RICHMOND -- Dominion Virginia Power is warning its customers about a scam in which robbers gained access to homes by posing as utility workers.
They say several incidents have been reported to police in the past few days in Northern Virginia.
“We want our customers to be safe and secure and completely confident whenever they interact with our employees,” said Dan Jenkins, director-Corporate Security, Safety and Health. “Think twice before allowing anyone you don’t know into your home - no matter who they say they work for. Unfortunately, scams, particularly involving the elderly, are becoming much more common and potentially dangerous.”
They remind cutomers that Dominion Virginia Power employees rarely need to enter a home to provide service. Independent energy contractors working on Dominion conservation programs such as Home Energy Check Up may contact customers directly to schedule an appointment. These contractors should carry and present proper identification and program materials when they arrive.
“If you feel threatened, call 9-1-1 immediately,” Jenkins said. “If any customer ever has a question about the authenticity of a person presenting themselves as working for Dominion Virginia Power or ‘the power company,’ keep your door locked and ask them to remain outside while you verify their identity.”
Dominion Virginia Power maintains an up-to-date list of all its employees, authorized contractors and independent contractors. The company can be reached at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357) to verify the identity of anyone who says they work for the company.
In these and other cases, police say scam artists use various ruses to get money or gain access to the home, saying they want to check on a lights-out situation, lay power lines, conduct energy audits, fix or replace meters, or collect money for overdue power bills. Recently, there also have been several telephone-based scams by people identifying themselves as power company employees and demanding that the customer pay immediately in cash or by a “green-dot” card or their power would be disconnected.
Dominion Virginia Power does not ask customers by telephone or in person to pay immediately in cash or by green-dot cards that serve as cash. It may ask customers who are behind on their bills to go to an authorized Dominion Virginia Power payment center to pay their bill.
Any customer with a question about such a call should contact the company at 1-866-DOM-HELP, (1-866-366-4357).
The company works closely with law enforcement personnel whenever it receives reports of scams such as these. Timely customer reports of such incidents and quick police action recently led to an arrest in another state in a nationwide scam where utility customers were told their power would be shut off if they did not pay immediately in cash or by green-dot card.
In general, police advise:
• If someone comes to your door who you do not trust or who you believe may be dangerous, call 911 immediately.
• Do not open your door unless you know your visitor. If the person says he is from the power company or utility department, or an independent contractor, ask for photo identification, program credentials and a phone number that you can call to verify his name and business. Dominion Virginia Power’s toll-free number is 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
• Refuse to deal with anyone who will not comply with your request.
The Better Business Bureau provides these 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.
• 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.