BC Hydro scammers powered up activities last year

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An ongoing scam aimed at BC Hydro cost customers close to $45,000 in 2018.

Nanaimo has been one of the hardest-hit areas, along with Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond and Vernon.

About 6,000 reports have been received about the scam since it started to build up in 2014, with more than 2,000 reports coming in 2018 alone.

Fraudsters were 50 per cent more successful with the scam in 2018 than they were in 2017.

The ploy has fraudsters contacting customers by phone, email or text and making an immediate threat to disconnect their power unless a payment is made. Customers are told to buy prepaid cash or credit cards, or to make a deposit into a bitcoin ATM.

The exchange is made with the customer supplying the pertinent information over the phone, Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said. People can be out hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Olynyk said the corporation does not collect credit card or bank information by phone, email or text. Further, it does not take payment via prepaid cash or credit cards, or through bitcoin.

“Hydro would not be doing that,” he said. “You’ll have received a letter, you would receive notification regarding any outstanding amounts on your bill.”

Customers will clearly know where they stand, Olynyk said.

“We send many notices,” he said. “If you’re behind in your payments, you’re not going to be shocked all of a sudden to get a collection notice from BC Hydro.

“BC Hydro communicates many times with a customer if there’s any issues with their bill.”

Don’t stay on a call that doesn’t’ seem right, Olynyk said.

“If you have any questions about your bill, just hang up and call BC Hydro.”

Customers can also check their accounts at bchydro.com.

He said the scam is not confined to BC Hydro.

“Apparently it’s all over North America. We’re not the only ones being targeted.”

Meanwhile, the B.C. RCMP has come out with a list of some of the most prevalent scams in the province from last year, including the lingering Canada Revenue Agency scam where people are threatened with arrest and seizure of assets if they don’t deal with what they are told is an outstanding tax bill.

There is also the emergency scam, where someone claims over the phone to be a relative and to be in trouble, perhaps overseas. RCMP said a Kelowna woman in her 70s was taken last year for $10,500 by a caller pretending to be her son.

Another scam that was seen was “virtual kidnapping,” where people pose as Chinese authorities, make threats about fake crimes, then use extorted information to seek payment from the so-called victim’s family. As part of the process, the victim could be convinced to make a fake video indicating there has been a kidnapping or another crime.

Times Colonist