of cash, PayPal, any prepaid debit card, the release said.

If an account is overdue, Dominion provides multiple communications in writing and offers a payment plan before disconnection occurs, the release said.

“There are two clear signs that there’s a scammer on the other end of that phone call that you can easily spot,” said Becky Merritt, vice president of customer service. “First, we would never threaten a customer, even if their account is past due. Second, we would never insist on one specific, immediate form of payment—there are a number of options available to customers, including in-person at a verified payment location, secure payment through their online account, or our third-party payment processing vendor.”

Dominion is encouraging customers to contact local police or Dominion if they suspect fraudulent billing activity. Collect information from the scammer including the caller’s name, any phone numbers or other details before hanging up and reporting to local law enforcement, the release said.

Report suspicious activity to local police or call Dominion at 866-DOM-HELP.

For a list of authorized payment locations, click here.

For more information about Dominion, visit the company’s website at www.dom.com.