Scam artists have been calling Arlington residents, claiming to be utility bill collectors, according to police. They often become aggressive on the phone and demand payment for outstanding bills. The scammers have also threatened to cut off service altogether if immediate payment is not provided over the phone. They ask the victim to set up a pre-paid debit card so funds can be loaded onto it and accessed over the phone.
In the past, many utility scams police came across involved minority or elderly residents. This one, however, appears to target small businesses. Since the beginning of the year, police have investigated 21 instances of this scam in Arlington, nine of which occurred just in the past month.
The scammers have been requesting various amounts of money ranging from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand, police say. Although most of the victims refused to pay and contacted police, a few did hand over money.
Police remind residents never to provide personal information to people over the phone, including bank account numbers, credit card info and social security numbers. If you receive a call from someone claiming to work for a utility or another business, attempt to verify the individual’s identity by calling the service number on your utility bill or on the company’s website. Do not attempt to call phone numbers a caller may offer, because the number will often ring to another scam artist.
Do not rely on your caller I.D. to verify suspicious calls, because scammers can alter phone numbers to appear like they belong to a utility company. Legitimate utility companies will not attempt to pressure customers into making a snap decision or an immediate payment.
If you receive a call you believe is a scam, hang up and call the Arlington County Police non-emergency number at 703-228-2222 to file a police report.