Local restaurant owner urges people to look out for phone scammers after losing over $1,000

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – It was a typical Saturday night at Amici’s Italian Bistro until owner Jennifer Conlon received a phone call.

The phone call was from someone who was claiming to be a representative from Dominion Energy.

They then went on to explain that the billing method recently changed, so they needed Conlon to pay her bill within the next 30 minutes or the power in her restaurant would be turned off.

She said that the “representative” knew her account number and the name of her business and said her bill was past due.

Conlon offered to pay the bill through the website, but they said that she couldn’t because it would take 24 hours to transfer and that she had to, instead, get money grams/cards and send them the information.

She would send them the information, which would end up being around $1,100.

She and her fiance later called Dominion to check on their bill, but would later be told that the phone call was, in fact, a scam.

Dominion did apologize for the incident, but said there was nothing they could do to refund her money and that her normal bill was still due.

Paul Fisher, Public Affairs Specialist for Dominion Energy, said that scammers understand that reliable utility service is essential to any home or business, and they will do whatever they can to play on that fear.

He also added that scamming efforts may also increase as the holidays draw near.

Dominion also wanted to provide the following tips to their customers to help protect themselves from potential scammers.

  • Phone scammers typically demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection. Dominion Energy will not ask for banking or credit card information over the phone or ask customers to pay using a prepaid credit card or gift card. Dominion Energy will notify you through multiple methods before disconnecting gas or electric service for non-payment. We also call the day before a scheduled disconnection.
  • Scammers do not know billing cycles. If you know you’ve paid your balance on time, hang up immediately. Similarly, if you don’t remember your balance due date or have an overdue balance, do not provide any identifying information over the phone, and call Dominion Energy customer service at 800-251-7234. Representatives are always ready to help customers with payment concerns. 
  • Scammers often target businesses such as shops or restaurants during high-traffic periods, when owners may be most vulnerable to their threats.
  • Some utility impostors may falsify their caller ID with a technique known as “spoofing” to make it appear as if they are calling from a local number or Dominion Energy’s customer service number. When in doubt, always hang up and call Dominion Energy.                    
  • In-person scams, while far less common, may also occur. Utility personnel will never ask for bill payment in-person. Dominion Energy employees always carry photo identification. Ask to see it.
  • Do not open attachments or respond to suspicious emails.

Conlon was scared by the phone call because the last thing she wanted to do was lose power especially after having lost business because of having lost power on another occasion recently.

“I just lost my power from Hurricane Dorian for three and a half days. I lost mega business and we’re a small family owned restaurant, trying to get through this crippling time and I just felt very vulnerable so I just went with it.”

Jennifer Conlon, Amici’s Italian Bistro

Conlon was contacted by Dominion, who hired an investigator, to see if they could find the source of the phone call.

As of right now, there is no source of where the phone call came from, but Jennifer is hoping that her story can help others.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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