BALTIMORE - As many Maryland residents continue to experience impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, BGE is reminding customers to always be on alert for potential scams targeting utility customers. Scams occur throughout the year, but the company has seen an increase in scam reports over the past few weeks with scammers attempting to use this health crisis to trick utility customers. So far this month, BGE has received close to 1500 scam complaints with customers reported losing over $25,000 to utility scammers and imposters.
Currently the most prevalent scam calls are robo-calls where customers are asked to "press 1" to hear about their bill and make a payment. Once the number 1 is pressed, a live person gets on the line and demands immediate payment or personal information.
BGE is also seeing 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 the scammers texting a barcode to the customer for immediate payment.
Some scammers are also continuing to use caller ID "spoofing" to replicate a BGE's phone number. Often in these cases, a recorded message that customers 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.
"These scammers are constantly changing their tactics and it's important that we remind our customers to stay vigilant to avoid becoming victims," said Tamla Olivier, senior vice president of customer operations and chief customer officer for BGE. "It is so disheartening that these scammers are continuing to use this time of health and financial uncertainty to attempt to deceive our customers."
It is also important to remind our customers about energy assistance that is available to help meet their energy needs. BGE has many programs in place to help customers through temporary or extended financial hardship due to the pandemic. Additionally, BGE is working with any customers who may be currently in arrears with their utility bill. Those customers should contact the company immediately at 800-685-0123. BGE Customer Care representatives will work with customers to help identify assistance programs that can supplement bill payment and can help ensure service remains on during any economic adversities.
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's Customer Care representatives 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 to send money to another person or entity other than your local utility providers.
- 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 800-685-0123 to report the situation.
BGE, founded in 1816 as the nation's first gas utility and headquartered in Baltimore, is Maryland's largest natural gas and electric utility. The company's approximately 3,200 employees are committed to safe and reliable energy delivery to more than 1.3 million electric customers and more than 680,000 natural gas customers in central Maryland. In the J.D. Power 2017, 2018, and 2019 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Studies SM BGE was ranked Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Business Electric Service in the East among Large Utilities. In the J.D. Power 2018 and 2019 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Studies SM BGE was ranked Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Business Natural Gas Service among utilities in the East Region. BGE is a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (Nasdaq: EXC), the nation's leading competitive energy provider. Connect with BGE on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and engage with the latest BGE stories on bgenow.com.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (or "BGE") received the highest score in the East Region of the 2019 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study and the East Large Segment of the 2019 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study of gas and electric utility customer satisfaction among business customers. Visit jdpower.com/awards.