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Watch out for this scam targeting Dominion Power customers

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Dominion Power is warning customers about a new scam.

Here’s how it works: Someone calls and claims to work for Dominion Power. The caller wants the Dominion customer to pay his bill immediately with a prepaid debit card, such as a “Green Dot Card,” or the electricity will be shut off.

“We would never call our customers and ask them for immediate payment and then threaten to cut off their electricity,” says Dominion Power spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson.

If a customer is behind on his bill, the utility company would send a notice in the mail offering to work out some kind of payment plan, she says.

The scam calls started showing up in the Richmond area earlier this month and then expanded to Northern Virginia.

The other twist on this scam involves an electric meter. The caller tries to convince the customer that his electric meter is a fire hazard and that he must pay immediately to get it replaced.

“If there is something wrong with your meter we would go out and we would repair it or replace it, but we would never ask our customer for additional payment,” says Anderson.

If you get a call like this, hang up, call Dominion Power and then call the police, Anderson recommends. Never send money and never give out personal information on the phone.

The Better Business Bureau provides these tips to avoid falling for a scam:

  • Do research. If someone calls claiming to be from a utility company and demands immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on the utility bill. For Dominion customers, that number is 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
  • Be wary of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at home. The exceptions would be if the customer initiated the contact and feels confident about the person with whom he’s speaking.
  • Use personal information. A customer should always pay bills with his personal information and never with someone else’s.
  • Beware of the door-to-door sales approach. Never allow anyone inside a home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless there’s a scheduled an appointment or a utility problem has been reported. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.
  • Be proactive. If information has already been provided to someone claiming to offer this service, contact the bank immediately. Also contact the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and have a notation made on those accounts, so it doesn’t credit ratings are not affected.
  • Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not become victims. Senior citizens are commonly victims of this type of scam, but anyone who pays a utility bill is a potential target.

Follow @hsilverbergwtop and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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