Last week, a Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) told The Dundalk Eagle about an alleged scammer at her home, who announced themselves as a BGE representative.
BGE saw the story in the Feb. 20 issue of The Dundalk Eagle about the incident. BGE reached out to this publication to offer signs to look for and what to do if a BGE customer suspects they have been targeted as part of a scam.
Chimaobi Chijioke, Director of Customer Care at BGE, told this newspaper said the company strives to educate customers on what to look for when they hear a knock at the door and see someone who announces themselves as a BGE representative. One of those things is that BGE will never ask customers to pay a past due balance by loading money onto a prepaid debit card, something that customers have reported to BGE in the past.
“Customers can make payments online, by phone, an automatic withdrawal or in person,” Chijioke said. “If customers ever question the legitimacy of someone at their home, they should call us.”
The phone number to contact BGE is 1-800-685-0123.
Chijioke said that customers have reported receiving a phone call with a person on the other end telling them that their service will be disconnected right away unless they purchase and then load a prepaid card. That person will then ask the customer to drop the card off at a designated location, he said.
“BGE will never ask someone to go get a prepaid card drop off money at a location,” Chijioke said. “We will never call you and threaten you, saying we will cut off your power if you do not make a payment. That’s not how we operate.”
Chijioke said that if a customer does receive a phone call and is threatened with disconnected service, they should tell the person on the other end that they need time to think about it and say they will call that person back. Customers should then verify the legitimacy of the caller by contacting BGE.
“We find that the customers who are hardest hit are the ones who speak English as a second language. They tend to be very vulnerable,” said Tasha Jameson, Manager of Communications at BGE. “The elderly also tend to be vulnerable, because they don’t really question. They don’t push back.”
Jameson said that people should routinely stay in contact with family members, friends, or neighbors who are elderly or speak English as a second language, and ensure they are not giving in to the requests of scammers.
“The reason we do this outreach is because, unfortunately, the scammers are adapting,” Jameson said. “They’re very clever, and that’s why we are constantly wanting to get this information out. They tend to change their methods.”
Chijioke said that if someone does give money to a scammer, BGE does not have. way to recover that money for the customer. BGE does not know who the scammers are, he said.
The BGE website offers other warning signs. Scammers also use a tactic called “spoofing” to manipulate the Caller ID displayed phone number so that it appears as a BGE number. BGE also cautions customers to be mindful of individuals who try to gain access to their homes by posing as utility workers. Utility impostors may carry “official” looking credentials and often work in pairs, the website says.
Customers are encouraged to contact BGE in any event they sense that the person visiting their home for BGE business are not legitimate. Customers are also encouraged to call 9-1-1 or the Baltimore County Police Department at 410-887-2222.