Toronto Hydro is warning the public of a spike in scams targeting its customers, with fake threats to disconnect power immediately unless payments are made.
Since January, the agency said it saw a 120 per cent increase in reported cases of fraud and scams compared to last year. In 2018, it received more than 1,100 reports of scam and payment to fraudsters of more than $45,000.
“Understanding how to recognize fraud is the best defence against getting scammed,” Toronto Hydro spokesperson Christina Basil said in a news release.
“We’ve seen a rise in the number of reported cases of fraud and we don’t want any of our customers to make payments to these scammers, or to have their personal information compromised.”
The majority of the scams target small businesses and homeowners over the phone. Claiming to be from “Toronto Hydro’s Billing and Collection Process,” a threat is made that power would be disconnected immediately if payments aren’t made.
Toronto Hydro says it “never threatens customers with immediate disconnections.”
Some customers are saying they’ve received emails and text messages that appear to come from Toronto Hydro claiming to accept “an electronic transfer, either through credit or refund, by clicking on a link.”
Toronto Hydro says it “never sends these types of emails or text messages.”
Another popular trick involves sending a fake bill to customers by email with a personal letter which threatens to disconnect their power unless a $400 payment is made for a Smart Meter Deposit.
This isn’t a legitimate charge, Toronto Hydro said.
Although scams and fraudsters are constantly evolving and using new ways to trick people, Basil said there are some red flags to look out for.
Toronto Hydro doesn’t accept Bitcoin or wire transfers as methods of payment.
“Our collections process includes telephone messages and a hand delivered notice,” Basil said.
If you suspect any type of fraud, contact Toronto Hydro’s customer care department at 416-542-8000 or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.