Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) and the Maryland Public Service Commission are reminding customers to be wary of potential scammers disguising themselves as BGE employees or members of other trusted organizations during the holiday season.
BGE and the Maryland Public Service Commission have partnered this year to educate Marylanders about the warning signs of scammers, with Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
“Utilities United Against Scams Day continues to be very important opportunity for BGE to reach out to our customers,” Tamla Olivier, chief customer officer and senior vice president of customer operations for BGE, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, scammers are constantly changing their tactics and it’s extremely important that our customers have the most up-to-date information on these scams in order to help them avoid becoming victims.”
BGE said it typically sees an uptick in scams reported during the holiday season.
The company also warned about scammers taking advantage of customers’ coronavirus-related economic challenges to pressure struggling families and businesses into making immediate payments or providing personal information.
BGE customers have reported losing almost $170,000 to scammers and imposters in 2020, the company said.
Robo-calls are currently the most prevalent scam calls, which ask customers to “press 1” to hear about their bill and make a payment. After the customer presses the number 1, they are connected with a live person who demands immediate payment and personal information.
Other scam calls can involve imposters claiming that they will shut off customers’ power if they do not switch out their utility meter immediately. Scammers demand immediate payment using Cashapp, Bitcoin, Zelle or Green Dot, and sometimes involve scammers texting a barcode to the customer for immediate payment.
Utility companies will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption. They will also never ask customers to pay with a pre-paid debit card, gift card or any form of cryptocurrency, BGE officials said.
BGE said its workers will never call a customer or come to their home or business to demand payment, ask for immediate payment with a prepaid cash card, or ask for a customer’s BGE account number, driver’s license number, Social Security number or other personal information.
All BGE field employees wear clothing with the BGE logo, including a shirt and safety vest. BGE employees and contractors will also visibly display their company ID badge with the company’s logo, the employee’s name, and their photo.
BGE has also seen scammers impersonating BGE or other trusted organizations over email or other communications with business customers. Like offenders trying to scam residential customers, scammers also attempt to deceive business customers into providing personal and financial information or complying with demands for immediate payment.
BGE urges businesses to carefully review emails originating outside of their organization’s network, including verifying that the names of the sender and business match the name and business in the email address. BGE encourages customers to check for misspellings or slight alterations to weed out imposters.
Customers should call the organization that supposedly sent the communication to make sure they did in fact do so. When doing so, customers should call the phone number listed on the sender’s official website or business records, not the phone number provided in the email, BGE officials said.
The company added that customers should also hover over website links before clicking on them to make sure the linked website is legitimate.
“Scam artists are using the threat of electric or gas service termination to trick customers into giving them money over the phone,” Maryland Public Service Commission Chairman Jason Stanek said in a statement. “The Commission and BGE are warning customers not to fall for this trap. Utility customers should never provide any credit card number or bank account information over the phone. If you have questions about your account, contact your utility directly with information found on your bill or on the utility’s website.”
Customers who are unsure whether a visitor or caller is actually a BGE employee, and customers who believe they have been a target or victim of a scam, should immediately call 1-800-685-0123.
Customers can also visit bge.com/MyAccount to learn more.
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