Archive for the ‘Maine Agencies and Departments’ Category

Consumers impacted by scams utilizing Western Union may now seek compensation from $586M fund

Attorney General Mills encourages fraud victims to file claims

PRESS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
November 13, 2017
CONTACT: Andrew Roth-Wells Telephone: (207) 626-8887

AUGUSTA – Mainers who were deceived into sending payments to scammers using Western Union’s wire transfer service between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 may now apply for compensation from a $586 million fund administered by the Department of Justice’s Victim Asset Recovery Program. This fund is related to a multi-state settlement with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and Western Union that was first announced in January.

Mainers who reported to the Maine Office of the Attorney General that they had been the victim of a scam using Western Union will receive a claim form in the mail in the coming weeks, which will contain instructions explaining how to file a claim for compensation. If you do not receive a claim form in the mail but believe you may have an eligible claim, visit http://www.westernunionremission.com or call 1-844-319-2124.

“I ask all Mainers who have been scammed out of money and were asked to use Western Union to make these fraud-induced payments to file for reimbursement from this fund,” said Attorney General Mills. “I realize some may be embarrassed that they fell for a scam. You are not alone. Do not be embarrassed, please take this opportunity to get some of your money back. If you ever wire money, keep in mind that it’s illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a money transfer. Scammers love using money transfer services because once you send the money, it’s gone forever. So, if a telemarketer asks you to wire money, already you know they’re a crook.”

In order to receive restitution under the settlement claims forms must be mailed back to the settlement administrator by February 12, 2018. Attorney General Mills encourages consumers to reach out to the Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at consumer.mediation@maine.gov , (207) 626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131.

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Maine Attorney General Janet Mills warns public about new phone scam

Callers claiming to alert recipient of grant award from DHHS

AUGUSTA – 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.

AG Mills stated that one individual received a phone call claiming that the consumer had awarded a grant of money from the Department of Health and Human Services. 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.”

Recently, many Mainers have encountered similar scams via Facebook messenger, where someone they “know” has heard of some grant and wants to share their good fortune with you. Often, the person you know is a spoofed profile of your friend, and it is a scam.

Sometimes the scammer poses as a government official. The scammer 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 Attorney General Mills. “If any one 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.”

If you receive a message like this, you should report it to the service provider (for instance if you are using Facebook, report it to Facebook), as they may be able to shut down the suspect account.

Consumers can contact the Maine Attorney General’s Office with questions or concerns about these kinds of scams or other issues they have had with a business. They are encouraged to contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division State House Station 6 Augusta, ME 04333-0006 Consumer.mediation@maine.gov Tel: 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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Maine Insurance Superintendent Clarifies Issues Related to Open Enrollment Period of ACA Individual Market

Press Release

October 24, 2017
Contact: Judith Watters, Consumer Outreach Specialist
Phone: (207) 624-8455

AUGUSTA – “Most Maine residents who purchase insurance through the ACA Marketplace will have several plan options and, for those who qualify for federal subsidies, may find that they don’t have to pay much more for coverage in 2018,” Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa stated. He shared these key points:

Those who qualify for premium subsidies will still receive them in 2018, and those who qualify for cost savings reductions will still receive them.

• Even though premium rates are increasing, individuals and families with premium subsidies will likely see them off-set by increases in premium subsidies.
• Even though insurance companies will not receive reimbursements from the federal government for providing cost savings reductions (CSR), the insurance companies must still provide the cost savings reductions to low-income individuals and families who qualify, and who purchase a Silver plan through healthcare.gov.

Those without subsidies are advised to avoid inadvertently purchasing a higher priced Silver plan.

• To cover the loss of CSR payments, insurance companies priced Marketplace Silver plans higher than they otherwise would have. Because any plan offered on the Marketplace must also be offered off the Marketplace, these higher priced Silver plans could potentially be sold to individuals without subsidies.

• Some less expensive Silver plans will be offered off the Marketplace, only; these, along with Bronze and Gold plans, will be a better value to those without subsidies.

• Individuals without subsidies who currently have a Silver plan will want to guard against being automatically re-enrolled into a high priced Silver plan, by actively shopping.

Those with subsidies may find that Bronze and Gold plans are more affordable than in the past.

• Those who qualify for cost-savings reductions will still only qualify for them by purchasing a Marketplace Silver plan.

• However, because the cost of Silver plans on the Marketplace has increased disproportionately compared to Bronze and Silver plans, a premium subsidy applied to a Bronze plan will stretch further (though cost-sharing will be higher); and a subsidized Gold plan may not cost much more than a subsidized Silver (and cost-sharing will be lower).

