Four of Ontario’s biggest utilities companies are warning about potential scams that could affect a number of customers this holiday season.
They said in a press release Thursday (Dec. 12) that the holiday season is prime time for scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims – especially leading into weekends.
In response to increased fraudulent activity across Ontario, Alectra Utilities, Hydro One, Hydro Ottawa and Toronto Hydro are trying to increase awareness about ongoing sophisticated scams targeting utility customers.
The busy holiday season is primetime for fraudsters looking to scam our customers, especially leading into weekends. We’re working with @HydroOne @TorontoHydro & @hydroottawa to help our customers identify and report fraud.
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— Alectra (@alectranews) December 12, 2019
This warning comes just as the City of Hamilton and Alectra utilities announced Wednesday (Dec. 11) that they are investigating a possible breach of data involving third-party vendors associated with Alectra.
The City has an agreement with Alectra related to water-related services which include meter reading, billing, payment, collections, and customer care services.
As part of this agreement, the City provides Alectra with information including property owner names, service addresses, billing addresses, and tax assessment roll numbers.
The City has learned there may have been a privacy breach wherein third-party vendors associated with Alectra may have access to this information, but it has not yet been confirmed.
In the meantime, Ontario’s utility companies say that some common tactics fraudsters use to target Ontarians include the impersonation of the local utility or its employees, sending threatening phone calls, texts, emails or showing up in-person at a customer’s home or business and requesting personal information.
The requests can include pressure for immediate cash payment, threats to disconnect service the same day, and even demands to purchase prepaid debit cards, gift cards or Bitcoin.
The utilities are encouraging customers to protect themselves and remind them of the following tips to stay safe:
- Never make a payment for a charge that isn’t listed on your most recent bill
- Ignore text messages or emails with suspicious links promising refunds
- Don’t call the number provided to you. Instead, call your utility directly to check the status of your account
- Do not provide any personal information or details about your account
- Utility companies will never threaten immediate disconnection for non-payment
The companies advise that if you feel threatened in any way, local police should be contacted immediately.
Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of fraud is urged to contact the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 and their local utility.