Kingston Police warn public of scam involving fake utility ads online

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay.

In a media release, dated Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, Kingston Police detailed a scam that relies on search engine users not reading things closely.

“Search engines, like Google, are so popular that many people use the search feature instead of typing a URL,” Kingston Police stated. “For instance, people may quickly search for their electricity provider’s name to find the online payment portal. That’s exactly what cybercriminals want you to do.”

According to the release, this scam tries to trick you into clicking on a fake ad instead of the billing portal you’re trying to find.

“The scammers purchase a variety of fake utility payment advertisements, and you see those ads during your searches. They know that they can trick you more easily if you contact them instead of them reaching out to you,” police detailed.

“If you click on one of these ads, you will be prompted to dial a phone number. Dialling the number puts you directly in contact with a scammer. They may try to scare you by saying your bill must be paid immediately. Or they may tempt you with an offer to help you save money—but only if you act now. Neither the advertisement nor the person you are talking to is legitimate. Paying them won’t help with your utility bills, but the scammer might use you to help pay their own bills!”

In response to Kingstonist inquiries, police said they are not aware of any complaints about these scams locally, noting they wanted to be proactive in letting the community know these types of scams exist.

Kingston Police offered the following tips to avoid falling victim to a utility bill scam:

  • Remember, anyone can purchase an advertisement. Be cautious when clicking on ads, even if they seem relevant to you.
  • Scammers often ask you to make payments using unusual methods, such as gift cards or money transfers. If something seems strange about a financial transaction, stop immediately!
  • If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always stop and think before taking action.

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