A regional scam is hitting one D.C. neighborhood as crooks falsely posing as utility workers are targeting Columbia Heights.
There have been multiple reports from residents who say a stranger has shown up on their doorstep, claiming to be from a utility, according to Pepco. The so-called representative arrives unannounced and asks for account information and entry into the home.
It happened to Elizabeth Dougherty just a few days ago.
"A man showed up to my door and asked if I had some time to speak to him about my Pepco bill and asked if he could see my bill to see if I was getting charged the higher rate," Dougherty says. "So I did get it and show it to him."
Dougherty got suspicious and ultimately turned the man away, but not before sharing her account information.
Pepco has received dozens similar complaints and the FBI is investigating, according to company spokesperson Clay Anderson. He says the thieves sometimes call and pose as bill collectors, too.
"We do have reports of those giving $200, so some customers have been financially victimized," Anderson says.
Anderson advises people never to give out account numbers because Pepco already has it. In addition, he says the utility does not make a practice of popping up on doorsteps unannounced.
"Ninety percent of the time, Pepco works outside of your home and when we are dealing with the smart meters and installation, then we may knock on your door," he says. "But even before that, if we have to come into your home, we're going to contact you and let you know we will be in your neighborhood at a predetermined time."
Lydia Meigs of the American Gas Association says these aren't isolated incidents and residents across the Mid-Atlantic should beware.
"We were contacted about a month ago saying that this scam is happening throughout the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New Jersey areas," Meigs says.
Anderson says if someone comes to your home, even if they appear to be wearing a uniform, "Number one, don't let them in."
Instead, he advises customers call the customer service number on bills for verification of an appointment. If the situation still seems suspicious, Anderson adds, people should call the police.