Throughout the summer many utilities across Ontario have been reporting fraudsters trying to scam their customers. This has included threatening customers with disconnection, both via text and directly at the door, and offering purported ‘assistance’ on energy savings.
Utilities such as Orangeville Hydro are reminding their customers that they do not accept payments with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. “If you receive a call or email demanding payment by BitCoin, it’s a scam!” Orangeville Hydro warns. “Hang up the call or delete the email immediately.”
When a utility account is in arrears, customers will be sent multiple bills. They will then receive a call from a utility employee, followed by a written notice.
Another scam that Festival Hydro has become aware of involves fraudsters calling and claiming to be offering assistance on energy savings. North Bay Hydro was similarly made aware that some of its customers were receiving emails and texts with fake information about bill relief programs, refunds and alternative payment methods during the pandemic.
Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc. (NPEI) has received reports that customers have been contacted by people pretending to represent the utility and threatening to disconnect their power if they do not receive payment immediately. Scammers in some instances have also set up illegitimate phone numbers that they are asking customers to call.
In some cases, fraudsters appear to have been approaching customers door-to-door and posing as NPEI representatives. They are pretending to inspect meters and panels, or to be selling products like smart meters or devices to prevent power surges. NPEI has reminded its customers that it never goes door-to-door to solicit sales.
Local Hydro Utilities Do Not:
- Ask for credit card payments over the phone, or accept cryptocurrency or bitcoin, gift cards, or prepaid credit cards as forms of payment.
- Disconnect service with little or no notice.
- Call customers regarding account status outside of regular business hours.
- Send text message alerts to customers.
Take Action if a Scammer Contacts You:
- Immediately hang up on any suspicious phone calls.
- Don't click on any links in emails/text messages asking you to accept electronic transfers.
- Remember utilities do not accept bitcoin as a method of payment.
- Don’t share any personal information over the phone or at your door.
- Always compare bills to previous ones, including the amount and account number.