Dominion representatives warn of utility scams

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Dominion Energy representatives are reminding customers to stay alert about potential phone scams.

According to the company, reports of scammers targeting customers have increased by 49 percent since last year.

The deception apparently starts before the customer answers the phone; the name on the caller ID reads as "Dominion."

"Criminals are always looking for more intelligent ways to make a quick buck," said Mark Barnes, director of gas operations with Dominion Energy West Virginia. "And they prey on folks that just don't know, they prey on elderly folks."

Customers allege the scammers threaten to cut off their service, if an immediate payment isn't made.

"[They'll say] 'You need to pay us now or we're going to shut your service off,'" Barnes said. "Or 'if you can't pay us right now, maybe you can purchase a pre-paid phone card.'"

Barnes explained that the company has not received reports of the scam popping up in West Virginia, but he and police are taking this opportunity to remind residents to be careful.

Bridgeport police say they've seen an uptick in the use of counterfeit bills, as well as calls from people outside the country, who pose as employees using local numbers.

"[They say] their families in jail and they need money to bail them out, or the IRS is going to come after you," said Brian Hyde, an officer with the Bridgeport Police Department. "That's still going around."

Police and Dominion employees urge people to protect themselves by doing the following:

-Hang up if the phone call sounds suspicious
-Never purchase a pre-paid card to avoid shut off (Dominion will not insist just one type of payment)
-Verify what you're being told about your account. Hang up and call Dominion at 866-DOM-HELP to confirm whether or not a payment is due
-Collect information from the scammer, such as phone numbers or names to help law enforcement track the scammers and spread the word to customers