Baltimore— As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to financially impact many Maryland residents, BGE is reminding customers to always be on alert for potential scams targeting utility customers. Scams occur throughout the year, but in the recent weeks, the company has seen increases in scam reports where scammers attempt to use this health crisis to trick utility customers.
In the first week of February, BGE received over 160 scam complaints from our customers, which is a dramatic increase compared to the entire month of January when the company received 405 scam complaints from customers.
Currently the most prevalent scam calls are robo-calls asking customers to pay immediately in order to avoid disconnection. As a reminder, BGE will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption and will never ask customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, or any form of cryptocurrency.
It is important to remind our customers about energy assistance that is currently available to help meet their energy needs. BGE’s Customer Care Center received nearly 70,000 calls related to billing and collections matters in January, a 20% increase in call volume compared to January 2020. BGE has many programs in place to help customers through temporary or extended financial hardship due to the pandemic. Additionally, BGE is working with customers who may be currently in arrears with their utility bill.
Those customers should contact the company immediately at 800-685-0123. BGE representatives will work with customers to help identify assistance programs that can supplement bill payments and can help ensure service
remains on during any economic adversities.
“It is so disheartening that these scammers continue to use this time of health and financial uncertainty to attempt to deceive our customers,” said Chima Chijioke, vice president of customer operations for BGE. “These scammers are constantly changing their tactics and it’s important that our customers are made aware of these latest efforts in order to stay vigilant to avoid becoming victims. We also want to remind customers that disconnection is a last resort, and we want to help customers who may be behind. Any customer who is experiencing a hardship or difficulty with their bill should call BGE immediately at 1-800-685-0123.”
BGE also continues to see calls where scammers claim, “Your meter needs to be switched out immediately or your power will be turned off.” These claims are followed by a demand for immediate payment that includes Cashapp, Bitcoin, Zelle or Green Dot payment methods, and some of those calls end with scammers texting a barcode to the customer for immediate payment.
Some scammers are continuing to use caller ID “spoofing” to replicate BGE and Exelon phone numbers. Often in these cases, a recorded message that customers typically hear has been duplicated by scammers, so when customers call the number provided by the scammer, it sounds like an actual business—but it is not.
Here are some tips and red flags that customers should look out for to prevent them from becoming victims of utility scammers.
Five Quick Tips:
1. BGE will never ask a customer with a past due balance to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
2. Customers will never receive a single phone call claiming they have one hour before they are disconnected unless they pay immediately. If a customer has a past due balance, they will receive multiple notifications requesting payment.
3. BGE will never ask customers for information BGE already has, including choice ID numbers, social security numbers or any other personal information.
4. BGE will not call customers to offer a discount or rebate.
5. Trust your instincts. If a call does not seem like it is from BGE, customers should hang up and call BGE immediately at 1-800-685-0123.
Red Flags for Scam Activity:
*The scammer often becomes angry and tells a customer his or her account is past due, and service will be shut off if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
*The scammer instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit or credit card— widely available at most retail stores— then call him or her back to make a payment.
*The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the funds loaded to the card.
*The scammer asks for a copy of the customer’s utility bill.
*Never provide your social security number or personal information to anyone initiating contact with you claiming to be a utility representative or requesting that you send money to another person or entity other than your local utility provider.
*Always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any utility worker into your home or business.
*Do not give payment in any form—cash, check, or credit—- to anyone coming to your door without calling BGE first at 1-800-685-0123.
Any customer who believes he or she has been a target of a scam is urged to contact their local police and call BGE immediately at 1-800-685-0123 to report the situation.