Hydro warns of scam making the rounds

It’s been around the Lower Mainland since fall, but it appears a scam targeting businesses has hit Vernon.

It’s been around the Lower Mainland since fall, but it appears a scam targeting businesses has hit Vernon.

One local business received a call from a man Wednesday afternoon saying he’d been hired by B.C. Hydro to disconnect the business’ power because they hadn’t paid their bill.

The woman who answered said she was told to call a 1-800 number to pay the bill, and to also go out and get a gift card, pass on the code number of the gift code which would be applied to the business’ bill.

The woman who runs the business checked her records and discovered everything was fine.

“Fraudsters posing as B.C. Hydro employees continue to contact customers across British Columbia by telephone in an attempt to steal money from residents and small businesses — particularly restaurants,” said a Hydro release.

Hydro initially warned customers of the scam in early September.

Since then, more customers have come forward with additional details. According to reports, the fraudulent calls may come from a 1-800 phone number. The customer’s call display may show BC Hydro or display a legitimate B.C. Hydro phone number.

In the Vernon case, the woman said “B.C. Hydro” was on her call display.

Hydro said this is done through “spoofing,” where the caller demands immediate payment to avoid disconnection and suggests the customer purchase a cash gift card and call back to provide the serial number on the back of the card.

Hydro is reminding customers that it does not collect credit card or bank account information over the telephone, and does not take payment from cash gift cards.

Customers are also reminded that if they receive a call from someone representing B.C. Hydro and they doubt the authenticity of the call, they should hang up and call 1-800- BCHYDRO or 1-800-224-9376.

If an account is in arrears, Hydro will send several notices through the mail asking for payment and also use an automated dialer to remind customers to make a payment before electricity supply is impacted.

Customers can check their account status online through bchydro.com.

B.C. Hydro customers are asked to report these calls by calling 1-800-BCHYDRO, the police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.