Scam targets elderly, Hispanic and business owners

Posted at 3:30 PM, Jan 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-11 19:52:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—A scam in town targeting Dominion Virginia Power customers has prompted Richmond Police detectives and the power company to warn area business owners.

Detectives are currently investigating situations where a man has called a city business, pretending to be a Dominion employee and threatening to cut off power to the business if a certain amount isn’t paid quickly.

Police said that the scammer tells the business that the account either hasn’t been paid or that there are additional fees on the account.

“At first, they seem to be targetting the hispanic community.  But now it seems to have expanded to the elderly and also to local businesses,” said Daisy Pridgen, spokesperson, Dominion Virginia Power. 

According to the company, the scammer start off by calling a customer, pretending to be an Dominion worker.

“They’re telling them that they need to make a payment on their account immediately or risk being disconnected,” said Pridgen.

Daisy Pridgen says that’s getting customers to fork over the money. In some cases, hundreds of dollars. 

“What they do is they tell these customers to go to the store and get pre-paid card,” said Pridgen.  “Call the green dot pre-paid and use that to make a payment on their account.” 

And Pridgen tells us, the scammers may also claim there’s a problem with the customer’s meter that could result in a fire if it’s not replaced now.  Promising to reimburse the customer if payment for a replacement meter is made upfront. 

“We are very concerned about it and we’re glad that our customers have reported it to us.  Corporate security is involved and they’re investigating each case that we know of,” said Pridgen.

A big relief to customers who say it’s one less thing to worry about.

“In Richmond, there’s a lot of poor college students and we can’t afford to have unfair business practices like this,” said Fiona Tesen.

“We work hard for our money…you know…and I don’t think people should take advantage of people,” said Juan Rivera.

Dominion officials believe this scam has been going on since November.  In fact, they say they’re looking in to 70 reports across the Commonwealth of people being contacted.

If you receive one of these phone calls, detectives recommend that customers contact Dominion Virginia Power via a landline phone, on one of the agency’s official phone numbers before taking any action.

It is not recommended to hand out your credit card information to the caller.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of such a crime or anyone with any information about these crimes is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective Todd Perseghin at (804) 646-3103 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.

Citizens can also text Crime Stoppers anonymously by texting 274637, using the key word “ITip” followed by your tip.