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Toronto Hydro warning small business customers after a spike in reported incidents of fraud

Nearly three-quarters of reported cases in 2019 were from small business owners

TORONTO, March 10, 2020 /CNW/ - March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Toronto Hydro is raising awareness about sophisticated scams targeting customers.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of the 1,800 reported cases of fraud in 2019 came from small business owners, highlighting a segment of the population scammers frequently target. Overall, Toronto Hydro customers paid more than $127,000 to fraudsters in 2019.

In the majority of cases, fraudsters are calling our customers – sometimes masking their numbers – and threatening to immediately disconnect power if customers don't make a payment right away. Toronto Hydro never disconnects power without first contacting customers through multiple channels and will never ask a customer to call a 1-800 number (like 1-855 or something similar) to make such a payment.

Other tactics fraudsters may use include:

  • Fake bills and personalized letters threatening disconnection unless customers pay a "Smart Meter Deposit," which is not a real charge
  • Emails and/or text messages that appear to be from Toronto Hydro, asking that customers accept an electronic transfer (credit or refund) by clicking on a link. This is a scam – we never send these types of messages
  • Door-to-door solicitation where fraudsters pose as Toronto Hydro representatives. They're pretending to inspect meters and panels, or sell and install products (like smart meters or devices to prevent power surges). Toronto Hydro never goes door-to-door to solicit sales

Protect yourself against fraudsters

Scams are constantly evolving, but learning how to spot the red flags will help protect you against fraudsters:

  • Avoid reacting automatically. Take five minutes to ask additional questions and listen to your instincts. If something doesn't seem right, ask someone else about it
  • We don't threaten immediate disconnection for non-payment. Our collections process includes telephone messages and a hand-delivered notice
  • We never proactively ask for payment by pre-paid card and we don't accept bitcoin
  • Inaccurate account numbers are a red flag for fraud. Always compare suspicious invoices with a previous bill and note the account number and the previous amount
  • Don't click on any links included in suspicious emails or text messages, as fraudsters may be attempting to access your personal information
  • We don't use text messages to communicate with customers about account issues
  • Download our fraud prevention tip sheet, now available in six languages

Block scammers with these tips:

  • Don't provide any personal or account information if contacted at the door or by phone, email or text
  • Don't make any type of payment until you can confirm you're dealing with Toronto Hydro
  • Don't click on any links advertising a refund or rebate in text messages or emails, as this is a tactic fraudsters use to access personal information

Reporting suspicious behaviour

Customers who suspect any type of fraud are encouraged to contact Toronto Hydro's Customer Care department at 416-542-8000, which is staffed Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or online at torontohydro.com/reportfraud.

Customers should also report suspicious activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

For more tips on how to identify and block scammers, visit torontohydro.com/fraud.

QUOTE
"With Fraud Prevention Month underway, we're reminding customers that understanding how to recognize fraud is the best defence against it. Remember, scams can impact anyone, anywhere, at any time."

  • Russell Baker, Spokesperson, Toronto Hydro

ABOUT TORONTO HYDRO
Toronto Hydro owns and operates the electricity distribution system for Canada's largest city. Recognized as a Sustainable Electricity Company™ since 2014, it has approximately 775,000 customers located in the city of Toronto and distributes approximately 18% of the electricity consumed in Ontario.

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SOURCE Toronto Hydro Corporation