Montgomery County residents are being targeted by two scams, consumers should be wary of phone calls and solicitors claiming to be from the EPA and Pepco.Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection put out an alert to customers that warns of two current scams. One is a Pepco scam and the other is a fake EPA water inspection scam specifically targeting the Spanish speaking communities within the county. According to the County Office, these scams and others like them are nothing new, but they are currently the only scams occurring. WTOP news radio quoted the county office’s Consumer Protection Director Eric Friedman as saying that “old scams never die” and that they just become more advanced and high tech as perpetrators attempt to revive them in the community. The Office of Consumer Protection says that residents should be aware of someone using a fake name, “Greg Miller", and who calls customers pretending to be from Pepco as he threatens to cut off residents’ power because they have not paid their bill. After threatening Pepco’s customers, the individual then tells residents to call a toll-free number and extension in an attempt to collect money. The number left by the scammer, when called, actually sounds much like a real Pepco message and would potentially fool many of the electricity company’s customers.
Another scam method residents and customers should be aware of is someone going door-to-door and getting aggressive trying to make a sale or demanding to see a copy of the resident’s electric bill. The Office of Consumer Protection is warning residents that if they receive a call from someone who claims to be from Pepco, but is communicating in a threatening or unfamiliar manner, the customer should then hang up immediately and call Pepco using the number on the bottom of their electrical bill to see if someone should have been calling. Currently, the Office of Consumer Protection is investigating the extent to which people are being scammed and victimized with the agency describing the second of the two scams as “serious.” Officials believe that their intention is to identify Spanish speaking customers who are more vulnerable. The sales people are communicating in Spanish and showing contracts that are written in Spanish, and as a result, this has become the primary focus of concerns for the Consumer Protection Office. Consumers should also be wary of fake notes and posters being left on their doors, along with a vial and details as to how to have their water tested on a day in the near future. In the EPA scam, the scammers are posing as government officials and claim to be conducting a water test in an attempt to get customers to buy a water filter after running fake tests that show the water is contaminated when, in reality, it's not. The price tag on the water filters and equipment that the scammers are selling is $7,500. The equipment would not cure toxic violations even if the water were contaminated, making it a double scam. They say the water is contaminated and then sell a device incapable of curing any such problem. Both scams share the same door to door aspect and are not so easily identifiable. If you think you or someone you know may be the target of one of these scams, have any questions or wish to submit a complaint, you should call the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection at (240) 777-3636 or go online and visit their website.