Toronto restaurants are getting scammed by people pretending to be hydro workers
A new fraud involving fake Toronto Hydro phone calls and bitcoin payments has been seeing a major spike in the city over the last few months.
Cafe and restaurant owners are wary amidst a wave of scams targeting small businesses, who are being schemed out of hundreds of dollars.
Jake Healy, owner of the cafe Golden Gecko in Baby Point, is just one of many in the industry who have taken to Facebook to detail recent encounters with scammers who appear to be ramping up since early this year.
"It just makes me completely and utterly angry," he says.
Healy was in the middle of peak business hours this past Saturday when he received a phone call from someone claiming to be from Toronto Hydro.
The person on the phone informed him that Toronto Hydro had sent him two letters stating that he had missed several payments, and that his power would be disconnected unless he paid in cash immediately.
"They made it very urgent," says Healy. "It's very stressful at peak time and I don't want my power disconnected, so I just reacted."
Scammers are contacting our customers, threatening immediate disconnection & demanding payment.— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) September 23, 2019
Remember, we never:
•Threaten immediate disconnection
•Use a 1-800 number
•Accept bitcoin as payment
More tips to identify & report scams: https://t.co/GCfsy1VX89 pic.twitter.com/mMmNVixw2N
After being transferred to another number with what Healy describes as a convincing automated Toronto Hydro voice system, he was asked to transfer cash through Bitcoin, via a QR code.
He made two transfers—Healy would not specify how much exactly, but said it was roughly the equivalent of three power bills—before the scammers hung up on him.
"It was within a few dollars of the actual amount," he says. "I don't know if they have access to my hydro bill, or they just made a guess."
Embarrassed and disappointed in himself is a few ways Healy describe how he's feeling right now. But, more shocking is the number of people who have experienced the same thing.
Since posting about his encounter on popular industry Facebook group, Food and Wine Industry Navigator, numerous people have described similar instances of fake Toronto Hydro frauds.
"I've had phone calls, and I actually had a guy come into the restaurant," wrote one user. "Don't feel bad....scammers are pros."
"We got one of these yesterday too," wrote another. "They even mask their number so the call display number is the Toronto Hydro number...This is a horrible scam. Even when you know it's false it brings up anxiety."
There are multiple scams targeting Toronto Hydro's residential and small business customers.— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) July 29, 2019
Remember: Toronto Hydro does not accept wire transfers as a method of payment.
Here’s how to spot and report scams: https://t.co/eSKOUchD0r pic.twitter.com/HQvkH3BhyF
Toronto Hydro is aware of this increase in fraud attempts, which includes bitcoin payments as well as a fake bill for something called a "Smart Meter Deposit".
According to a CityNews report, the number of scams had gone up by 120 percent in January of this year.
There is a page on the Toronto Hydro website outlining tips on how to spot a power-related fraud. For example, the utility will never threaten immediate power disconnection, accept bitcoin as payment, or use a number beginning with 1-800.
But hindsight is always 20/20, meaning impacted business owners will have to suffer the consequences without any financial or emotional recourse.
"What annoys me now is trust," says Healy. "Now anytime I get on the phone, I don't know if I can trust who the other person is on the line...I can feel it's going to be an exhausting process until I get over it."
Join the conversation Load comments