HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crooks are now using the electronic currency, Bitcoin, to rip people off.
In some cases, they’re posing as HECO employees.
And the utility says they’re getting more aggressive during the holidays.
Richard Shaedon knows that all too well.
He recently rushed to the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel in Waikiki after a man called him claiming to be from HECO.
He was told to pay his overdue utility bill or his power would be shut off.
The instructions were specific: Pay $491 in cash into a Bitcoin machine in the hotel’s lobby.
"It just so happened that I had my bill in front of me which was delinquent," said Shaedon.
“He said we need you to pay your bill ASAP because we are doing to shut off your electricity in an hour."
Shaedon acknowledged that he panicked. And that panic clouded his judgment.
Luckily, he figured out it was a scam before he deposited the money.
“They caught me at a very vulnerable moment. No excuse. The truth is it can happen to anybody,” he said.
So far this year, HECO says its utilities on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui have gotten reports of 200 scam calls.
About a dozen people fell victim, losing roughly $15,000.
“We’ve had reports of this Bitcoin scam. It came to light probably in August, but lately I’d say in the past week, we’ve had so many more reports,” said HECO spokeswoman Shannon Tangonan.
HECO says if someone calls claiming you've got a delinquent bill and to pay in Bitcoin, just hang up.
"They get more aggressive during the holidays because they really want to get their money," said Tangonan.
HECO adds it would never call customers and threaten to shut off power. If you have any questions, call the utility.
Hawaii News Now informed the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel about the HECO Bitcoin scam and they quickly put up warning signs.