A Calgary bar owner is warning others after thwarting a popular scam targeting both businesses and consumers.
Kenan Poškovic, owner of Brickwell Taphouse, alerted Global News to the so-called ‘utility disconnection’ scam last Friday.
Poskovic said that’s when his staff received an urgent phone call — purportedly from the Calgary-based utility company Enmak — saying the utility had missed several electricity payments.
“Enmax called. They cut off our electricity in 45 minutes,” he said.
Pošković was given a number to call, which he did immediately. He said that after going through several “legitimate” sounding queries, he finally reached the “claims” department.
“We were unpaid a certain amount of money,” he said on the other hand. “There was about $3,200 that we didn’t pay.”
Sensing it was a scam, he said he called his wife to look at their electricity bills. She did and found no debt.
Still, he decided to play along.
“I said, ‘What do I do? Where should I pay?’ And he said, “You have to go to one of our locations in Calgary, I’ll give you the address, but this has to be paid in cash.”
The fraudster, who remained on the line, also sent Pošković a KR code that was “necessary” for payment at the bitcoin machine.
When Pošković appeared at the address, it was a store, just a few moments away.
“At this point, I basically told him, ‘You’re caught and it’s a scam,'” he said. “And he just laughed and hung up.”
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Global News also went to the store to speak with staff there. The employee, who did not want to be named for personal security reasons, told Global News that she had reported similar scams to the police several times.
She said employees were told not to confront people depositing money after they became aggressive.
“There’s really nothing we can do at that point,” she said. “When they get aggressive with you, you really can’t help them.” They think you’re trying to take advantage of them too.”
Instead, she pointed us to the signs the police had placed above the machine, warning users of ongoing scams. The machine itself, owned by a third party, also has similar warnings posted.
Enmak also has a post on their website. It warns people about a popular scam and advises them not to take cash from these machines. He also warns against using bitcoin or asking for credit card numbers over the phone.
The post goes on to mention that the company does not turn off power “without fair warning and process.”
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While listening to Global News, Pošković tried to call the original number. The company it pretends to represent is no longer Enmak — but another hydro company in the east.
Poškovic advised anyone not to hand over money impulsively — no matter how convincing it sounds.
“Always check.” Always try to call the company. Make sure it’s legal.”
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