SMECO warns customers about payment scams
Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) was recently contacted by customer-members who received phone calls from scammers targeting the Southern Maryland area. Scammers may identify themselves as SMECO employees and demand prepaid debit cards in order to avoid having electric service cut off.
According to Tom Dennison, managing director of government and public affairs at SMECO, “Scammers often target businesses. They have higher monthly bills and scammers will take advantage of that, claiming the business customer owes a large sum of money. Businesses may have more than one person authorized to pay bills, and scammers exploit the lack of communication between employees and business owners.”
To cause further confusion, scammers can make the name of the utility appear on a customer’s caller ID, and they have improved their ability to trick people by duplicating voice recordings and imitating utility phone systems.
Dennison said, “If customers receive a phone call from someone threatening to disconnect their power, they may hang up. If they want to verify account information, they can call SMECO directly. Our contact center is open 24 hours a day, every day. SMECO’s phone number is 1-888-4403311, and it’s printed on every customer bill.”
The following describes SMECO’s routine for collecting payments from customers:
• SMECO will mail a termination notice if a bill is past due;
• SMECO calls customers who owe a past due balance using an automated phone system with a recorded message. Rarely will SMECO employees make personal “collection” phone calls;
• Collection calls are made about 10 days before service is to be terminated. SMECO does not require payment at the time of the call;
• Unknown callers who give short deadlines and threaten to cut off service within an hour or two are probably running a scam;
• SMECO does not make collection calls or terminate service on weekends or holidays;
• If service is going to be terminated, a SMECO collector will knock on the customer’s door before turning off service;
• SMECO collectors will accept credit card payments, checks or money orders, but they do not accept cash.
SMECO has issued alerts when customers have notified the co-op that these scams are taking place.
“Not only are scams a nuisance, but these crooks can steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting residents and businesses,” said Dennison in a press release. “We want to help prevent this type of crime by educating our customers whenever we hear about people being tricked out of their hard-earned money.”
For customers who believe they have received a fraudulent email or phone call, some basic guidelines follow:
• Customers should use the phone number printed on their monthly bill and only give payment information over the phone if they initiate the contact.
• Customers should not provide personal information, banking information, user names, passwords, or account information to unauthorized callers or in an email.
• Customers should not provide Green Dot, Western Union, or Moneygram payments to unauthorized callers.
• Customers should never meet unauthorized callers at a local store or bank to make a payment — their personal safety could be at risk.
Household waste collection scheduled for May 6
The next household hazardous waste collection for this year will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 6. The household hazardous waste collection site is located in the parking lot of the Department of Public Works building, located at 10430 Audie Lane, off of Radio Station Road in La Plata.
Items accepted free of charge include: pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, gasoline, oil-based paint, cleaning supplies, pool chemicals, fluorescent lights, mercury thermometers, and other poisons found in the home. Please remember to mark any container that does not have a readable, original label.
Unacceptable materials include bio-medical waste (sharps, needles, anything with bodily fluids), latex paint, prescription drugs, and ammunition. Used motor oil, anti-freeze, propane tanks, and batteries are accepted on a regular basis at various collection sites. Visit www.charlescountymd.gov/HHW for a list of prescription and non-prescription medication dropped off locations.
For more information, call the Charles County Department of Public Works, Environmental Resources Division at 301-932-3599 or 301-870-2778, or the landfill and recycling information line at 301-932-5656.
Free programs, Swim Day available during Water Safety Month
May is Water Safety Month. In celebration, the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism is offering free programs for residents and their families. Free programs:
• Water Safety Hour
• Hands-Only CPR
• Swim Lesson Days During the month of May, residents who sign the Water Safety Month pledge will receive one free day of swimming at any one of the pools operated by Recreation, Parks, and Tourism. Pledgees must agree to:
• Never swim alone;
• Always obey all pool rules;
• Stay away from drains and suction fittings;
• Always enter the pool feet first.
Registration for IGNITE business fair now open
The Economic Development Department, in partnership with College of Southern Maryland’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute, is hosting the IGNITE Charles County Business Resource Fair 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, May 12, at the College of Southern Maryland La Plata Campus, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata, in the Center for Business and Industry building. The event will bring together the region’s business resource partners so that local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can quickly and easily learn more about local, regional, state and federal services and connect with the right resources.
Throughout the day, participants can visit resource fair tables and speak one-on-one with resource partners to gather information and network. There will be an IGNITE Charles County session held at 10 a.m. and then again at 1 p.m. During these sessions, entrepreneurs will share how they were able to “ignite” success. Topics include industry, government, networking, innovation, tenacity and entrepreneurship.
Registration for this free event is now open. Register and find additional information at www. MeetCharlesCounty.com/ IGNITECharles, or contact Michelle DeSoto at DeSotoM@MeetCharlesCounty.com or 301-885-1340.