The Week — Jan. 19

Scammers target Smart Meters, our fat lady hasn’t sung yet and my CUP runneth over with Norwalk — yuck

BC Hydro’s Smart Meters are still being strongly protested by concerned citizens, and now, the Better Business Bureau is warning against scammers.

Scammers target Smart Meters

Big surprise for 2012: BC Hydro’s beloved Smart Meters are causing more problems than just a rise in electro-magnetic sensitivity rashes. Turns out, the meters are also prime fodder for opportunistic scammers, and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting patrons, says the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island.

Power-saving schemes placed fourth on the BBB’s list of Top 10 Scams of 2011, behind phishing, gold-buying cons and computer-virus-fixing ploys. According to the BBB, the power-saving scams have been on the rise over the last few months, as the majority of Smart Meters meet their final installation dates. People striving to save a buck from the threateningly accurate devices are falling victim to a surge of Internet offers, phone calls and promotional ads, promising gadgets that can beat the Smart Meter’s cunning. Consumers reported that these devices did not work and often did not even meet electrical safety standards.

“While many scams of today are cloaked in modern technology, the basic elements or principles of every scam have been the same for the past 50 to 100 years — scammers make a living taking advantage of peoples’ desire,” says Rosalind Scott, executive director of BBB Vancouver Island.

The BBB, which is celebrating 100 years of service internationally and 50 years of service locally in 2012, has stated that these scams can easily be avoided by not believing in the magic of tricking electricity. The group recommends always checking out a company’s BBB Business Review first (at bbb.org) and report deceptive advertising to your local BBB.

The group adds that if something sounds too good to be true, remember it probably is.

Our fat lady hasn’t sung yet

Meanwhile, the Citizens for Safe Technology Society has increased its footwork in the final months of the anti-Smart Meter campaign, asking all those who still don’t want to be subject to the new devices to join forces rather than give up.

Una St.Clair, society executive director, said in an email that BC Hydro is now attempting to isolate and neutralize opposition by contacting those refusing Smart Meters and requesting a “meeting” to discuss. However, these meetings are nothing more than further intimidation attempts, she says.

“We are seeing a pattern developing where the elderly are especially being harrassed and intimidated by Corix installers and BC Hydro representatives, always verbally,” she writes. “We recommend that you do not enter into verbal discussions with any BC Hydro or Corix employee, either by phone or in person. Insist that all correspondence be in writing for legal documentation which can be used to protect your rights.”

Petitions and letters of refusal can be found at:

citizensforsafetechnology.org.

My CUP runneth over

They call it the supervirus, but this reporter is calling it a quick way to get to know the toilet, the floor and the feeling of being punched over and over again in the stomach.

Myself, and close to 75 of the 350 other journalists attending a national press conference this past weekend at the Harbour Towers Hotel came down with symptoms that Vancouver Island Health Authority says resemble the dreaded Noro, or Norwalk Virus: vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, spasms and a colourful array of fringe symptoms — mine included dehydration-related blurred vision, numb arms and speech.

I joined a group of nearly 20 people at the hospital on Saturday night (after four hours of straight vomiting), and VIHA later sent a support team to the hotel to keep those infected under voluntary quarantine.

There’s nothing like sitting around a hospital room full of people projectile-puking to help you lose your dinner, but the real pats on the back go out to all the friends, partners and parents who sat with us and held our hair as they put themselves at risk.

The hotel, VIHA and the coordinators of the 74th-annual Canadian University Press (CUP) Conference have not identified the root of the virus, which is typically spread through fecal matter (are you puking yet?) and is highly contagious for one to three days. No hotel staff reported being ill until Sunday.

Some delegates, who were all slated to leave Victoria on Sunday, had to stay until Tuesday, Jan. 17, to recover before boarding planes. Air Canada and WestJet agreed Monday to wave fees for delegates forced to stay due to the outbreak.

Lesson: beware of the explosive power of young journalists, and always wash your hands. M

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