Alectra is warning customers not to fall victim to scammers calling to get you to hand over money.
The electrical utility and distributor for areas such as Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton, says it is getting complaints about the scammers who contact their potential victims claiming they represent the company and that payment is overdue. The scammers threaten to cut-off electricity unless money is sent right way via credit card or e-transfer.
“If you get a suspicious call, hang up and don’t give them any money,” Alectra says on its website.
According to Alectra, here are the ways to identify a fake caller:
• Tends to target small businesses, such as restaurants or beauty salons and spas
• Comes at time of day when being without electricity would be particularly troublesome to the business, such as right before the lunch or dinner rush for a restaurant
• Comes at a time when the customer service department at the utility is likely closed or close to closing, such as at the end of the day or before or during a holiday
• Comes from a 1-800 number, and may display the name “Alectra Utilities”, or “Hydro”
• If you call back the displayed number, the call is answered “Alectra Utilities”, “Hydro”, Disconnections Department”, or something similar
• The amount that is “overdue” is usually around $1,000 to $1,500
While most of the scams are done by phone, Alectra also says they may contact customers through other means such as email or text message. Sometimes the scammers even suggest they will send you a cash rebate just so they can get access to your banking information.
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Alectra says suspicion should also be raised if the caller or emailer asks for payment through gift cards or at store kiosk.
If you do get approached, Alectra suggests the following:
• Always verify your account information with Alectra Utilities’ Customer Care Representatives directly using the phone number on your bill if you suspect suspicious activity
• Never make a payment for a charge that isn’t listed on your most recent Alectra Utilities bill
• Do not provide any personal information, including your Alectra Utilities bill or account number
• Do not click on links provided in text messages
• Do not allow the fraudster to arrange a time to visit your home
• Contact Alectra Utilities’ Customer Care Representatives during regular business hours to discuss any outstanding account activity
The following is the process Alectra follows for collection of accounts that are overdue:
• Our credit department only makes calls Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• We do not have a “Disconnections Department”
• We would never demand immediate payment using a pre-paid credit card, gift card, PayPal or Bitcoin.
• We do not accept wire transfer payments
Alectra Utilities tries to contact customers before disconnecting service, including mailing a written notice, hand delivering a disconnection notice, making phone calls and, if service is about to be disconnected, knocking on the door to contact the customer in person.