Toronto Hydro is warning the public of a ‘sophisticated’ scam targetting small businesses and residential customers.
Russell Baker, a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro told Daily Hive, fraudsters have been using a number of methods to get in contact with customers, including, calling them — sometimes masking their numbers — and threatening to immediately disconnect power if customers don’t make a payment right away.
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According to Baker, Toronto Hydro never disconnects power without first contacting customers through multiple channels and will never ask a customer to call a 1-800 number to make such a payment.
Baker also said when customers try to contact the number the fraudsters call from, the voice message sounds very similar to what you would hear when you call Toronto Hydro, which makes it hard to detect.
Scammers are also sending customers fake bills and personalized letters threatening disconnection unless they pay a “Smart Meter Deposit,” which Baker says is not a real charge.
“Some customers are receiving emails and/or text messages that appear to be from Toronto Hydro, asking they accept an electronic transfer (credit or refund) by clicking on a link. This is a scam — we never send these types of messages,” said Baker.
Additionally, in some cases, fraudsters are approaching customers door-to-door and posing as Toronto Hydro representatives.
“They’re pretending to inspect meters and panels or sell and install products (like smart meters or devices to prevent power surges),” added Baker.
“Understanding how to recognize fraud is the best way to protect yourself from it. With a recent spike in reported cases of fraud, we encourage Torontonians to help protect themselves–and their personal information–from getting into the hands of scammers.”
Baker said that while scams are always evolving, the best way to protect yourself is to learn how to spot red flags and to know the following:
- Toronto Hydro doesn’t threaten immediate disconnection for non-payment. The collections process includes telephone messages and a hand-delivered notice.
- The company never proactively asks for payment by pre-paid card and doesn’t accept bitcoin.
- Inaccurate account numbers are a red flag for fraud. Always compare suspicious invoices with a previous bill and note the account number and the previous amount.
- Don’t click on any links included in suspicious emails or text messages, as fraudsters may be attempting to access your personal information.
- Toronto Hydro does not use text messages to communicate with customers about account issues.
Customers who suspect any type of fraud are encouraged to contact Toronto Hydro’s Customer Care department at 416-542-8000 or online.
Customers should also report suspicious activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 and quote file number 844396.