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Phone Scammer Targets Popular Bethesda Restaurant Positano

An apparent phone scammer called up Positano Ristorante on Tuesday to say that the popular Bethesda restaurant was overdue in its Pepco bills.

Positano Ristorante is located at 4948 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda. Photo credit: Laura L. Thornton.
Positano Ristorante is located at 4948 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda. Photo credit: Laura L. Thornton.
Longtime Bethesda restaurant Positano Ristorante received an unexpected phone call on Tuesday from an apparent scammer posing as a Pepco representative.

Jim Traettino—who owns Positano (at 4948 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda) with his parents, Luigi and Angela Traettino—received the call at 12:01 p.m.

The caller's speech was somewhat incomprehensible, and Traettino asked her to repeat what she was saying three times.

"All I could decipher were the jolting words 'Pepco disconnect.' When I asked her if she was really with Pepco, she hung up. One minute later the same number (240-389-4839) called. It was a different person with a thick accent but I could understand her much better," Traettino wrote in an email to Patch.

This second caller told Traettino that Pepco had not received a payment since December, and that a technician was en route to disconnect the restaurant's electrical service within 30 to 40 minutes.

"We have paid [our bills] for 37 years, so I was very suspicious. I asked her many questions. She had our address, business name, account number and balance due of the last bill. All accurate," Traettino said.

Traettino put the caller on hold while he contacted his bank to check on the payments. A bank representative verified that the restaurant's January Pepco payments had, in fact, been made. Traettino then called Pepco and verified that Positano owed no money to Pepco.

By 12:42 p.m., Traettino had verified that the restaurant was all paid up. He called the apparent scammer back, and left a voice mail. Ten seconds later, his call was returned. Traettino told the caller that all that she had told him was inaccurate.

"She asked me to hold while she checked. After five seconds she hung up on me," he said.

Pepco issued a statement two weeks ago, warning customers that scammers were sending fake invoices via email.

The statement added that "[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. When addressing past due accounts, Pepco never endorses a specific form of payment. Instead, multiple payment options are always given to the customer."

Positano Ristorante is a popular fixture in the Bethesda dining scene. Last August, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot commended the Traettino family for more than 35 years of service to the Bethesda and Washington, DC, communities, Patch reported.

Have you received suspicious calls, emails or letters demanding immediate bill payments? Tell us in the comments.

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