RICHMOND, Va., July 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Dominion Virginia Power cautioned customers today not to divulge personal information such as a Social Security number or banking information to anyone offering to help them pay their utility bills through a federal program.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there is no federal program to pay household bills, and providing personal information could lead to identity theft and credit issues.
"Scams are always troubling, especially in these difficult economic times when people are taking advantage of those who may already be struggling to pay their bills," said Gianna Clark, vice president of customer service operations. "We hope this warning will be heeded and shared so that other customers can avoid traps like this."
According to the BBB, victims in states across the country have been contacted by phone, text message, social media and in person. They were asked to "register" their Social Security number and banking information and to make payments using what turns out to be a fake account number.
Dominion encourages anyone who is contacted about a government program proposing to pay utility bills to contact the BBB and local law enforcement officials. Dominion also cautions customers to ask to see an official Dominion ID from anyone who comes to their residence and claims to be from the company.
Dominion Virginia Power has notified approximately 60 customers that their payments could not be processed because the accounts they provided were found to be invalid. Dominion is waiving the return fee it usually charges.
The BBB provides these tips to avoid falling for a scam:
- 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.
Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 28,000 megawatts of generation. Dominion operates the nation's largest natural gas storage system and serves retail energy customers in 15 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's website at www.dom.com.
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SOURCE Dominion Virginia Power