Scam awareness: knowledge is power

During this unprecedented crisis, our customers don’t have to worry about their electricity being disconnected – despite what scammers may want you, or your elderly relatives and neighbours, to think. Here’s how to help seniors stay safe from scams during – and after – uncertain and stressful times such as the one we are in right now.

Crises like the COVID-19 outbreak take up a lot of our mindshare. We are consuming information at an increased rate, we have concerns for our health and/or job security, and many of us are now juggling work and homeschooling our children. Plainly speaking, we are distracted. And distractions can leave people vulnerable to fraud. What’s more, scammers are often active in times of crisis, counting on the fact that people might be less likely to scrutinize a suspicious email or phone call.

Even in normal times, the older population is particularly at risk of falling victim to these scams. Seniors may have stronger financial portfolios and better credit, making them more attractive to fraudsters from the outset. They may also be more trusting and empathetic, and might not always question the legitimacy of a “relative” or a sad tale. They might even realize they’ve been scammed and be too shy or embarrassed to tell someone about it until it’s too late. And while younger and more technologically-inclined customers may find it easier to recognize suspicious links or typos in emails they receive, these may not be so obvious to senior citizens.

If you have an elderly relative, friend or neighbour, consider taking some time to talk to them about why they may be targeted, the different kinds of scams out there, and what these look like. You can even show them examples of scams you come across. Here’s what to look for when it comes to possible scams about your hydro account:

  • Offers of refunds for over-payment
  • Immediate disconnection threats
  • Demands for immediate payment
  • Demands for payment by bitcoin or any digital currency
  • Texts or emails with suspicious links
  • Typos or out of place punctuation
  • Blurry logos
  • 1-800 numbers (Hydro Ottawa does not have one)

Unfortunately, scams targeting our customers are nothing new. In fact, just last year we teamed up with Hydro One, Toronto Hydro and Alectra Utilities to increase awareness of increasingly sophisticated scams and help our customers identify and report possible instances of fraud. We have already heard of scam activity targeting Hydro Ottawa customers during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s possible this activity could continue or increase.

We encourage everyone to stay vigilant and know that we have extended the provincial disconnection ban until the end of July to all customers. We will not be disconnecting power for non-payment during this difficult time. We encourage you to learn more about how to spot a scam by watching the video below or by visiting the Fraud Awareness section of our website. As always, when in doubt, please don’t hesitate to call us at 613-738-6400.