A scammer called the popular Positano Ristorante Italiano in Bethesda on Tuesday and threatened owner Jimmy Traettino with words no restaurant owner wants to hear: “Pepco disconnect.”
Traettino said the phone call, which came at 12:01 p.m. from somebody with a hard to understand accent, was immediately suspicious. He asked if the person really represented Pepco and the person hung up.
Traettino told BethesdaNow.com he wanted to get word out in case other restaurant or store owners got similar calls and because the scammer wasn’t done.
One minute after the first call, Traettino said someone else from the same number called claiming that Pepco had not received payment since December and that a technician was on his way to disconnect Positano’s electric service in the next 30 to 40 minutes.
Traettino said the woman on the phone had his restaurant’s correct address, business name, account number and balance due on the last bill. Traettino couldn’t verify the checks he sent to Pepco two weeks ago had been deposited because his bank website was down. He told the caller and she gave him until 3:30 p.m.
A bank representative told him on the phone that both checks (Positano occupies two physical addresses on Fairmont Avenue) had been deposited by Pepco. Pepco’s automated system confirmed Positano was paid up.
Traettino said he called “Mrs. Robinson” at the number again and got a voice mail message.
The number — 240-389-4839 — is attached to a voice mail message in a woman’s voice for something called “Disconnection Department.”
A few seconds later, Traettino said the woman from the same number called back. Traettino told the woman her information was inaccurate. She asked him to hold and hung up.
“I could see the situation in which a panicked merchant would be put in a position to provide his or her credit card number to pay a sum of money to keep electrical service which was never in danger of being disconnected,” Traettino said. “And who are these people?”
Phone scammers pretending to represent Pepco are nothing new. Earlier this month, Pepco warned scammers were starting to pose as third-party energy suppliers with fake utility bills through emails.
“Many companies, including Pepco, contact customers in person or via phone for various reasons. If someone claims to represent a company, whether the company is Pepco or another entity, it is important that customers take precautions to verify that the person is affiliated with the company, especially if that person is requesting an immediate monetary payment,” the press release said. “When addressing past due accounts, Pepco never endorses a specific form of payment. Instead, multiple payment options are always given to the customer.”
If customers have any doubt about the validity of a person’s claim to represent Pepco, they should call the company immediately at 202-833-7500.