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Virginia Natural Gas ramps up efforts to protect customers from utility scammers
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Nov. 16, 2016 – Natural gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada are joining forces to protect customers against utility scams.
The Utilities United Against Scams collaboration have designated Nov. 16 as “Utilities United Against Scams Day.” This day will be supported by a week-long campaign with content focused on exposing the tactics scammers use to steal money from customers, and how customers can protect themselves.
The collaborative encourages the public to share these messages to help guard against scam activity.
There are a number of scams. In one particular scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a company representative. The scammer warns that the company will disconnect the customer’s natural gas service if a payment is not made within a short timeframe.
Scammers also can duplicate a company’s upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it appears to be legitimate. Some of these scams also use caller ID spoofing to replicate a company’s customer service number.
Red flags for scam activity
- The individual becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
- The individual instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to the company.
- The individual asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
How to protect yourself
- Whenever a field service representative or one of our contractors visits your home or business, they will provide Virginia Natural Gas identification. If you have further concerns, please contact customer care at 866.229.3578 to confirm that a representative has been scheduled to perform work at your premises.
- When a customer service representative contacts you by phone regarding the status of your account or to discuss payment, they will identify that they are a Virginia Natural Gas employee.
- If you want to verify that the call is legitimate, request to have the representative confirm information about your account that only you and the company would know, including the date of your last payment, the amount of your last payment and your account number.
- Virginia Natural Gas will never demand payment by one method such as prepaid debit /ATM card or checking account.
- Any customer who has doubts about the legitimacy of any call from Virginia Natural Gas, especially one in which payment is requested should call us directly. If you feel uncomfortable and know you have an outstanding balance that needs to be resolved, hang up and call us directly.
- Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with an individual posing as a company representative, should contact local authorities, and then the Customer Care Center at 866.229.3578.
For more information, visit www.virginianaturalgas.com or follow Virginia Natural Gas on Twitter and Facebook to learn more.
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of seven natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to 290,000 customers in southeast Virginia. Virginia Natural Gas has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers, and in 2016 was ranked second in customer satisfaction among mid-size utilities in the South and third nationally by J.D. Power and Associates. Also in 2016, Virginia Natural Gas was recognized as an Environmental Champion by Cogent™ Reports and as the Local Distribution Company of the Year by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association. For more information, visit www.virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook (Facebook.com/VirginiaNaturalGasCo) and Twitter (Twitter.com/VaNaturalGas).
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.5 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in seven states and more than 1 million retail customers through its companies that market natural gas and related home services. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate gas pipelines,asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit Southern Company Gas at www.southerncompanygas.com.