Scammers turn to cryptocurrency schemes, utility companies warn | News, Sports, Jobs

The Maui News

Scammers trying to con utility customers and small businesses out of money tend to target potential victims during peak hours, a problem made worse by the proliferation of cryptocurrency kiosks and cash apps, local utility companies and government agencies warned Wednesday as part of Scam Awareness Day.

In several recent cases, consumers were told they would have service shut off immediately unless they went to a Bitcoin machine to make a payment. Bitcoin kiosks have been popping up across the state in places like gas stations, laundromats, smoke shops and mini marts. Just in the past month, one recent victim paid more than $12,000 in multiple payments at a kiosk in a small restaurant.

“Cryptocurrency is not accepted as payment for any utility service in Hawaii, whether electricity, phone, internet, gas or water,” Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection, said in a news release. “If you get a threatening call demanding payment by Bitcoin, gift cards, money transfer or prepaid debit cards, just hang up and call your utility directly.”

The utilities offered the following tips:

• If the caller says your utility account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam. Don’t be fooled by the caller ID, which can be manipulated to show a legitimate phone number.

• If someone calls from a utility demanding immediate payment over the phone, via gift cards, money transfer, prepaid debit cards or by Bitcoin, it’s a scam.

• If the caller asks to meet in person to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.

• If you receive an email from your utility urging you to click on an embedded link or attachment to resolve a utility issue or pay a bill, think before you click. It’s likely a scam.

• If a utility worker shows up at your home or place of business, ensure that person is wearing official attire with a logo, driving a properly labeled vehicle and carrying company identification. When in doubt, call the utility’s customer service center.

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