VICTORIA -- British Columbia's provincial electricity provider says its customers are being targeted by increasingly sophisticated scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC Hydro on Friday reported a 350 per cent increase in scam complaints this month over March, many of them taking advantage of the power company's COVID-19 Relief Fund for customers struggling to pay their bills.

Since the fund launched on April 1, BC Hydro has had over 500 reported incidents of attempted scams targeting its customers.

"Of particular concern is the increasing sophistication of these scam operations," the power provider said in a statement.

One of the scams reportedly involves a fraudster threatening to cut off service due to an overdue account. The hydro company has suspended all disconnections for non-payment during the coronavirus pandemic.

BC Hydro is warning customers to be on the lookout for:

  • automated calls or fake bill notification emails threatening disconnection for an overdue bill. In this scam, customers are asked to call a 1-877 number to make a payment. Fraudsters then ask the customer to purchase pre-paid credit cards or deposit money into a bitcoin ATM wallet to avoid disconnection.
  • phone calls, emails or text messages that appear to be from BC Hydro, indicating that the customer is eligible for a refund. Customers are directed to click a link to submit their banking information for a deposit.

BC Hydro says that if a customer doubts the authenticity of an email, text, or phone call, they should call BC Hydro at 1 800 BCHYDRO (2249376) or check their MyHydro account. Customers are also encouraged to report suspected fraud to their local police department.