BC Hydro scam close call

A West Kelowna man narrowly avoided losing a whole bunch of money to a BC Hydro scam Tuesday.

Dan Streifel received a phone call Tuesday morning from a recording claiming to be from BC Hydro, threatening to disconnect the power to his West Kelowna Budget Brake & Muffler shop within 45 minutes if he didn't pay up.

The recording said he would have to pay his bill at the BC Hydro head office or deposit cash into a Bitcoin ATM in Kelowna.

Streifel says he couldn't remember the last time he had paid his BC Hydro bill.

“So I phone back the number and it does the same thing as BC Hydro, same thing. Press nine for this, press one and then you talk to somebody and they give you somebody else,” Streifel said. “These guys are good.”

Convinced that he needed to pay, and quickly, Streifel closed up shop and headed to the Bitcoin ATM at Mike's Produce on the corner of Gordon Drive and Guisachan Road. He had been told to input a pin number into the machine and deposit the cash.

Luckily for Streifel, the store's manager recognized what was going on.

“When I got down to the store in Kelowna, the manager came out because they saw I was in a hurry to do stuff and they said 'That's a scam. BC Hydro wouldn't do that,'” Streifel said, adding that the employees at the store had seen others using the ATM who had fallen for the scam.

“We never collect credit card or bank account over the phone, by email or by text and we don't accept payment from prepaid cash or credit card or Bitcoin,” said BC Hydro's Mary Anne Coules.

She says if anyone is ever suspicious of who they're talking to, they should hang up and call the real BC Hydro number at 1-800-BC-HYDRO.

Coules says they've received about 6,000 reports of BC Hydro customers being contacted by scammers since 2014, and more than 2,000 of those reports were from 2018. She says the problem has been reported across the province, but Vernon has been one of the most targeted cities.

Streifel says he wants others to be aware of the scam before they fall victim to it.

“I'm an old guy but there's someone out there that's a little bit more senile than me and they're going to get hit on this thing,” Streifel said.

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