WINNIPEG — Manitoba Hydro is warning customers to be wary of high-pressure scammers threatening to shut off their electric service unless immediate payment is made by a prepaid card.
“These people are crooks and you should hang up on them,” said Chris McColm, Manitoba Hydro’s Security and Investigations Supervisor. “We will never phone you and demand immediate payment by a prepaid card or a money order.”
McColm said the utility saw nearly a 300 per cent jump in the number of fraud-related complaints this year from the year before — 862 phone, text and e-mail scams as of Oct. 31 from 221 in 2017. Driving the increase were scammers threatening disconnection of service to small business owners.
“Our customers are becoming more educated about fraud, but these scammers can be very convincing — anyone can be victimized,” McColm said. “Phone scammers falsify their caller ID information to make it appear they’re calling from Manitoba Hydro. Their goal is to manipulate you into sending money before you figure out it’s a scam.”
Many other fraud-related complaints to Manitoba Hydro this past year concerned unsolicited text messages to customers that say they were overbilled and eligible for a refund. This scam is aimed at getting a customer’s personal banking information.
“Never give out personal account information, including debit or credit card information, over the phone or in a text or email,” McColm said.
McColm also said seniors living alone continue to be targeted by aggressive door-to-door sales, adding Hydro employees always display Manitoba Hydro photo ID and will never demand to come into a home.
Manitoba Hydro recently joined Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), an alliance of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies, and their respective trade associations. UUAS works across the industry with regulators, law enforcement and telecommunications partners to raise awareness about scams targeting utility customers.
Visit www.utilitiesunited.org for more information about impostor utility scams or follow on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.
Be aware —don’t be a victim of fraud