With utility scams on the rise, it is more important than ever for consumers to be vigilant and know what steps to take to prevent themselves and their families from falling victim.
Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) is joining 150 U.S. and Canadian energy companies November 15–19 for Utility Scam Awareness Week, a weeklong annual campaign created by Utilities United Against Scams to raise awareness and help educate customers on the tactics used by scammers.
“Protecting oneself against scams is a constant battle, so we want to make customers aware of some of the more common tactics that scammers use so they can protect themselves,” said Robert Duvall, Virginia Natural Gas president. “Heightened awareness is one of the best defenses against these activities.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fraud cost consumers more than $3.3 billion in 2020—an increase of nearly $1.5 billion from 2019. Nearly $1.2 billion of the losses reported were due to imposter scams.
In recent years, scammers have gotten deceptively creative with increased calls, texts, emails, and in-person tactics, contacting electric and gas customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection.
VNG strongly encourages customers to stay vigilant of potential scam activity such as:
- Threats to disconnect their natural gas service—usually within an hour—if payment is not made.
- Requests that payments be made from a single method, such as a debit card, prepaid card, checking account, cryptocurrency or to send funds via a mobile app to make a bill payment.
- Claims they have overpaid, and their banking account or credit card number is needed for a refund.
- Requests to vacate their home so that a meter or other natural gas equipment can be replaced.
- Suggestions through social media that their bill will be covered by a charity after they make a partial payment by way of a wire transfer.
Virginia Natural Gas holds itself accountable to customers and the communities it serves, which is why it reminds customers that it will never use aggressive or intimidating tactics to pressure them into making a payment toward their natural gas bill.
- By phone: When a customer service representative contacts a customer by phone regarding the status of their account or to discuss payment, they will identify themselves as a VNG employee. To verify the legitimacy, customers can request that the representative confirm information about their account that only they and the company would know, for example:
- The date of their last payment
- The amount of their last payment
- Their account number
- By email: VNG will never ask for account or credit card information in an email. Customers can safely access and make changes to their account information and payment methods using the secure My Account online portal.
Customers who suspect or experience fraud should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door, then immediately contact local authorities and call the Customer Care Center phone number listed on their billing statement. Customers who want to confirm that a VNG representative is scheduled to perform work at their premise should contact the Customer Care Center at 1.866.229.3578.
In addition, whenever a field service representative or one of VNG’s contractors visits a customer’s home or business, they will provide VNG photo identification. And, as an additional safety measure, customers who sign up to receive the Keep Me Informed appointment status text messages can access a photo of the technician assigned to perform work at their property.
For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com/fraud.