ANNAPOLIS, MD — BGE has seen an increase in scam attempts, the electricity company announced last Wednesday. The swindlers are calling customers and telling them they must pay a lump sum to keep their utilities on.
Scammers often use caller ID spoofing to replicate BGE phone numbers. The most common robocalls demand money via Cashapp, Bitcoin, Zelle or Green Dot. They text users a barcode for immediate digital payment.
BGE reminded Marylanders that it never accepts money through prepaid debit cards, gift cards or cryptocurrencies. The company also informed that it doesn’t contact customers in the hour before it pauses service. The utility provider urged anybody targeted by the scammers to call the police.
“It is so disheartening that these scammers continue to use this time of health and financial uncertainty to attempt to deceive our customers,” Chima Chijioke, BGE’s vice president of customer operations, said in a press release. “These scammers are constantly changing their tactics and it’s important that our customers are made aware of these latest efforts in order to stay vigilant to avoid becoming victims.”
BGE got 160 scam complaints in the first week of February. In comparison, January saw 405 total reports.
The service provider received nearly 70,000 calls related to billing and collection last month. That’s an increase of 20 percent from January 2020. BGE encouraged anybody who needs help with payments to look into these programs or call 1-800-685-0123.
“We also want to remind customers that disconnection is a last resort,” Chijioke added. “We want to help customers who may be behind.”
BGE offered the following tips to stay safe:
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.
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 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.
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