State

Maine AG warns public about new phone scam

AUGUSTA, Maine – Attorney General Janet Mills is warning the public of a new phone scam in which the caller tells the recipient that they have received an award from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. The call recipient is then asked to pay $200 for an access code to get the award. 

Mills stated in a press release that one individual received a phone call claiming that the Department of Health and Human Services had awarded the consumer a grant of money. The caller asked the individual to pay $200 for an access code to receive the grant.

“If you receive a similar call, don’t be fooled,” said Mills. “The government will not call you to ask for your credit card information over the phone.”

According to Mills, many Mainers have encountered similar scams via Facebook Messenger, where someone they “know” has heard of some grant and wants to share their good. This often involves a spoofed profile of the friend, and it is a scam.

Sometimes the scammer poses as a government official, and may even have an account with a name and photo that matches that of a real office or public official. The scammer tells the potential victim that they have qualified for a free monetary grant from the government that does not have to be paid back. All the victim has to do is pay a small processing fee and the larger sum of money will be released. No matter how much money is sent to the scammers, no grants are ever released.

“Scammers are always coming up with new ways to convince you to part with your hard-earned money,” said Mills. “If anyone tells you that you can have something for nothing – they are lying to you. No governmental agency conducts business or financial transactions via Facebook or instant messenger and they will never demand that you wire money or make a payment by a prepaid money service or any card you can buy in a convenience store. If you receive one of these offers, ignore it, delete it or block the sender. If you send them any money, you will never see it again.”

She said consumers should report messages like this to the service provider, such as Facebook, who may be able to shut down the suspect account.

Consumers can contact the Maine Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division with questions or concerns about these kinds of scams or other issues they have had with a business. Email consumer.mediation@maine.gov, or call 1 (800) 436-2131.

The Office of the Attorney General also offers tips on how to avoid scams at http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/scams.shtml.

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