KAMLOOPS - A local business owner says his mother fell prey to a sophisticated phone scam working its way through the Interior.
Min Vo owns a nail salon in Sahali and says his mother received a alarming phone call which caused her to panic on Monday, Nov. 2.
“They contacted her and were claiming to be from B.C. Hydro,” Vo says. “They said we were backed up on payments and they had a notice for disconnection. They said it’s happening today and the only way to stop that from happening was to make a payment to get the account up to date."
His mother, who is from Vietnam, understood only a portion of what the scammers were saying so she gave them Vo’s phone number. While on vacation in Ontario, Vo says he got the call with instructions on how to pay the ‘outstanding bill’ which the caller said was $493.
“I asked them if I could pay by credit card and they told me it would take too long to process; over 24 hours. They said they needed something immediate. So I said what can be done? They mentioned you have to essentially buy a pre-paid card,” Vo says.
Meanwhile back home in Kamloops, Vo’s mother was trying to double check if there was an issue with the salon’s pre-paid payments for hydro service. Vo called her and asked her to buy two pre-paid Mastercards which he could use to make the payment. His mother called him back with the cards’ serial numbers and when he phoned the fake B.C. Hydro line back to pay, he hesitated.
"I thought ‘you know what, what if this is not actually B.C. Hydro.' At that point I said ‘I’ll call you back’. I hung up and immediately searched for the B.C. Hydro number and cross-referenced,” Vo says.
The numbers didn’t match and after calling the company directly, the number he’d been dealing for the disconnection threat wasn’t part of the directory and he was told the call was likely a scam.
But it was already too late. Vo tried calling his mother to tell her it was a scam and by the time she answered, she told him she already paid.
"They beat me to her, they totally beat me to her,” he says. "Mastercard can’t do anything because she bought a pre-paid card. They totally perfected this."
A silver lining is one of the cards’ numbers were read back to the scammers incorrectly, but Vo still lost $250.
“These guys were very smooth on the phone. I should have caught onto it. I’m sure they’re calling other places in Kamloops and the Interior,” Vo says.
To add insult to injury, the scammers phoned Vo’s second business downtown.
“They were trying to play the same game on my sister,” he says. “I told her it’s a scam."
Representatives from B.C. Hydro issued a warning to the scam in June, saying the company does not take gift card information over the phone. For customers who may face disconnection, the company says it would give lengthy notice before doing so.
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