Imposter Scams, Online Shopping are top fraud categories
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Nov. 15, 2021 –With utility scams on the rise, it is more important than ever for customers to be vigilant and know what steps to take to prevent themselves or their families from falling victim.
Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) is joining 150 U.S. and Canadian energy companies Nov. 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.
- Suggests 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, followed by a call to 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 our Customer Care Center at 1.866.229.3578.
In addition, whenever a field service representative or one of our 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 our 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.
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service to more than 300,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in southeast Virginia. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company also has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, innovation, environmental stewardship, community outreach and educational programs, and has been named Local Distribution Company of the Year five times since 2015. The company has been ranked by its business customers as one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and as one of the Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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 4.3 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with approximately 666,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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