British Columbia

BC Hydro issues alert after big rise in attempted bill scams

Fraudsters are using a sophisticated phone and email scam to try and get customers to buy prepaid credit cards or deposit money into bitcoin ATMs.

Utility says reports of attempted scams have increased 350% from March to April

More than 500 complaints about scammers have been registered since BC Hydro announced its COVID-19 relief fund on April 1. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Scammers have taken to targeting BC Hydro customers in a big way during the coronavirus pandemic, the utility says. 

Reports of scams have increased 350 per cent from March to April, with more than 500 complaints registered since BC Hydro announced its COVID-19 relief fund on April 1. 

A news release describes two types of scam, with the first being surprisingly sophisticated.

A fraudster sends out an automated call or fake bill notification via email threatening service disconnection due to an overdue bill. The customer is asked to call a 1-877 number, which connects to a spoofed BC Hydro number. Someone posing as a BC Hydro employee then asks the victim to purchase pre-paid credit cards or deposit money into a bitcoin ATM wallet. 

The second is a phishing scam, in which customers receive a text message that appears to be from BC Hydro, indicating that they are eligible for a refund. Customers are directed to click a link to submit their banking information for deposit.

BC Hydro says it is important for customers to be aware of the following:

  • All disconnections for non-payment have been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The utility does not collect credit-card or bank-account information over the phone, by email or text.
  • It does not accept payment via pre-paid cash or credit cards, or bitcoin ATM.
  • It does not offer refunds or credits through Interac e-transfer.

Customers are asked to call 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376) or check their MyHydro account if they have questions about the authenticity of an email, text, or phone call.

They are also encouraged to report suspected fraud to the police.

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