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Utility scams increase following natural disasters

Posted at 7:44 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 12:19:39-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Experts with the Better Business Bureau said utility scams have been popping up across the Commonwealth -- and if you fall victim, you could lose a lot of money.

The BBB said periods following natural disasters, such as the most recent ice storms, is when scammers will try to pose as utility companies to get you to pay over the phone or share personal information.

People can become vulnerable for these scams during times like this because people may be in a hurry to get things fixed and may not do their research.

Instead, the BBB said customers should take the time and find out more information about companies before giving out personal information.

Dominion Energy said they will never ask for credit card information, social security or bank account information via a phone call, text or email.

Experts said if you receive a call and feels like something is off – hang up and verify your account information with your utility company.

Barry Moore, with the BBB, said researching is key. "Take your time, back off and do your research. It will save you a lifetime of grief."

Moore added, "If you do your research rather than jump at any imposter scam or storm chaser scam, and then regret it later. Too late. You're in for a world of hurt"

Here are tips from the FTC to avoid falling victim:

  • If you get a call, thank the caller and hang up. Never call a number left in a voicemail, text, or email. Instead, if you're worried, contact the utility company directly using the number on your bill or on the company’s website. Verify if the message came from them.
  • If you get a call out of the blue and the caller claims you have to pay a past due bill or your services will be shut off, never give banking information over the phone. To pay your bill over the phone, always place the call to a number you know is legitimate.
  • Utility companies don’t demand payment information by email, text, or phone. And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option.
  • If the caller tells you to pay by gift card, cash reload card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency, it’s a scam. Every time. No matter what they say.