The scam involves offering customers the opportunity to set up an account to pay utility bills via a federal program. According to the Better Business Bureau, there is no such federal program in existence to pay household bills.
Victims have reportedly been contacted in person as well as by phone, text and social media. They were asked to register their Social Security numbers and banking information in order set up an account to make payments. The account numbers the victims were then given for bill paying turned out to be fake.
So far, Dominion has notified around 60 customers that their payments could not be processed because the account information they gave was invalid thanks to the scam.
Anyone who is contacted about a federal government bill paying program should not give any personal information due to the risk of identity theft. Potential scam victims are encouraged to contact the Better Business Bureau and local police. Customers should ask for an official Dominion ID from anyone who may come to their residence and claim to be from the company.
The Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- 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.
- 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 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.