Bitcoin scammers don’t quit!
by Robert Yang | Feb. 27, 2023
I like crypto. Despite its rollercoaster ride in 2022, crypto has created a new generation of investors and opportunities. That’s why it’s also sad that people are using it as a tool to scam others. It’s only the beginning of the new year and Hawaiian Electric has already received reports of bitcoin fraud from customers.
Last year, scammers claiming to be from Hawaiian Electric contacted dozens of residents and local businesses. And these are just the incidents that are reported to us. Each conversation started with a similar threat: “You have an overdue electric bill, please pay now or your power will be disconnected.” The scammers then ask customers to pay their balance through a variety of methods — none of which are authorized ways to pay us. One method involved payment via Bitcoin through one of the many crypto ATMs located on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. Scammers have requested payments as high as $3,654 and as low as $46.36.
Fortunately, many of our customers recognize it’s a scam. We also try to prevent fraudulent bitcoin transactions to “pay Hawaiian Electric bills” by posting warning signs near cryptocurrency kiosks.
It’s tough to fight fraud when scammers are getting more sophisticated. Some use technology to simulate our legitimate caller ID or mention some general information they know about you. But don’t be fooled. A scammer once mentioned my address over the phone. He got the street correct but the building and apartment number was wrong by a few numbers. It’s concerning how close he got but the inaccuracy raised a red flag that it was a scam.
You can protect yourself by recognizing and reporting scams. Please remember that Hawaiian Electric will never do the following:
- Call and threaten immediate disconnection without prior written notice
- Demand immediate payment over the phone via Bitcoin, money transfer, prepaid debit cards, CashApp, Zelle, MoneyGram, Green Dot MoneyPak, etc. *Our only approved third-party payment agent is Western Union
- Send disconnection notices via text, email or robocalls
- Demand payment information via email
- Go door-to-door to collect past due balances
If you think someone is trying to scam you, hang up and report it to us. We also encourage customers to report fraud attempts to their local police department. If you believe the call is legitimate, but aren’t certain, hang up and call one of our customer service centers. It’s best to verify the legitimacy of the call before continuing the conversation.
Let’s continue to be cautious when picking up phone calls, as well as opening emails and text messages. I don’t pick up calls if I don’t recognize the number. If an unknown caller really needs something from me, they’ll leave a message or send me a text afterward. Then I’ll do a callback. You can never be too cautious. For more information on scam prevention, please visit our website.
Remember, the best defense against scammers is to just hang up!
Robert Yang is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.