CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - We may be a few weeks into a new year but scammers are keeping up their same old antics. This time, though, they’re targeting small businesses.
Scammers are pretending to be a utility company and threaten to cut your power.
“We had gotten a call on our answering machine here at El Jefe and someone left a message, an urgent message, for the business owner that your power is going to be shut off in 30 minutes if you didn’t call back,” Roy Neal, Co-owner of El Jefe Texican Cantina in downtown Charleston, said.
Just like scams in the past, Neal says the caller ID came up as Dominion Energy.
“My staff called me immediately, alarmed, thinking we hadn’t paid the bills,” Neal says. “I knew that was false because we had just paid it and just gotten our new bill.
Neal adds it’s sad they’re starting to target local businesses.
“There’s so many things going on with local businesses, especially this year and last year with all of the curveballs we’ve been thrown – every week it seems like something is going on,” Neal says. “So it’s very possible a business could miss something like that.”
Fortunately, those at El Jefe knew it was a scam. But Dominion Energy officials say that’s not always the case, a reason they’re telling you to be extra vigilant.
“These scammers are really relentless and doing whatever they can to target our customers,” Paul Fischer, Dominion Energy’s Senior Communications Specialist in South Carolina, said.
According to Fischer, scammers will often work to exploit sudden changes in weather, such as recent dips in temperatures, or even the ongoing the pandemic to scare customers and create a false sense of urgency in order to obtain immediate payment or personal information.
Fischer says the first and best defense when it comes to these calls – is hang up.
“If the person on the other end of that phone call, claiming to be from Dominion Energy, demands immediate payment in order to avoid a disconnection of service, it’s a scam,” Fischer says. “Hang up. We never call to demand immediate payment. We never ask for payment in some sort of prepaid gift card.”
Dominion says you can always call them directly if you’re really worried to check it out.
Several tips are listed below from Dominion regarding being aware of a potential scam.
Spot a scam:
Dominion Energy will never threaten immediate service disconnection if payment information is not provided over the phone. The company says they will never ask for payment using money orders, prepaid debit or gift cards. Company employees will never request to enter a customer’s home without proper identification, an appointment or a reported emergency. Additionally, employees do not ask for payment in person.
Outsmart a scammer:
- Hang up. If a customer is unsure if a call is valid, even if Dominion Energy’s number shows on the caller ID, they should immediately hang up and never provide personal information.
- Verify. Customers can verify their account status, balances or due dates by signing into the Dominion Energy app, checking their online account at dominionenergysc.com, or by calling the number located on their energy bill. Download the Dominion Energy app here. Customers should also not respond to suspicious emails or text messages or click on links or attachments prompting energy bill payment.
- Report. Tell local authorities about suspicious calls, texts and emails.
- Stay Vigilant. Stay Connected. Review balances and due dates each month. Customers can access a variety of payment options conveniently, 24/7 by signing into the Dominion Energy app or their online account. Company representatives can also work with customers to determine the best payment options for their unique situation. Both short-term payment extensions and long-term payment plans are available. Customers facing financial hardship can learn more about our year-round energy assistance programs here.
For more scam prevention tips, visit dominionenergy.com/our-stories/scammers-and-personal-safety.
As always – if you have a scam story to share that could warn others – you can email us at email@example.com.