Compare all costs, not just the premiums, as well as networks, providers and drug formularies.

• Look at deductibles, co-insurance, copays and maximum out of pocket amounts to determine the total cost of a plan, based on your health and anticipated use of services.

• The Bureau’s rate calculator at maine.gov/insurance makes it easy to find out which plans are available and their estimated rates. The calculator does NOT apply premium subsidies. Individuals who purchase plans through the Marketplace will be able to calculate their estimated premium subsidy at healthcare.gov.

• Make sure your preferred providers and medications are covered by the specific plan you are considering. Bureau staff, ACA Navigators and Assistors, as well as Agents and Brokers can help with this.

Don’t wait until the last minute – start now. Open Enrollment is just six weeks – Nov 1 – Dec 15.

• New plans must be purchased by December 15 to have coverage for 2018 and to avoid a tax penalty. Look at your options, ask questions, choose a plan, complete an application and (if applicable) update financial and household information on healthcare.gov soon, to avoid encountering a bottleneck as enrollment comes to a close.

Letters from Insurers to Current Members

Individuals who are either 1) currently enrolled in a plan with Community Health Options or Harvard Pilgrim on or off the Marketplace, or 2) are currently enrolled in an off-Marketplace Anthem plan, and who continue to pay their premium, will be auto-enrolled in their current plan for 2018 (or one like it, if their current plan is terminating), unless they shop and sign up for a different plan.

Anthem, Community Health Options and Harvard Pilgrim will send letters to their members informing them of their right to purchase a new plan, or to simply auto-re-enroll by continuing their payments. The letters will explain any changes to members’ current plans.

Anthem members who currently have a Marketplace plan can actively choose to stay with Anthem by selecting a new Anthem off-Marketplace plan without subsidies, or they can actively shop for a new Marketplace plan with another company. Otherwise, they will be assigned to another Marketplace plan with another company by healthcare.gov, based on their geographical location (they will receive a letter from healthcare.gov explaining the new plan they’ve been assigned).

Additional Information and Resources

Consumer Health Care Division: Bureau staff members are available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by dialing 1-800-300-5000 or 207-624-8475 (TTY please use Maine Relay 711). Emailed questions can be sent to insurance.pfr@maine.gov.

Other sources of assistance: Find an insurance broker or agent, a Marketplace Navigator or Assister near you at enroll207.com. Consumers can also contact the insurers directly to ask questions about covered services, providers, medications, and cost-sharing or to purchase unsubsidized plans.

Last Updated: October 24, 2017 4:05 PM

State Officials Provide Information and Guidance for Mainers in Response to Data Breach at Equifax

For Immediate Release
Contact:    David Leach, Principal Examiner
David.M.Leach@maine.gov
September 8, 2017
Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
207-624-8527 or 207-333-1292 (c)

GARDINER –   Following news of a massive file breach at credit reporting agency Equifax, the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, which administers the Fair Credit Reporting Act in Maine, is encouraging people to take this matter seriously and consider basic steps to protect their identify, financial accounts and credit reports.

The Bureau’s Principal Examiner, David Leach, emphasizes that state and federal laws are in place to protect consumer from the effects of a data breach.  “Maine is one of the few states in which consumers can ‘freeze’ their credit report information to prevent unauthorized persons from opening credit accounts in their name,” Leach said.

Equifax provides an automated, secure line (1-800-349-9960) for consumers to freeze their credit report with the agency.  The file freeze is immediate.  Within 10-14 days, consumers receive a letter from Equifax which provides a toll-free number and unique (to each consumer) personal identification or PIN number for use in freely unlocking/relocking their credit file.

The Bureau also highly recommends freezing credit files with the other two major credit reporting agencies: Experian (1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872).

Leach noted that if an unauthorized person opens a credit account in the name of a consumer and incurs debts, the consumer is not legally obligated to pay those debts.  He also explained that consumers can view their own credit reports free of charge once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.  Consumers affected by this breach will be provided with additional ways to view and monitor their credit files without charge, and the state recommends that consumers do so.

Individuals seeking more information or further guidance can contact the Bureau by calling 1-800-332-8529 (toll free in Maine) or 207-624-8527.  Online information about consumer financial protection issues is available at www.credit.maine.gov.

Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills offers advice about helping victims of Hurricane Harvey

Mills warns consumers to avoid giving to potentially fraudulent websites

Press Release
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
08/29/2017 04:04 PM EDT

AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills advised Mainers to choose wisely in sending funds to agencies to help the families and communities suffering from the extreme weather produced by Hurricane Harvey in Texas this week.

