A Sidney business owner is warning others of a scam where perpetrators use the threat of power disconnection to extort cash.
Christina Georgeadis of Waterlily Shoes said her staff received a call sometime between 10:45 and 11 a.m. Tuesday claiming that BC Hydro would cut off power by 11:30.
“Their trick is, they want to catch you off guard and they want you to be in a rush,” she said. “They don’t want you to have time to think about it.”
Georgeadis, who was away from the store when her staff fielded the initial call, then called a toll-free number (1-800-799-7591) to deal with the matter. It looked like a BC Hydro number and the message on the other end sounded identical to one BC Hydro uses.
With her computer open and showing the business had paid its bills to the point of having a credit, Georgeadis questioned the claim. The person on the other end, insisted the account showed an outstanding balance. “They gave me a case number and said they were putting me through to a manager,” she said.
As Georgeadis talked to the manager, the scam became obvious as person on the other end insisted that she needed to pay the outstanding balance immediately as the order to disconnect power could not be stopped.
The person said that the required amount of just over $1,300 could not be paid online. It had to be paid in cash at a ‘special machine.’ Now playing along, Georgeadis received two addresses for the special machines in Surrey and eventually a QR code from a number with 604-prefix to access one of those machines. “They are actual real locations,” she said.
Georgeadis has since talked with RCMP, with the Mounties telling her that they cannot do much. “They said because I didn’t give money, I technically was not scammed,” she said. “Technically, no law was broken because I didn’t give them any money. They said the machine that he (the manager) was referring to was likely a Bitcoin machine. They said apparently you can take out an account with these Bitcoin and you can actually put cash into them. The businesses are not likely complicit in any scam. It’s just that they have these machines in place and that these people are using them.”
Georgeadis said this incident could have been a one-off, but encourages people to be conscious of scams.
The Canadian Fraud Centre urges individuals to be aware of “urgent pleas” that play on their emotions. and verify the identity of companies before taking any actions as scammers will use real company names.
“Watch out for fake or deceptive ads, or spoofed emails,” it reads. “Always verify the company and its services are real before you contact them.”
For more information, see the Canadian Fraud Centre at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/protect-protegez-eng.htm.
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