A phone scam in which a caller demands immediate payment of a Dominion Power bill appears to have made its way to Vienna, a hoax about which the company has issued a statewide warning in an effort to protect its customers.
Vienna Police say at 11:49 a.m. Jan. 11, a woman reported receiving a phone call from someone who claimed to be representing the power company.
The caller "stated he was going to shut off her electricity unless she purchased a preloaded debit card from 7-11 and provided him with the reference numbers to redeem the card," a police report says.
The department is investigating the case.
The incident matches others reported across the state this month. Dominion Power issued a warning to customers in early January, saying the phone scammers have mostly been targeting Spanish-speaking customers, elderly customers and businesses in Virginia.
The company said 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."
Read Dominion Power's statement on the scam here.
The Dominion statement 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.