BC Hydro has issued a warning to customers after a significant increase in scammers masquerading as its employees, trying scams such as telling customers they’ll have their power cut off if they don’t pay in Bitcoin.
According to the Crown corporation, fraudsters were 50 per cent more successful in scamming British Columbians for cash in 2018 than they were in the previous year.
In total, phony BC Hydro workers made off with $45,000 from their victims last year.
The frequency of BC Hydro scams started increasing in 2014, and the company has received nearly 6,000 reports of fraud attempts.
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About a third of those reports — more than 2,000 — came in 2018 alone. What’s more, the company believes the numbers may be seriously under-reported, as people who are successfully scammed are less likely to report it.
The scams most commonly involve a fake BC Hydro employee contacting customers by phone, text or email and threatening to cut off power if the victims don’t pay up.
The targets are told to buy pre-paid cash or credit cards, or to deposit money into a Bitcoin ATM.
BC Hydro said scams have been reported provincewide, but added that the con artists are primarily focusing on Vancouver, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vernon, Burnaby and Richmond.
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The Crown corporation is reminding customers that it never takes credit card or bank information over the phone, by text or by email.
It also does not accept payment from pre-paid cash or credit cards, nor does it accept Bitcoin.
When a customer’s account is legitimately overdue, BC Hydro it will send notices by mail, and use an automated calling system to remind the customer to pay the amount owing on the mailed bill, it said.
Anyone who receives a call they believe to be a scam should hang up immediately and call 1-800-BCHYDRO.
People targeted by scammers are also encouraged to report it to their local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 1-800-495-8501.