PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A new scam targeting businesses in Hampton Roads sounds very professional. In fact, it sounds just like Dominion Virginia Power’s phone center.
While the doctors at Wiggins and Rhodes Dental tend to teeth, behind the scenes, Nelda Powell keeps the lights on. “I handle all the bookkeeping, all the payroll, all the accounts receivable, and the bills, all the bills,” she said.
So, you can imagine her shock when she received a call that said the office’s power bill payment hadn’t gone through.
“Well, first, I panicked, because we’re a dental practice,” Powell said. “We’re a busy dental practice, and the thought of the power being turned off is horrible. I think I even probably said to the girl, ‘No, this can’t happen, this can’t happen.’”
The woman on the other end claimed to work for Dominion Virginia Power. Powell said she needed to check her records, and the woman gave her a number to call back and pay. Powell said she checked her balance to find out it was zero. Then she called back.
“When you call the number that they gave, the recording matched the one that I [got when I] called [the number] from my bill,” Powell said. “It matched the recording. So, I thought that was really strange. When I pressed ‘2’ a man answered the phone.”
The man asked for money, and she knew it was a scam. He claimed his records said she had a balance. She told him she would report him to the Dominion fraud line and he hung up.
Powell is afraid others might fall for the scam. “People are so afraid that their power is going to be turned off that they go ahead and give their information over the phone,” she said.
Dominion Virginia Power told 10 On Your Side the company always sends a letter and tries to set up a payment plan before disconnecting power; when in doubt call the actual Dominion number on your bill to make sure it’s actually them.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is also taking a stand against this scam. He wants Dominion Virginia Power customers to remember they do not take payment over the phone and never ask for immediate payment as a prerequisite to keep your lights on.
“Although this scam has been around for several years, it may go dormant for a time and then resurface, often with a subtle twist that never seems to fail to ensnare new victims,” said Attorney General Herring. “Scammers continue to use increasingly sophisticated methods to trick citizens, including caller ID technology that makes it appear as though calls are coming from the power company. These scammers will pressure consumers into making a payment over the phone or with a prepaid debit card that is as hard to track and difficult to recover as cash. Consumers need to remember that a legitimate business will not operate this way. They should resist any pressure and if they’re unsure about the legitimacy of a call, they should request an invoice in writing or hang up and contact the company directly to check on their account.”
Attorney General Herring urges customers to remember:
- If a customer is suspicious, they are encouraged to collect information from the scammer such as his/her name, any phone numbers or other details before hanging up and then reporting to local law enforcement. Never share any personal or financial information with a caller you do not know.
- If you feel that your personal safety or security is threatened, hang up and call 911.
- Stay calm. Scammers may contact consumers or businesses during a hectic or busy time to try to catch them off guard.
- Dominion Virginia Power, Appalachian Power, and the Electric Cooperatives will never demand payment over the phone or require payment on a pre-paid debit card. Dominion Virginia Power does not direct customers to make payment at any of their offices. Designated payment centers can be found online at: https://www.dom.com/residential/dominion-virginia-power/customer-service/payment-options. Dominion customers should always call 866-DOM-HELP to verify that the company is attempting to reach them before releasing any personal information. If a customer is behind on his/her bill, Dominion Virginia Power typically sets up a payment plan mutually agreed upon and provides a customer with multiple notifications in writing before power is scheduled to be disconnected.