CONSUMER ALERT: Officials warn of utility bill scam

Posted at 1:40 PM, Jan 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-15 21:20:33-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- It's something all of us do every month, pay our utility bills. However, if you get a call from someone claiming that your power bill is overdue, and you need to pay it right away, be skeptical.

It's most likely a scam if money is requested right away over the phone, even to keep your utilities on, and this can go for individuals and businesses.

The way this crime is happening, someone calls you up, claiming to be from your local electric or gas company. They tell you you're late on your bill, and services will be disconnected unless you pay. These con artists often times are asking for payment with a prepaid debit card. The reason for this is because those prepaid cards are just like cash.

Once you transfer the money, there is no way to get it back. The scammers are also asking for your personal information which is yet another red flag.

If that's not bad enough, the crooks may claim your electric meter is not working correctly, and you'll need to have it replaced.

Le-ha Anderson, a representative with Dominion Virginia Power, says that is another sign something is not right.

"We'll never ask a customer for additional money to make repairs on our system." said Anderson.  "So if you get an inquiry on that, again, don't provide any information to the person. Instead, call us and report it. Every time that you call us, we are turning around and notifying local authorities so that they can be aware of the situation.  This is a crime."

Here are several tips for spotting a utility scam:

• Prepaid debit cards are a red flag--because they work like cash... once the money is transferred, there is no way of getting it back.

• Don`t cave to pressure to pay immediately.

• Remember that electrical meters are the property of the utility company. So if they say you need to have it replaced or repaired, it is not true.

• Never allow anyone into your home without proper identification.