Manitoba Hydro is warning residents of aggressive imposters threatening to shut off services unless a payment is made with a prepaid card.
"These people are crooks and you should hang up on them," says 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."
He notes the utility saw nearly a 300 percent jump in the number of fraud-related complaints this year from the year before. As of October 31 this year, 862 phone, text and e-mail scams were reported compared 221 during the same time period 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 says. "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. The 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 says.
McColm adds 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.
If you’re unsure whether the phone call, text or email is real or a scam, contact MB Hydro at 1-888-624-9376.