VANCOUVER -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. business owners are feeling squeezed. Caylea Burch, owner of The Urban Rack is one of them.

“Here we are sort of at the height of our spring collection with all of this inventory and then our doors are being closed,” she told CTV News Vancouver. “It’s definitely been a roller coaster.”

Already missing out on her most profitable months, she said she received a disturbing phone call Tuesday that seemed like it could make things a lot worse.

“I got a phone call here at the store, so on the landline,” Burch said. “(It said) just to call this 1-877 number, BC Hydro, and that there was a technician on its way and my power would be cut off in 30 minutes.”

The reason, according to the call, was for two missed billings.

“My rational thinking would be like, ‘That’s impossible, because I have my payments on automatic payment,’” she said.

Given the time crunch, however, that thought didn’t cross her mind, so she dialled the number.

The other end of the line was even weirder, she said.

“It was the same dialogue as what you would get when you call BC Hydro,” Burch said, adding she confirmed later in a call to BC Hydro that the recording she heard had only “tiny, tiny differences.”

Eventually, a woman came on the phone demanding cash, saying Burch’s power would be cut in 30 minutes, for a minimum of five days, if she didn’t pay.

When Burch offered her credit card number, she said, the woman warned her that could take up to 24 hours to sort out. Burch was eventually transferred to a “supervisor.”

“He said, ‘OK, you know what, I think I can help you,’” Burch said. “But he said, ‘There’s only certain kiosks that will take Visa.’”

He told her she’d have to bring cash, as well.

“So then I’m like, ‘OK, so it’s a scam,’ and hung up the phone,” said Burch. “Luckily for me, nothing was lost, but it was a half an hour of sheer panic.”

Others may not be so lucky. BC Hydro told CTV News reports of scams are up 350 per cent since April 1.

“In a typical month, for instance at the beginning of March, we had about 100 reports of scams from our customers,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Susie Rieder. “This month, since announcing our COVID relief fund on April 1, we’ve had over 500 reports of fraud.”

She said the scams are sophisticated, too. The one that almost duped Burch is also being done via email, Rieder said. Another one is a phishing scam.

“This one will send you a text message,” she explained. “It’ll say it’s from BC Hydro and you’re eligible for a bill refund. Once you click on the link in the text message you will get to a place where they will ask you for your financials.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, BC Hydro is giving customers a break, promising not to disconnect power for unpaid bills.

“If you’re approached by someone telling you they’re from BC Hydro and they’re going to disconnect your power, it’s absolutely false,” said Rieder.

Burch said she’s fortunate she realized what was going on when she did. CTV News tried the phone number she was given, but the call did not go through.

Burch said she wanted to share her story to inform others about what was happening and show just how easily someone could be tricked into providing information.

“Try not to let that rational brain get overlooked by panicked brain,” she said. “Trust your gut.”