BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Gas & Electric is warning of continued utility scam reports during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scammers are using the health crisis to trick BGE customers. The utility company received nearly 1,500 complaints with customers reporting losing more than $25,000 to scammers and imposters.

The most common scam is a robocall during which 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 and personal information.

Another scam also claims, “your meter needs to be switched out immediately or your power will be turned off.”

These claims are then followed by a demand for immediate payment that includes Cashapp, Bitcoin, Zelle or Green Dot. The scammers then text the customers for immediate payment.

Scammers are also using caller ID spoofing to replicate BGE’s number. In these cases, customers hear a recorded message that has been duplicated by the scammers so customers call their number instead of BGE.

“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.”

BGE wants to remind customers they have an energy assistance program to help customers through financial hardships due to the pandemic.

Customers with billing issues should call 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

  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.

Always remember

  • 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.

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