People in Hawaii are victims of an old scam with a new twist, told to pay in Bitcoin to avoid their power being turned off.
There are scams that seem as old as time. One such scam is having someone impersonate a utility company employee and threaten a customer with disconnection unless immediate payment is made. This payment is usually done via a credit card, money order, or a checking account routing number. Now that old scam has a new cryptocurrency twist. Electric company customers in Hawaii have been targeted with such a scam but are told to pay in Bitcoin.
Bitcoin Scam Hitting the Aloha State
Local media are reporting that customers of Maui Electric, Hawaii Electric Light, and Hawaiian Electric have received such notices. The scam is pretty simple: the scammers tell the customer that their bill is overdue, and if they don’t pay right away, their power will be shut off.
It appears that the scammers do a pretty good job of sounding official. Three businesses took the bait and paid several hundred dollars at Bitcoin machines. It’s understandable for a business to panic as having the power shut off would kill them.
Of this scam, Shannon Tangonan, HECO director of corporate communications, says:
They weren’t even overdue, but the scammers sounded so convincing that these business owners were willing to pay. They actually went to a bitcoin machine as directed by these scammers and fed cash into the machines, which then transfers it into digital currency.
Scammers Really Putting in the Effort
The criminals have really done their homework. They give the victims a callback number, and this number has the same automated prompts as the actual electric companies. Shannon Tangonan notes:
They sound so convincing. Even when they ask you to call back, they have prompts that sound or mimic our prompts when we have automated calls or recorded messages. They’re very convincing, so we just want to make sure the public is aware of these calls, and what we’re asking them to do is please do not call back the number that you see on your caller ID.
Another tactic used by the scammers is to send out a “disconnection notice” that has a letterhead featuring a logo from Hawaiian Electric. The letter contains a QC code and instructs the victim to scan it at a local Bitcoin machine to make the necessary payment. However, the company logo used is an older logo.
This Bitcoin twist on an old scam has been trending on the west coast of the United States recently. The Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) group says that they have received hundreds of reports about the scam.
The reality is that scammers rely upon people being frightened, which makes them gullible. The thing to remember is that no utility will call a customer and demand immediate payment or face disconnection.
Have you been targeted by such a scam? Let us know in the comments below.
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