BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Baltimore Gas and Electric said Tuesday it has seen an increase in reports of scammers trying to use the Covid-19 pandemic to trick its customers.

The utility has received more than 3,200 scam complaints with customers reporting losing nearly $59,000. This time last year, it received 2,600 similar complaints and reports of customers losing more than $38,000. Its contact center received nearly 259,000 calls relating to billing and collection matters since January, which is a 17.3 percent increase in call volume compared to this time last year.

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“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.”

The most prevalent scam calls are robocalls asking customers to pay immediately to avoid disconnection, according to a BGE statement. Other 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.

BGE said it never sends 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.

Other scammers are telling customers their meter needs to be switched immediately or their power will be turned off, followed by demands for immediate payment via 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.

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Customers easily can 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.

BGE offered the following tips and red flags customers can look for:

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.

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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 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 1-800-685-0123 to report the situation.

CBS Baltimore Staff