SMECO Warns Customers About Scams

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 payment with prepaid debit cards or bitcoin in order to avoid having electric service cut off.

According to Tom Dennison, vice president of government and public affairs at SMECO, “Scammers often target businesses because they have higher monthly bills and they may have more than one person authorized to pay bills, making it easier to exploit the lack of communication between employees and business owners. But residential customer-members are at risk as well.”

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 available at 1-888-440-3311, 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 cooperative 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. “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.