COLUMBIA, S.C. — If you receive a call out of nowhere suggesting Dominion Energy may want to give you money, it's a scam, the utility told News19 on Friday.
News19 contacted the company after a tip from a viewer. She said the caller had suggested that the company actually wanted to pay her due to some sort of change in energy costs. However, when the caller asked her to press a key to speak with a customer representative, she became suspicious.
She hung up and called us. And a spokesperson for Dominion Energy said that was the right decision. While it's unclear what would have followed had this caller spoken with the "customer service" personnel on the other end, it usually amounts to gathering information - or money.
"Utility scams are not unique to Dominion Energy as scammers continue to prey on utility customers all across the nation," a spokesperson for the company said.
According to a statement released to News19, the volume of these scam calls increases when there's severe weather or extreme temperatures ahead.
While News19's viewer didn't deal with any specific demands, Dominion warned that this is usually where scam calls end up, threatening the customer with disconnection unless they pay immediately over the phone. They may have caller identification showing the company's name.
But most scams don't hold up to intense scrutiny. Dominion Energy offered a few tips to make sure targeted customers don't become victims.
First, residents should slow down and not be rushed into a decision by a scammer's attempt to instill urgency.
Next, stop, and realize that Dominion Energy doesn't demand immediate payment and doesn't except things like gift cards and prepaid cards. This, however, is often how scammers request payment.
Or you could simply hang up. The less time you're on the phone with a potential scammer, the less time they have to get important information out of you.
There's also the option of verifying the caller's intent while on the phone or afterward. The scammer typically won't know the customer's balance but you can check it online - which may also take the wind out of their scam outright since you'll see exactly how much money you owe.
And, finally, if you have any questions about the claims that still make you uncomfortable, contact the number on your actual bill - not the one that called you.
That way, you know you're speaking with a real representative.