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Van Buren Police Department hosts federal agent to discuss scams with residents

MADAWASKA, Maine — Close to 30 area residents turned out to hear a presentation on Nov. 8 at the Van Buren Community Center about the different kind of scams circulating, and how to handle them.

“If you do a gut check, and something doesn’t feel right, hang up,” U.S. Postal Inspector T.I. DuMond told those assembled. DuMond is one of three federal agent inspectors in Maine who encounter and handle scam mail, emails and phone calls.

Very early in the presentation by DuMond and Van Buren Police Chief Mike Bresett, DuMond already had his audience reciting the most practical way to handle scammers.

“What’s the best thing to do?” he asked, to which the group responded, “Hang up.”

DuMond told the residents about an elderly woman with dementia who had sent money multiple times to someone claiming they needed money to send her her lottery winnings. She kept sending money until a clerk at the post office realized and explained to the woman that she was the victim of a scam.

“She didn’t want to quit sending the money because she wanted to take care of her kids,” said DuMond.

DuMond said the post office is a good resource when it comes to stopping scamming mail. He suggests taking any suspect mail back to the post office.

Phone scams are the most common, however. DuMond said there are hundreds of  scams happening at any given time. One of the most common is called the sweetheart scam. He explained that the caller will sweet talk his or her way into getting credit card information.

“They can talk a dog off a meat wagon,” he said.

Bresett said these scammers “get you to fall in love” with them, then they take your money. He said in the last five years, over $75,000 has been reportedly lost through scams such as these in Van Buren alone.

“It makes us sick to our stomach and breaks our hearts,” Bresett said.

One audience member, Verna Ouellette, added to the rhetoric and said she gets and knows of others who get phone calls 2-3 times a day from the same scammer “like they are a personal friend.”

DuMond also touched on Facebook scams and informed those in the room that one of the biggest scams there is when the Facebook poster impersonates someone already on the potential victim’s friend list and tries to get that person to accept them as a friend again.  

“If you are already friends on Facebook, it’s probably a scam,” he said.

He suggests people don’t accept friend requests or message requests from people they don’t know or think they already are friends with on Facebook.

Many of the scammers prey on the elderly, specifically those who have retired, lost a spouse or recently went through a divorce.

“Look in the room,” said Irene DuMond, audience member and mother of T.I. DuMond. “They’re targeting us.”

T.I. DuMond suggested to the audience members that they do not share any personal info or credit card numbers. Just because the scammer has personal information already, doesn’t mean they are a legitimate company. He said to hang up and call the company to verify when someone is trying to get information. But look up the correct number, don’t just call back the same number.

“It takes a village to stop the loss from happening,” he said. “So tell your friends.”

Police Chief Bresett said if anyone suspects he has fallen prey to a scam, or has any questions, that individual should call the police.

“The faster we know about a scam, the quicker we can get the word out,” Bresett said.

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