It looks like some fraudsters are trying an old trick on local businesses.
Danny Sita of the Old Boot restaurant in Sechelt told Coast Reporter he recently got a call just before the lunch rush. The caller claimed the business was behind on its BC Hydro bill and if they didn’t pay up the power was going to be cut off immediately.
He was able to figure out it was a scam before handing over any money, in part because his accountant happened to be in the office and was able to confirm the payments were up to date.
Sita said he’s aware of at least one other Sechelt restaurant that got a similar call. He also reported the scam to BC Hydro.
The utility company has been aware of the scam for at least a couple of years. One of its recent alerts describes a situation just like the one Sita reported.
“Many of the customers who’ve been targeted are small businesses, especially restaurants. The idea of a restaurant losing an entire day (or more) of revenue because they won’t have power would be enough to make anyone panic,” it said. The alert also said the crooks often use technology that can make a call display show “BC Hydro.”
According to Hydro, the utility never just calls out of the blue to demand immediate payment on overdue accounts – it sends notices in the mail – and it never asks customers for banking or credit card information over the phone. As well, Hydro doesn’t take payment using prepaid credit cards, which is what the scammers try to convince their targets to do.
BC Hydro’s advice to people targeted by the scam is: hang up and call 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376) or 604-224-9376 and report the fraudulent call. They also suggest people report it to local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
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