Cryptocurrency scams on the rise, impact felt in Lowcountry

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The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office is warning about a phone scam from someone claiming to be with Dominion Energy. The scammer is reportedly demanding $2,000 from Dominion customers to take care of an outstanding bill. Of the two reports through the sheriff’s office, one person recognized the scam and hung up. The other person, a Summerville business owner, fell victim to the scammer and forked over the $2,000 in Bitcoin.

A Dorchester County Sheriff’s official says the caller is not with Dominion Energy.

“Don’t go buy gift cards. Don’t go convert cash to bitcoins or any other kind of cryptocurrency to pay a bill like that,” said Rick Carson.

Dominion Energy released a statement about this incident and possible future phone scams.

We want our customers to have the information and resources they need to protect themselves against scams. Utility scammers are very sophisticated, and they are working constantly to use a variety of tactics to take advantage of our customers. They continue to look for any opportunity to target customers or businesses, and they prey on the fear of having electric service disconnected.

Often, scammers will work to exploit current events such as sudden changes in temperatures or even the ongoing the pandemic to scare customers and create a false sense of urgency in order to obtain immediate payment or personal information. The most important thing for customers to remember is Dominion Energy will never demand immediate payment information over the phone. If customers suspect they are the target of a scam, they should hang up immediately and always verify account information, balances, and due dates on the Dominion Energy app or online.

Scammers are getting more creative with their approaches and now they’re jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that since October 2020, nearly 7,000 people across the United States have reported losses from digital currency scams. Those losses totaling over $80 million.

Cryptocurrency has been shrouded in questions since it came on the market nearly a decade ago.

Certified Public Accountant, Tyler Gibbons, has been following the craze for years. He has been invited to speak at cryptocurrency conventions in the past. He breaks down what digital currency is.

“They’re currencies that can be spent online relatively anonymously and they all run through a platform called the blockchain. Kind of like how email is to internet, digital currencies are to the blockchain,” explained Gibbons.

There are thousands of cryptocurrencies available on the market. Bitcoin was the first to launch, therefore is typically the one most people think of.

Its value fluctuates and many involved in the world of cryptocurrency buy and sell it as it’s value changes.

With over 100 million people worldwide sending digital dollars back and forth, it’s no surprise scammers are too.

“People need to be very wary of when they have any communication for someone wanting to transact in bitcoin. It’s the same as if someone promises you a million-dollar check in the mail. There are probably certain alarm bells that need to go up,” said Gibbons.

If you get a phone call or have fallen victim to a scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency.

Here are some tips from Dominion Energy on how to avoid scams relating to the company.

Dominion Energy will never threaten immediate service disconnection if payment information is not provided over the phone. The company will never ask for payment using money orders, prepaid debit or gift cards.  Company employees will never request to enter a customer’s home without proper identification, an appointment or a reported emergency. Additionally, employees do not ask for payment in person.

Outsmart A Scammer:  

·         Hang up. If a customer is unsure if a call is valid, even if Dominion Energy’s number shows on the caller ID, they should immediately hang up and never provide personal information.          

·         Verify. Customers can verify their account status, balances or due dates by signing into the Dominion Energy app, checking their online account at dominionenergysc.com, or by calling the number located on their energy bill. Download the Dominion Energy app here. Customers should also not respond to suspicious emails or text messages or click on links or attachments prompting energy bill payment. 

·         Report. Tell local authorities about suspicious calls, texts and emails.

Stay Vigilant. Stay Connected.  Review balances and due dates each monthCustomers can access a variety of  payment options conveniently, 24/7 by signing into the Dominion Energy app or their online account. Company representatives can also work with customers to determine the best payment options for their unique situation. Both short-term payment extensions and long-term payment plans are available.  Customers facing financial hardship can learn more about our year-round energy assistance programs  here. 

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

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