Baltimore— As Maryland residents continue to be economically challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, BGE reminds customers to be on alert for potential scams targeting utility customers. While scams occur all year long, the company has seen an increase in reports of scammers attempting to use the current health crisis to trick our customers.
Since January, BGE has received over 3,200 scam complaints with customers reportedly losing close to $59,000 to utility scammers and imposters. This is a dramatic increase compared to the same time last year when the company received 2,600 scam complaints and customers reported losing over $38,000 to utility scammers. Unfortunately, this increase comes at a time when more customers are vulnerable to falling for these scams.
Our contact center has received 258,143 calls related to billing and collections matters since January, a 17.3 percent increase in call volume compared to the same period a year ago.
“It is extremely important that our customers stay vigilant because these scammers are constantly changing their tactics,” said Chima Chijioke, vice president of customer operations for BGE.
“It is so disappointing that these scammers continue to use this time of financial uncertainty to try and deceive our customers. We also want to remind customers that disconnection is a last resort, and we want to help anyone who may be behind in their utility bill. Any customer who is experiencing a hardship or difficulty paying their bill should call BGE immediately at 1-800-685-0123.”
Currently, the most prevalent scam calls are robo-calls asking customers to pay immediately to avoid disconnection. Also, a number of customers have reported receiving text messages with payment demands that are followed by a QR code to be used for payment at a cryptocurrency machine.
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.
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. Also, 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. Customers can easily check their current bill information online at BGE My Account, by downloading BGE’s Mobile App, or by calling 1-833-209-5245 to check on their account balance.
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.
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:
*BGE will never ask a customer with a past due balance to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
*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.
*BGE will never ask customers for information BGE already has, including choice ID numbers, social security numbers or any other personal information.
*BGE will not call customers to offer a discount or rebate.
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.
*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 should contact local police and BGE immediately at 800-685-0123 to report the situation.