SMECO warns cus­tomers about pay­ment scams

Maryland Independent - - News -

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.charle­scoun­ 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. IGNITECharles, or con­tact Michelle DeSoto at DeSo­ or 301-885-1340.

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