“A natural disaster brings out the best us, and people around the world offer whatever we can to aid victims like those down in Texas this week,” said Mills. “Unfortunately, it also sometimes brings out people who take advantage of our good nature and provide no help to those in need.”

AG Mills warned against giving money to organizations that are unfamiliar or not recommended by her office or other official sources. AG Mills shared a list of those organizations that are considered reliable

“If consumers have any questions or complaints about a particular organization I encourage them to call our Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-436-2131.”

Other sources for guidance related to charitable giving can be found at the links below for the Maine Attorney General, the Texas Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission. http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/charities/index.shtml

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/charities-nonprofits-registration-filings

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/08/ftc-advice-helping-hurricane-harvey-victims

The American Red Cross is encouraging people to donate money on its website, http://www.redcross.org, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. Apple is also accepting Red Cross donations via iTunes and the Apple App Store.

The Red Cross is also seeking blood. Upcoming blood drives in southern Maine:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at: Portland Blood Donation Center 524 Forest Ave., Portland

Thursday at: Maine Mall, 364 Maine Mall Road South Portland

AG Mills added that she plans on donating blood in the coming days.

Americares, an emergency response organization based in Connecticut, is delivering emergency medicine and relief supplies and working with a local clinic in Houston. Make a donation at americares.org.

United Way Worldwide has a relief fund to provide shelter and basic needs, as well as long-term recovery efforts. Donate at https://www.unitedway.org/.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations for hurricane relief at give.salvationarmyusa.org.

To help pets stranded by Hurricane Harvey, donations are being accepted by the Humane Society of the United States at http://www.humanesociety.org/.

For volunteer opportunities or other places to donate, check with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, at nvoad.org. ###

In Highlighting Elder Abuse Awareness Day, State Officials Urge Mainers to Report Suspected Cases of Financial Exploitation

PRESS RELEASE
June 13, 2017
Contact:  Judith Shaw
Administrator Maine Office of Securities
1-877-624-8551
TTY:  Maine Relay 711

June 15th Observance Draws Attention to under-reported ‘Crime of the 21st Century’, and the Need for People to Report Concerns about Abuse of Seniors

AUGUSTA Officials at Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR) are focusing attention on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day–recognized each June 15th throughout the United States and in other countries, and often referred to as the ‘crime of the 21st century,’ because of its increasing prevalence and devastating impacts.

“The abuse of seniors is among the most under-reported crimes, and its impact can have devastating consequences for its victims,” DPFR Commissioner Anne Head said.  “Unfortunately, the perpetrator is often a relative or caregiver, making it more difficult for the senior to come forward.  Each of us has a responsibility to report concerns about potential abuse.”

Commissioner Head noted that financial abuse is among the most common forms of elder abuse, costing its U.S. victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year.

The Commissioner highlighted the Department’s five agencies, all of which are dedicated to educating the public and helping the victims of financial abuse.  She pointed out the Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection available through the Department’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection by calling 1-800-332-8529 or at www.Credit.Maine.gov under “Publications”.  She also highlighted the many resources available through the Bureau of Financial Institution’s online Consumer Library (www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions).

Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw, who serves on the Maine Council on Elder Abuse Prevention, noted the frequency of investment fraud and the importance of reporting suspected cases.  “Of special concern, is investment fraud of seniors,” Administrator Shaw said.  “Victims can lose their entire life-savings, with little opportunity to recover financial stability.”  For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be reached at 1-877-624-8551 and at www.investors.maine.gov.

Signs that an older adult may be vulnerable to possible abuse or exploitation may include:

  • Social isolation and/or recent loss of a spouse or partner
  • Recent decline in health or in the ability for self-care
  • Lack of familiarity with financial accounts
  • Dependence on another to provide everyday care or essential services
  • Willingness to listen to telemarketing calls or respond to solicitations from unverified charities or businesses

Red flags of possible victimization include:

  • Senior has injuries that are not adequately explained
  • Change in appearance or poor hygiene
  • Senior is missing checks, account statements or documentation regarding finances
  • Running out of money at the end of the month
  • Senior appears fearful or depressed
  • Senior is accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective or dominating

Partial List of State Agencies and Organizations in Maine providing information, services and education on elder abuse, including financial exploitation: 

Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads

1-800-262-2232 or 207-287-9200

Adult Protective Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aging/aps/

Hotline: 1-800-624-8404

Legal Services for the Elderly:

www.mainelse.org

1-800-750-5353 

Maine Area Agencies on Aging:

