Couple says somebody hacked utility bill account, attempted to get money

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by Brian Farrell

WVEC.com

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 12:07 AM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 12:46 AM

HAMPTON -- When the phone rang Thursday morning, Johnny Linares answered it. The person on the other end spoke in Spanish to the Venezuela native. He told Linares he was calling from Dominion Virginia Power.

"He told me you been paying over time. You been good," Linares told 13News.

The caller told Linares much more than that.

"They had my information," said Grace Linares, "my husband's information, my address, my husband's Social Security Number."

The Linareses said the caller knew specific details about their power bills from the past several months including the balances, how much they paid, how much electricity they'd used.

"They told us that our meter wasn't working properly and that Dominion Power had been overcharging us," Grace explained.

The caller said the company owed the Linareses money. They could get a lawyer or work directly with him. Dominion would get them the best deal possible. Because of the problem with the meter which, he explained, made it a fire hazard, the meter would need to be replaced. The Linareses would have to pay $505 to deactivate their account and set-up a new one. They could put the amount on a Green Dot prepaid debit card.

The proposed charge and the fact that the caller refused to talk to Grace and would only talk to Johnny made Grace get on the line to Dominion Virginia Power.

"She told me that our accounts have been hacked. We're so sorry this has happened. It's been going on for months. That's how they have all of your information," Grace Linares said.

Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris couldn't confirm that a hack had taken place, but the power provider is looking into it.

Billingsley Harris said Dominion put out an advisory months ago warning people of similar schemes which targeted senior citizens and Spanish speakers. She stressed one thing the power provider does not do is demand immediate payment, something that is common in these situations in which the caller claims to be a representative of the company.

"They're preying on Hispanics more than anybody, somebody they can get that's speaking Spanish, doesn't speak any English," Grace Linares said.

"I don't know what they're doing that for. It don't feel good at all. I mean, we're all human, too," said Johnny Linares.

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