Toronto Hydro warns of scams targeting homeowners and businesses
TORONTO -- Toronto Hydro is warning its almost 800,000 customers to be on the lookout for fake bills, false disconnection notices and door-to-door scams.
The agency said that 1,800 cases of fraud were reported last year. About 70 per cent of the cases involved small business owners and there was a total loss for all customers of $127,000.
Toronto Hydro spokesperson Russell Baker said the most prolific scam took place over the phone, with someone calling a small business before the weekend to say they have an overdue electricity bill. The caller goes on to say that if the business owner doesn’t pay immediately, their power will be shut off.
“We want our customers to know that Toronto Hydro will never threaten to immediately shut off your power. There will be multiple steps we would go through before a power disconnection would happen,” Baker said.
CTV News Toronto spoke with a small business owner last year who was caught up in the power disconnection scam.
Arthur Ewing owns a sports bar in Scarborough called “Ace’s Place” and he got a call before a weekend from someone claiming to be with Toronto Hydro saying he hadn't paid his last electricity bill, even though he was quite sure that he had.
“They said no it hasn't been paid, we never received the money from the bank and you need to deposit this money or we will be disconnecting your hydro,” Ewing said.
Ewing was concerned about losing power before a busy weekend and paid the caller $3,300 in Bitcoin before finding out he got scammed.
“I didn't want anyone else to false into this trap,” the bar owner said.
The utility says customers are also being sent fraudulent text messages offering refunds or demanding personal information. Toronto Hydro said it doesn't do that.
“If you do receive a text message we would encourage you not to click on the message or any other links within that message," Baker said.
In addition to using fake bills, disconnection letters and electronic transfers in text messages and e-mails, scammers are also doing fraudulent door-to-door soliciting and asking for smart meter deposits. Toronto Hydro says a smart meter deposit is a charge that doesn't even exist.
Anyone who does get scammed is urged to contact the utility to tell them what happened.