Fraudsters posing as BC Hydro employees were 50 per cent more successful in their attempts to steal money in 2018 than in 2017, leaving BC Hydro customers out nearly $45,000.
Since the scams gained momentum in 2014, BC Hydro has received nearly 6,000 reports of customers being contacted by scammers, and more than 2,000 of those—the highest number recorded in one year—occurred in 2018.
Vancouver, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vernon, Burnaby, and Richmond are the most frequently-targeted communities; however, the fraudulent activity has been reported province-wide.
While these numbers are significant, they likely under-represent the scale of the problem, as it is believed that most attempted and successful scams are not reported.
The scams involve fraudsters contacting customers by phone, email, or text and threatening immediate disconnection if a payment is not received. To avoid disconnection, customers are asked to purchase pre-paid cash or credit cards, or deposit money into a bitcoin ATM. Once the fraudsters receive the credit card information or bitcoin currency, the customer is out hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
To avoid falling victim to these scams, BC Hydro wants its customers to know:
· It does not collect credit card or bank account information over the phone or by email or text, and it does not accept payment from pre-paid cash or credit cards or by bitcoin.
· If an account is in arrears, BC Hydro will send several notices by mail and use an auto dialer to remind customers to make a payment. Customers can also check their BC Hydro account status at any time by going to www.bchydro.com.
· If a customer doubts the authenticity of the call, they should hang up and call BC Hydro immediately at 1-800-BCHYDRO (224-9376).
Customers are encouraged to report suspected fraud to their local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.