Police Warn of Utility Bill Phone Scam
The Alexandria Police Department is warning residents about a scam involving phone calls from a person claiming to be a utility company employee, demanding immediate payment of utility bills. The caller claims electric service will be cut off unless the bill is paid within a matter of hours, usually by using a pre-paid debit card such as a "Green Dot card" or “Moneypak”. The Police Department has taken at least eight reports of this fraud in recent months. At this point the suspects are identifying themselves as Dominion Power employees, but may change their methods.
Companies may phone customers whose bills are in arrears to remind them payment is due, but they NEVER ask for specific payment information, only directing customers how to make a payment. Alexandria Police Department encourages anyone who is improperly contacted about making a payment over the phone to call the non-emergency number, 703.746.4444, and report the crime. In addition, residents should always ask to see an official ID from anyone who comes to their residence and claims to be from the company.
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.
- 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.