Island man warns of scam targeting Maritime Electric customers
'These guys, as soon as I confronted them on the phone, the dial tone came on'
A P.E.I. man says he wants to alert Islanders to a scam targeting Maritime Electric he nearly fell prey to earlier this week.
Ben Smith, who lives in Victoria, said he received an unusual call from someone claiming to be a representative from the utility on Monday.
"He says he's from Maritime Electric and they have an order to cut my power off," Smith said.
"I'm trying to avoid getting the power shut off, in the middle of January here, because I know it's a bit of a nuisance to get it back on."
Smith said he is not typically the person responsible for paying the electricity bill in the household, which caused him to worry.
The man on the phone told Smith to call another phone number and convinced him to disclose his Maritime Electric number.
"I guess I shouldn't have done that, off the electric bill but I thought, 'I'm dealing with Maritime Electric."
The man claiming to be with the utility told Smith he owed $498.72, which Smith said "didn't sound right."
I didn't lose any money but if these people are out there doing this ... there should be some warning.— Ben Smith
Smith said the man told him the only way the utility would cancel the shut off would be for Smith to send $250.
The man then instructed Smith to purchase a pre-paid credit card from a local gas station.
Numerous other complaints
After the incident, Smith said he reported the encounter to Maritime Electric and police. He said police told him they had recently received numerous similar complaints.
Representatives with Maritime Electric told him that his account was up-to-date.
It's astonishing that people are trying to take advantage of our customers.— Kim Griffin
He said the scam was "very convincing" and he wants to warn other Islanders who may receive similar calls.
"I didn't lose any money but if these people are out there doing this ... there should be some warning," Smith said.
"These guys, as soon as I confronted them on the phone, the dial tone came on. They're done with me, onto the next one."
Contact the utility
Following several similar instances over the holidays, Maritime Electric is also warning customers to be wary of the scam.
"It's astonishing that people are trying to take advantage of our customers," said Kim Griffin, spokesperson for the utility.
"We've been warning our customers and continue to warn our customers if they have any doubts at all, when they're being called to call ... and just confirm with one of our customer service agents," she said.
She said the utility does not and has not ever directed customers to purchase gift cards or transfer funds as a method of payment.
Customers who receive these kinds of messages are being asked to contact the utility immediately.
"We do want our customers to be very cautious about this and to be aware we've had some instances over the last couple of weeks — even on Christmas Eve — where we had people trying to take advantage of customers," Griffin said.
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With files from Angela Walker