Baltimore— With the holiday season quickly approaching, BGE is supporting International International Fraud Awareness Week and recognizing the sixth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day by reminding customers to be on the lookout for imposters using energy-related scams to steal money and personal information. This year utility companies across the country are asking customers to ‘End the Call. End the Scam.’
While scams occur throughout the year, the company sees an increase in scam reports during the holiday season. Additionally, imposters are taking advantage of the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and pressuring families and businesses who may be struggling with past-due balances.
Since January, BGE has received over 7,700 scam complaints with customers reporting losing close to $237,000 to utility scammers and imposters. This is a dramatic increase in the amount of money paid to scammers compared to the same time last year. In 2020, the company received roughly the same number of scam complaints during the same timeframe, close to 7,800, but customers reported losing around $166,000 to utility scammers, nearly $72,000 less than this year. Any success helps fuel scammers to make more attempts, so customers are urged to please be vigilant in stopping every attempt.
“Utilities United Against Scams day continues to be a very important opportunity for BGE to reach out to remind our customers to 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 health and financial uncertainty to attempt to deceive our customers. 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.”
Currently the most prevalent scam calls are automated “robo” calls asking customers to pay immediately in order avoid disconnection. Also, a number of customers have reported receiving text messages with payment demands followed by receiving 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 for nonpayment and will never ask customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, or any form of cryptocurrency.
“Customers shouldn’t be fooled by payment pressure tactics,” said BGE Security Manager Todd Powell. “Almost of all the victims we’ve heard from say the urgency of the call kept them from trusting their instincts. These types of forceful calls are never legitimate, and customers should disengage immediately and call BGE at 1-800-685-0123.”
It is important to remind our customers that they can easily check their current bill information by going to BGE My Account online, downloading BGE’s Mobile App, or by calling Paymentus to check on their account balance at 1-833-209-5245. We also encourage customers to learn more about energy assistance currently available to help meet their energy needs. BGE’s Customer Care Center received nearly 442,000 calls related to billing and collections matters since January, a 19.3 percent increase in call volume compared to this time last year. BGE has many programs in place to help customers through temporary or extended financial hardship due to the pandemic.
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:
*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.
*As always, 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 800-685-0123 to report the situation.