Don’t get tricked. People around the country have been receiving emails and phone calls from scammers. SMECO wants to help you keep your hard-earned money and prevent scams. Review the helpful tips in the tabs below, or download the PDF version or read the recent insert that SMECO customers received in their bills.

Know SMECO’s procedures:

Customers should only give payment information over the phone if they initiate the call. Callers who give short deadlines and threaten to cut off service within an hour or two are probably running a scam. SMECO has a set routine for collecting payments from customers.

  • SMECO will mail a termination notice if a bill is past due.
  • SMECO only calls customers who owe a past due balance.
  • SMECO usually uses 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.
  • 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.

If a customer is concerned about the status of an account, a SMECO contact center representative can provide helpful information. SMECO customers should call1-888-440-3311. The phone number is printed at the top of customer bills and SMECO’s contact center is open all day, every day.

Because SMECO does initiate automated collection calls and customers can choose to make a payment over the phone, some phone calls are legitimate. Alternate energy suppliers and solar companies that are trying to conduct business legitimately may also contact customers to offer their services, but customers should never feel obligated to provide their account information. Legitimate companies can provide services without requiring a customer’s account number.

SMECO wants to prevent phone scammers from victimizing customers by simplifying the payment process. SMECO has a number of ways customers can pay their bills that will help prevent confusion.

  • Customers can use budget billing to pay the same amount every month.
  • They can use AutoPay to have payments made automatically with a credit card or checking account.
  • Customers can easily go online and make weekly payments if that helps them with their personal budget.

Avoid e-mail scams:

SMECO’s e-mails contain account-specific information and distinctive orange and green colors. Do not open e-mails from unfamiliar sources.

  • If an e-mail looks suspicious, it may contain malware or links to a virus-infected website.
  • Customers can simply delete the suspicious e-mail and contact SMECO by phone or log on to SMECO’s bill payment website.
  • Customers should not provide personal information, credit card, debit card, banking information or user names and passwords in an e-mail.

Our goal is to make it easy for customers to do business with SMECO, and we offer a variety of payment methods that are free and convenient. We also want our customer-members to protect themselves from scams, so remember these helpful tips.

Avoiding phone scams:

Know what you owe. You know your mortgage company, your phone company, credit card company, electric utility, and anyone you regularly pay for services. You know how much you pay and when you pay. If you know you’ve paid your bills, and someone calls you to demand payment, just hang up.

You can always call your service provider at the number printed on your bill. Don’t use a phone number that someone gives you on the phone or in a voice mail—it could be fake. Every legitimate company that issues bills will have a way for you to contact them printed on your bill.

Legitimate companies will normally send you a letter in the mail if there is an issue with your payment. They may also call you, but you don’t have to talk to them. Just hang up. If you think you might owe the company money,call them at the phone number printed on the bill.

Several phone scams that have been operating recently:

  • The caller claims to have detected a virus on your computer, tells you to go to your computer and will walk you through several steps which give the caller access to your computer and your personal information.
  • The caller claims to be from a solar company; don’t give them your electric account number.
  • The caller claims your grandchild/niece/nephew/cousin is in trouble, or hurt in an accident, or arrested, and if you provide money or a green dot card the caller will take care of him/her.
  • The caller claims to be able to access an inheritance that someone left you. The caller asks you for a small fee or percentage in order to process paperwork.
  • The caller claims you owe money and asks you to meet at the local CVS or another store to make payment.
  • The caller claims to be raising funds for ebolavirus/orphans/widows/whatever, don’t give them your credit card or checking account information.
  • The caller claims to have kidnapped a family member and demands money.

Remember, once you give scammer money, they will continue to call and harass you.

  • The caller claims to be from the IRS, threatens legal action and arrest.
  • The caller claims to be from your county government and says you didn’t show up for jury duty, so you’re being fined.

Government agencies do not call or e-mail people; government agencies send letters via the US mail.

  • Only give payment information over the phone if you initiate the contact.
  • Do not provide personal, financial, or account information to unauthorized callers.
  • Do not provide Green Dot, Western Union, or Moneygram payments to unauthorized callers.
  • Never meet unauthorized callers at a local store or bank to make a payment—your personal safety could be at risk.

Scammers are difficult to recognize.

  • Scammers can sound like really nice people on the phone. They may talk to you about your kids and grandkids, your church, shows you watch, or where you live. Don’t tell them how old you are, or where you live, or where you bank or shop. Don’t tell them about your kids and grandkids. They just want your money.
  • Conversely, scammers who call you may be very mean on the phone, threatening to call the police or take you to court. You don’t have to talk to them. Just hang up.
  • Scammers frequently prey on the elderly and people who speak English as a second language.
  • Scammers target businesses. Businesses usually have higher monthly bills and scammers will take advantage of that, claiming the business customer owes $1,500 rather than just $200. Businesses may have more than one person authorized to pay bills, and scammers exploit the lack of communication between employees and business owners.
  • Scammers can make the name of the utility appear on a customer’s caller ID.
  • Scammers can trick people by duplicating voice recordings and imitating utility phone systems.

Avoiding mail scams:

Are you a Sweepstakes Winner? No, you’re not. Throw that junk mail away.

Don’t respond to mail that you receive if you are not familiar with the company or the sender.

Scammers will send mail advising you of “pending legal action,” and offering legal services. Don’t fall for it. If you believe the letter is legitimate, ask a friend or relative, or call a lawyer. Don’t call the phone number on the mailer.

Once you respond to a mailer, your name and address will be distributed to other frauds who will send you mail scams or call you.

Avoiding e-mail scams:

  • E-mails that contain several grammar and spelling mistakes are probably not legitimate.
  • If an e-mail looks suspicious, it may contain malware or links to a virus-infected website.
  • If you receive a suspicious e-mail, do not open it or click on any links; simply delete the e-mail.
  • Do not provide personal information, credit card, debit card, banking information or user names and passwords in an e-mail.
  • Do not send personal information, such as your social security number or bank account number, in an e-mail.
  • If you receive a suspicious or unexpected e-mail, don’t click on any links in the message.
  • If you click on an Unsubscribe link in a marketing e-mail or reply to the message, the marketer will know that your e-mail address is active and may sell it to other companies. Instead, simply delete the message, or mark it as junk or spam.
  • Do not share your passwords or other login credentials, especially over e-mail.

Ensure computer security:

Perhaps the most important safeguard for any computer system is the user. No matter how many protections are in place, careless behavior can still threaten computer security and compromise sensitive information. Here are some ways that you can protect your personal information at home.

  • Install anti-virus software from a reputable company on your home computers.
  • If you have Wi-Fi in your home, set up a password to prevent neighbors and others from using your Internet access.
  • Use strong passwords on any computers and websites that you use. These are any combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using relatives’ names in your passwords, as these are easy to find out. Try Googling yourself to see what information about you is on the web for anyone to see.
  • Before downloading any freeware or shareware for your home computer, search for reviews and feedback about the software. Some of these programs have hidden components that gather your personal information while hogging your computer’s memory resources and Internet bandwidth.

Utilities United Against Scammers:

With scammers taking Americans for untold billions of dollars every year, the nation’s utilities are banding together to raise awareness and fight back.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...