Nanaimo RCMP are warning the public about a B.C. Hydro scam that has already bilked cash from local victims.
According to Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, the scam managed to trick one business out of $2,000 and two individuals out of $200 to $300 each.
O’Brien said the B.C. Hydro scam has been around for a long time, but the perpetrators have become more sophisticated with the con by presenting their victims with accurate information about their B.C. Hydro accounts and using a QR code to convert cash to bitcoin.
“The victims get a phone call from somebody saying they represent B.C. Hydro and that their bill is unpaid and their hydro … will be cut off in two days,” O’Brien said. “To validate their claim they gave [the victim’s] account number, they told them how much money they’re in arrears and how much money they had previously paid B.C. Hydro.”
O’Brien said the information might have been acquired through hacking the accounts or by stealing the victims’ mail.
The scammer then sends an e-mail to the victim with a B.C. Hydro logo and a QR code.
“They are then directed to a specific ATM cash machine at Woodgrove Centre,” O’Brien said. “It has to be a cash payment, so they go to the cash machine, scan the QR code, put their money in and the money, right then, is converted into bitcoin. That’s what the QR code does. They realize then they’ve been scammed.”
O’Brien said potential victims should recognize red flags such as the cash payment and specific cash machine requirements. Police say B.C. Hydro doesn’t threaten to imminently cut a customer’s power.
“B.C. Hydro may call you to demand payment, but they’re going to work something out and they’re not going to give it short notice to cut your power off,” O’Brien said.
According to a B.C. Hydro alert about the scam, the utility notes that it does not collect credit card or bank account information over the phone, by e-mail or text. It does not accept payment from pre-paid cash or credit cards or via bitcoin ATM and it does not offer refunds or credits through Interac e-transfer.
If a customer doubts the authenticity of an e-mail, text or phone call, they should call B.C. Hydro at 1-800-224-9376 or check their MyHydro account, the B.C. Hydro press release noted.
Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman, said signing up for a MyHydro account is a good way for customers to instantly check the status of their account and to help avoid being scammed over the phone.
“It’s a good reason for people to sign up for MyHydro and get e-billing…” said Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman. “You’ll be able to see your consumption and you can see how your consumption compares to previous years and others in your neighbourhood. It’s not only great for saving energy, but it also saves the planet because you’re using less paper billing.”
To learn more about the B.C. Hydro scam and how to set up a MyHydro account, visit www.bchydro.com.
To learn about current online and phone scams and to report frauds, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.