For Immediate Release
BALTIMORE (Nov. 20, 2019) – With the holiday season quickly approaching, BGE is reminding customers to always be on alert for potential payment scams targeting utility customers. Scams occur throughout the year, but the company has seen an increase in scam reports during the holiday season. With holiday shopping and family gatherings planned, scammers are using the holiday season to trick utility customers into providing their personal or financial information and making false payments under the pretense of keeping their service active.
BGE is joining more than 100 utility companies across the United States and Canada in the effort to protect customers from scams targeting customers of electric, natural gas, water, and other utilities. Collaborating companies have joined together for a fourth year and designated November 20 as "Utilities United Against Scams Day." Utility Scam Awareness Day is part of the week-long National Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers. BGE and its sister Exelon companies, Atlantic City Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco are committed to educating customers and putting a stop to scamming.
This year, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh's office is also partnering with BGE to help educate Maryland about the need to stay vigilant against scammers. So far in 2019, BGE customers have reported losing close to $170,000 to scammers and imposters. According to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, over the last three years they have received over 61 utility scam complaints and some victims have reported losing as much as $4,000 dollars to the scams.
"Utilities United Against Scams Day is very important for BGE," said Rodney Oddoye, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. "Unfortunately, scammers are constantly changing their tactics and it's important that our customers have the most up to date information on these scams in order to help them avoid becoming victims."
"Utility scammers use fear and intimidation to get you to believe your electricity, water, or other utility shut off is imminent," said Attorney General Frosh. "Legitimate utilities would never give only one hour's notice. These scammers don't just go after individuals; business owners should also be suspicious if they receive a call or visit from someone threatening to shut off a utility. Always contact the utility directly using the telephone number on your bill if you suspect there is problem."
It is not uncommon for scammers to call, text, or email utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. As a reminder, utilities will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption, and they never will ask their customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, or any form of cryptocurrency.
Scammers have even duplicated the upfront Interactive Voice Response system of some companies, so when customers call the number provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate business. Some scammers also use caller ID "spoofing" to replicate a utility's phone number.
Red flags for scam activity
How to protect yourself
Don't Get Scammed: Customers can avoid being scammed by taking a few precautions:
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.