List of regional agencies with full contact information:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oes/resource/aaa.htm

Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation:

(Five Agencies Offering a Wide Range of Assistance to Seniors and Caregivers)

www.maine.gov/pfr

Office of Securities:  1-877-624-8551

(Investment Questions or Concerns)

www.investors.maine.gov

Bureau of Financial Institutions:  1-800-965-5235

(Banking Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection:  1-800-332-8529

(Credit, Foreclosure, General Financial Scam Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit

Bureau of Insurance:  1-800-300-5000

(Insurance-related Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance

Office of Professional and Occupational Licensing: 207-624-8603

(Questions or Concerns Related to Licensed Professionals)

www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing

State Officials Caution Maine Residents about Threats Posed by Severe Weather as Hurricane Season Approaches

PRESS RELEASE 

GARDINER – With the Atlantic Hurricane Season approaching, Governor Paul R. LePage and Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa are reminding Maine residents about steps that can be taken to protect people, minimize property loss and speed recovery after weather-related damage.  The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and runs through November.

Governor LePage and Superintendent Cioppa encourage Mainers to review their homeowners or renters policy and to evaluate the benefits of flood insurance.  They also urge residents to complete a home inventory checklist and assemble an emergency supply kit.

“The start of the hurricane season is a good time to remember that severe weather can strike anytime and it’s important to be prepared,” Governor LePage said.  “There are simple steps we can all take to keep our families safe and property protected, and to recover quickly if damage occurs.”

Cioppa urged residents to understand what’s covered by their homeowners or renters policy and make sure coverage is adequate.  “Standard homeowner policies do not cover flooding, which is surprising to many people.  We should all take time to become familiar with our policy, purchase additional coverage if needed, consider whether flood insurance makes sense, and complete an inventory of possessions.”

Flood InsuranceFlooding is typically not covered by a standard homeowners policy.  Due to a 30-day waiting period for coverage to take effect, quick action is needed for a policy to be in place for much of this year’s hurricane season.  Details are available from the National Flood Insurance Program by calling 1-800-427-2419 or online at www.floodsmart.gov.  The website includes tools to help homeowners assess their flood risk.

Inventory Checklist:  A checklist can be enormously helpful in establishing an insurance claim.  Although a copy of the inventory can be kept at home, a second should always be maintained with insurance policies, medical records, and other important documents in a safety deposit box or other secure location.  The inventory should include photos and video of property.  A free checklist can be obtained on the Bureau’s website www.maine.gov/insurance (directly at www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/consumer/individuals_families/homeowners_renters/home_inventory_checklist.html).

Additionally, the Governor and Superintendent encouraged residents to establish an emergency supply kit.  It should include several days of drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day), non-perishable packaged or canned foods, a non-electrical can opener and cooking utensil.  The kit should also contain first aid materials, necessary medications, basic tools, a battery or crank-operated radio and flashlights, extra batteries and any supplies needed for pets, as well as a list of important names and phone numbers, including insurance company contact information.

They also urged Mainers to familiarize themselves with resources provided by the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) — available at www.maine.gov/mema/prepare/.

The Bureau of Insurance is part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Consumers can reach the Bureau at www.maine.gov/insurance; by calling 800-300-5000 in state; or by writing to Bureau of Insurance, 34 State House Station, Augusta ME  04333.

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Disaster Preparedness Tips for Homeowners and Renters from the NAIC

  • Take an inventory of your valuables and belongings. This should include taking photographs or a video of each room. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster.
  • To enable filing claims more quickly, keep sales receipts and/or canceled checks. Also note the model and serial numbers of the items in your home inventory.
  • As you acquire more valuables — jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, art —consider purchasing an additional “floater” or “rider” to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Remember to include in your home inventory those items you rarely use (e.g., holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc.).
  • Store copies of all your insurance policies in a safe location away from your home that is easily accessible in case of disaster. You may want to store your policies and inventory in a waterproof, fireproof box or in a safe, remote location such as a bank safe deposit box. Consider leaving a copy of your inventory with relatives, friends or your insurance provider and store digital pictures in your e-mail or on a Web site for easy retrieval.
  • Know what is and is not covered by your insurance policy. You might need additional protection depending on where you live. Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy.
  • Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
  • Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home or possessions after depreciation while replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions without deducting for depreciation. Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether purchasing replacement coverage is worth the cost.
  • Speak with your insurance provider to find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a disaster.
  • Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy
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