Calgary pub owner foils popular fraud making the rounds across Canada

A Calgary pub owner is warning others after foiling a popular fraud targeting both businesses and consumers.

Kenan Poskovic, the 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 — supposedly from Calgary utility company Enmax — advising that the business had missed several power payments.

“Enmax called. They are shutting off our electricity in 45 minutes,” he said he was told.

Poskovic was given a number to call back, which he did immediately. He said after going through several “legitimate” sounding prompts, he finally reached the “claims” department.

“We were outstanding a certain amount of money,” he said the person on the other end said. “It was about $3,200 that we didn’t pay.”

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Sensing it was a scam, he said he called his wife to look over their power bills. She did and didn’t find any monies owing.

Still, he decided to play along.

“I said, ‘What do I do? Where do I pay?’ And he said, ‘You have to go to one of our locations in Calgary, I’ll give you an address, but this has to be paid in cash.’”

The scammer, who remained on the line, also sent Poskovic a QR code “needed” to make the deposit at a bitcoin machine.

Bitcoin machine at Calgary convenience store. Courtesy: Kenan Poskovic

When Poskovic showed up at the address, it was a convenience store, just a few moments away.

“At this point, I pretty much told him, ‘You’re busted and it’s a scam,’” he said. “And he just kind of laughed and hung up.”

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Read more: Alberta man conned out of thousands of dollars thanks to new twist on old scam

Global News also went to the convenience store to talk to staff there. An employee, who did not want to be named due to personal security reasons, told Global News she has reported similar scams to police numerous times.

She said employees have been told not to confront the people depositing the money after they have become aggressive.

“There’s really nothing we can do at that point,” she said. “When they’re getting aggressive with you, you really can’t help them. They think you’re trying to take advantage of them as well.”

Instead, she pointed us to signs police have put up above the machine, warning users of ongoing scams. The machine itself, owned by a third party, also has similar warnings posted.

Warning sign at Calgary convenience store. Tomasia DaSilva

Enmax also has a post on its website. It warns people about the popular scam and advises them that it does not take cash via these machines. It also warns it does not use bitcoin or ask for credit card numbers over the phone.

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The post goes on to mention that the company does not disconnect power “without fair warning and process.”

Read more: Cryptocurrency fraud ‘exploding’ in Canada, according to consumer advocacy groups

Poskovic, with Global News listening, tried to call the original number back. The company it pretends to represent is no longer Enmax — but another hydro company down east.

Poskovic advised anyone not to hand over any money impulsively — regardless of how believable it sounds.

“Always check. Always try to call the company. Make sure it’s legit.”

&© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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