Archive for the ‘Maine Agencies and Departments’ Category

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.

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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.

###

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

Do you have questions about credit cards? Check out this source.

offers news and advice.

May 22, 2017 from 6 steps to close accounts when a cardholder dies

When someone dies, the task of notifying financial institutions and closing credit card accounts can easily be forgotten or pushed aside.

Unfortunately, if card accounts are not dealt with properly and immediately, problems can crop up that make life more difficult later. Family members and others may innocently – or not so innocently – continue to use the deceased person’s card. Identity thieves troll the obituaries and online records to learn about recent deaths, so they can steal from accounts or create new ones. Banks may send out late notices and add extra fees when the next payment is missed…

Additional information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

As the article states, creditors like a credit card company come last in priority, just in front of heirs.  Secured claims, taxes, administrative expenses and various rights of spouses and heirs all come before unsecured creditors receive anything.  If there is no money left in the estate, such creditors will receive nothing.

In Maine, a notice to creditors is published by the clerk of probate.  Creditors (other than the government) have four months to file a claim or the collection of the debt is barred.  Payment is not usually made until at least 6 months has passed and usually longer.

May 19, 2017 from Suspect card fraud? How to file a claim

If you spot an unauthorized purchase on your credit or debit card statement, will you know what to do, who to call, and how to protect your account?

Forty-seven percent of Americans have experienced card fraud in the past five years, according to the ACI Worldwide 2016 Global Consumer Card Fraud report.

Knowing what actually constitutes fraud, and what to do when it happens, is the best way to protect yourself from additional bogus charges, and potential liability for not reporting it in a timely manner…

 

More information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

Mainers are uniquely protected by one of the finest file freeze law in the U.S.

Maine’s file freeze law went into effect on 10/15/15, and allows adult Maine residents to place a lock or freeze on their credit files with the major reporting agencies: Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872).   Each consumer reporting agency (CRA) has a separate file freeze number (previously listed), which allows consumers to speak on a secure, automated line—providing personal information like their name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.  The file freeze is immediate, and the length of the freeze is the option of the consumer.   The CRA then mails (10 days to 3 weeks) an envelope to the consumer containing a special personal identification number or PIN, and a dedicated toll-free number to call to lock/unlock the credit file.  A personal assistant or executor of an estate should consider locking down the decedent’s credit file upon death to reduce the chance of nefarious/illegal uses of that person’s identity. 

A national law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACT Act, allows each consumer to order a free copy of their credit files (Equifax, Experian & Trans Union) once each year by calling 1-877-322-8228).   A review of the active credit accounts of a decedent, including credit cards, is a good first step in determining if the estate has any outstanding credit accounts that need to be paid off. 

Secretary Dunlap releases animated version of Used Vehicle Buyer’s Guide

05/15/2017 11:16 AM EDT

AUGUSTA – Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is unveiling an animated version of the Used Vehicle Buyer’s Guide, which explains the buyer’s rights when purchasing a used car in the State of Maine.

“Many people have misconceptions about the law when purchasing a used car, so we hope that putting this information in an animated format will make it easier for the public to access the facts they need to know before making such a significant purchase,” said Secretary Dunlap.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles, is the only law enforcement agency that specializes in the enforcement of regulatory compliance and prosecutes crimes under motor vehicle and criminal law. Its detectives investigate an average of 4,000 cases a year. Their work includes enforcement of laws concerning various types of vehicle dealers, title fraud, odometer fraud, automobile identification, auto theft investigations, registration evasion, insurance fraud, driver license and state identification card fraud, and consumer complaints.

Treasurer Hayes Warns of Suspicious, Unofficial Unclaimed Property Websites or Notices

State Treasurer Seeking Rightful Owners of Property, Urges Caution Against Suspicious Websites

PRESS RELEASE
04/13/2017 12:28 PM EDT

AUGUSTA – New scams, promising to return unclaimed property for a fee, are targeting Maine residents through unofficial websites and notices in the mail.

State Treasurer Terry Hayes is warning residents to be wary of these websites and to be cautious of mailings or emails stating that you have unclaimed property with the State of Maine. “Each year, new schemes are created that attempt to take advantage of Mainer’s familiarity with our Unclaimed Property Program. While there are many differences between our program and these schemes, the easiest way to spot a scheme is if it asks for payment information.” says Treasurer Hayes.

The Office of the State Treasurer does maintain a list of unclaimed property, and receives new properties each year. However, there is no fee for you to review the list, or to claim your property. To ensure that you are obtaining the correct information for unclaimed property with the State of Maine, go to the official website  or call the Treasurer’s Office at (207) 624-7470. To search for unclaimed property in other states, visit www.missingmoney.com, a nationally recognized database of state unclaimed property programs.

Unclaimed Property consists of cash and other financial assets that are considered lost or abandoned when an owner cannot be located after a specified period of time. It includes, among other items, checking accounts, certificates of deposit, over payments, gift certificates, life insurance policies, unpaid wages, uncashed checks, death benefits, dividends, insurance payments, refunds, savings accounts, stocks and contents of safe deposit boxes. Unclaimed Property does not include real estate, animals or vehicles. During the period from July 2016 through March 2017, over 17,000 Mainers reclaimed more than $13 million of lost funds.

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