Sophisticated Utility Scam Targets Small Businesses in Virginia | NBC4 Washington

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Sophisticated Utility Scam Targets Small Businesses in Virginia

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver with a warning from Dominion Virginia Power about a scam using its name. (Published Friday, July 10, 2015)

    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is investigating a scam targeting power customers, specifically small business owners.

    The scammers call, pretending to be a Dominion Virginia Power representative.

    They threaten to cut your electricity unless you pay up using prepaid debit cards.

    The tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the scammers using software to make the calls appear legitimate on caller IDs, Dominion said.

    Since Wednesday, there have been 65 reported incidents of the scam targeting local bars, hair stylists, dentists, etc.

    Arlington dentist Dr. Philip Gentry can understand why a customer would do whatever it takes to keep the power on.

    “Because if we lose power, we’re done,” he said. "We’ve got the chairs moving, our suction flowing, we got our lights on.”

    “What makes this scam so alarming is the sophisticated level of the people that are doing the scam,” said Chuck Penn of Dominion Virginia Power.

    He said the calls come at precise times, “At the busiest time of day, and they try to use a sense of urgency into manipulating [the victims] into purchasing a prepaid card.”

    “We are pulling out all stops to let people know that Dominion never calls a customer and demands a payment on the spot,” Penn added.

    Tips to avoid becoming a victim:

    • Remember that Dominion will never threaten disconnection in exchange for an immediate payment and won't ask for confidential information over the phone. If a customer is behind or having difficulty with their bill, Dominion works with a customer to set up a mutually agreeable payment plan.
    • While Dominion may phone customers whose bills are in arrears to remind them payment is due, it never asks for specific payment information, only directing customers how to make a payment. If you have a problem paying your bills, Dominion will work with you to figure out a reasonable payment plan and will not threaten you.
    • Dominion provides customers with multiple notifications by mail and by phone to work out a plan before power is disconnected but does not take payment over the phone. Customers will be directed by the Dominion representative to make payment through the customers' online MYA account by mailing a check to the billing department.

    What can customers do:

    • Collect as much information as you can from the scammers.
    • Ask them for the address of the location where they are expected to buy the card and the type of card.
    • Capture any phone numbers, call back numbers, first and last names,
    • Ask if you can mail payment and collect a physical address.
    • Ask if you can pay at a bank and the name and address of the bank.
    • Ask how the payment process works and document it.
    • Note the gender or anything noteworthy about the caller, such as an accent.
    • Note the time of day they called.
    • Ask why there is a change in the payment process.
    • Ask if they will be provided with a confirmation number or receipt if payment is made.