London Hydro officials are alerting residents of a phone scam where customers are threatened with disconnection unless they pay their bill immediately with a credit card.
Three people have come forward to the utility reporting such a call this week, said London Hydro CEO Vinay Sharma.
The calls come from a toll-free 1-800 number and appear on caller ID like they’re coming from London Hydro, Sharma said.
“How you can tell that it’s not London Hydro? First, we do not threaten over the phone to disconnect. Second, we do not have a toll-free number. And third, we do not take credit card payments,” he said.
In addition, Sharma said hydro utilities in the province can’t disconnect hydro customers over the winter months due to a moratorium that began in November and lasts until the end of the April.
“It looks very real, it sounds very real,” Sharma said of the calls, adding that those behind them have set up an automated system that sounds like the one used by London Hydro.
“I called the number… when I called yesterday, it says, ‘You’ve reached London Hydro.’ They go through the whole sequence. ‘If you are reporting an outage, press nine. If you want to connect with a service rep, press four,’ and so on and so forth.”
Sharma said the number to connect with a customer service agent leads to a voicemail that asks for a phone number for them to call back.
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“It’s IVR only, it’s not a real person,” he said, referring to an interactive voice response system.
Though London Hydro has been notified of at least three scam calls, Sharma said he’s concerned that number could be higher.
“My fear is that I do not know how many others have been approached,” he said.
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“We do pass these frauds to authorities, but it’s very difficult. These are overseas numbers. Police are finding it very hard to track this. Either it’s on a personal basis, or on a company basis.”
The scam has also been reported in other cities, including Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Vancouver.
Anyone who receives such a call is asked to hang up and report it to London Hydro.