CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Bonita Billingsley Harris’s phone rang and rang constantly on a day she said she thought scammers were targeting her. As it turns out, a scammer was targeting Dominion Energy customers using her work phone number.
"My phone was ringing off the hook with people saying, 'I got a call from this number,'” Harris, the Regional Director for Dominion Energy, said. “'Someone from this number was saying my electricity was going to get cut off.'"
Her phone number was spoofed.
"At first, I thought it was scam artists targeting me,” Harris said. “I assured them I didn't ask for anything; I didn't tell them their electricity was going to get cut off."
According to the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, these are some of the tactics spoof scammers use.
"These scams can be very sophisticated, and spoofing the number is one part of the scam,” Christina Pullen, the office’s Pubic Affairs Specialist, said.
Spoofing is when a scammer mimics someone's phone number to scam people out of their money. Pullen added it is not just money they can be after.
"Personal and financial information is just as valuable as cash or money to some scammers because it's something they can reuse over and over again,” Pullen explained.
Figures from the FBI showed there were more than 800 reported phone spoof scams in 2019, leading to more than $12 million lost among citizens. There are red flags people should look out for.
"They'll also use scare tactics to make create a sense of threat or emergency,” Pullen said. “They will also use tactics to make themselves appear credible."
The FBI urges you to report phone spoofing. People can file a spoof or online scam report using the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
As for Harris, she said she reported the issue to Dominion Energy after getting more than 30 calls from concerned customers.
"We just encourage our customers that if they get a scary phone call,” Harris said, “and they think their power is about to get shut off to hang up and call us because it's very likely it's a scam."