Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ 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 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. ###

Consumers Impacted by Scams Utilizing Western Union May Be Eligible for Restitution Payments

Deadline April 3, 2017

PRESS RELEASE
03/02/2017 09:18 AM EST

Image linked to Western Union Scam Fighting Advice

 

AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet Mills requests all Mainers who were scammed out of money and asked to utilize Western Union as a payment method to contact her office as they may be eligible for restitution payments. Under a recent settlement with the federal government consumers may be eligible for some restitution if the payments were sent between 1/1/2004 and 1/19/17.

In January, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement it made with Western Union that will require them to return $586 million dollars through a claims settlement process to consumers. Going forward, Western Union must go one step further by creating a real and strong anti-fraud program. Western Union agreed to this settlement after ignoring for years the more than 550,000 complaints it received about money transfers made for fraudulent lottery and prizes, family emergency calls – also known as the grandparent scam, advance fee loan payments, online dating scams, the more recent IRS scam, among others.

Attorney General Mills said “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 contact my office so that we can connect them with the federal agencies managing this claims process. 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 be reimbursed for the money you have lost.”

Under the settlement, Western Union will return $586 million dollars through a process to be determined at a later date. The company will have to train and monitor its agents so that people are protected. The company won’t be allowed to transmit a money transfer that it knows – or should know – is a fraud. It has to block money transfers to anyone who has a fraud report, make it easier for people to report fraud, give clear warnings to people who are sending money, and refund a fraud-related money transfer if the company didn’t comply with its own anti-fraud procedures. Additionally, consistent with the telemarketing sales rule, Western Union must not process a money transfer that it knows or should know is payment for a telemarketing transaction. If you ever wire money, also 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.

Consumers who made payments for a scam between 1/1/2004 and 1/19/2017 may be eligible for reimbursement. Please contact the Consumer Protection Division at the Attorney General’s Office if you were scammed during this time. You will need to provide your basic contact information, approximate dates of the transaction(s), amounts of the transaction(s) and any relevant transaction identification numbers, if available. Your information will then be provided to our federal partners administering the claims process.

For this case, we prefer receiving information by email – consumer.mediation@maine.gov – but we can also be reached at (207) 626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131.

The deadline for consumers to submit this information to the Attorney General’s Office is Monday, April 3, 2017.

How to spot dirty tricks when buying a used car

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Feb. 13, 2017, at 10:12 a.m.
Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Buying a used car is one of the most stressful purchases a consumer can make. Here are some suggestions intended to ease the tension.

Check first with an established dealer. Maine’s used car dealers are bonded. Their vehicles must have valid inspection stickers, and sales include “clear” titles with no encumbrances. Shady Sales in Anywhere, Maine, might save you a few dollars, but there could be big headaches that follow.

Consumers can check with the attorney general’s office to see if dealers they’re considering have large numbers of complaints against them. Another source of information is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in the secretary of state’s office.

Mark Silk is chief detective at the bureau. He recommends consumers deal with known dealers, because “there are so many more protections” than dealing online or through private sales.

He suggests asking to see the title to the vehicle. It should indicate its prior use — taxi, fleet vehicle, police, etc. The title also might show some “red flags,” such as having been rebuilt after a crash.

The title also should show the odometer reading when the prior owner stopped driving it. If the odometer has been replaced, it must read either zero — with accompanying door sticker stating that fact — or the same mileage as the odometer that it replaced.

Silk also urges car shoppers to look closely at any used car, for the following signs of trouble:

— Watermarks in the engine compartment.

— Rust or flaking on the undercarriage.

— Stiff wiring under the dash.

— Mud, sediment or sand in door panels.

All of the above might be signs that the car is flood-damaged. If your nose is keen, you can likely smell trouble before you buy. In any case, have a trusted mechanic check out a car before you sign a sales agreement.

Mark also reminds buyers that there is nothing in Maine law that requires a dealer to charge a document fee. While those fees can run into hundreds of dollars, charging them is up to the dealer. If they are charged, they must be conspicuously posted.

Note to readers

A few parting words are in order, as this is the last column I’ll be writing for Consumer Forum. Since its founding in 1972, a lot has changed for Northeast CONTACT (originally named C.O.M.B.A.T., for Consumers of Maine Bringing Action Together). At its peak, our all-volunteer group helped walk-ins in need of mediation or other assistance; our assistance saw the return of thousands of dollars to wronged consumers. We counseled consumers on all manner of marketplace issues, spoke at meetings and took action when it needed to be taken.

As the information era came of age, demand for our services tapered off. Soaring oil prices forced the sale of our building eight years ago, and the volunteers who were the heart and soul of Northeast CONTACT found other ways to do good work.

Now, Jane and I are also finding a new avenue, one that we hope will assist consumers. Our hearty thanks go to those many volunteers I mentioned. We plan to continue our blog, https://necontact.wordpress.com. We’ll post news about scams, recalls and items we hope will be helpful; you can search the site for past columns. There will still be links to government and nonprofit agencies with resources beyond our means.

Finally, our thanks go to the people at the Bangor Daily News who’ve offered support, encouragement and the space for this column. And to those of you who have had kind words about the work we’ve done, you will remain in our thoughts.

 

Items bought in Maine come with an implied warranty

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Jan. 23, 2017, at 9:18 a.m.

Tap Image for Link to Maine AG’s Consumer Info

An underused law in Maine might prompt many consumers to skip buying the extended warranties store clerks are all too eager to sell.

Maine’s Uniform Commercial Code includes an implied warranty of merchantability. It states that any goods sold in Maine for personal or family use should, under normal use, work as intended for up to four years after purchase.

When a clerk asks if you want a one-year extended warranty, you might ask, “Why? Don’t you think your product will work longer than a year?”

The law conveys an implied warranty that goods sold in Maine are not seriously defective. It applies to all new or used goods sold by merchants (except used cars), and the warranty must be recognized by the store that sold it and the manufacturer.

A consumer who invokes the implied warranty law must prove the product was purchased in Maine. It must have been used in accordance with any directions and not abused, misused or improperly maintained. Normal wear is not covered by the law.

According to the state attorney general, Maine is one of just 10 states with an implied warranty law on the books. You can find a summary of Maine laws dealing with sales to consumers at the AG’s website, maine.gov/ag/consumer/purchasing_goods/index.shtml.

A consumer from eastern Maine wrote to us recently, saying he has used the law successfully on several occasions. Currently, a 2-year-old smartphone is acting up. At first, he was told repairs would cost up to $200. Later conversations with store personnel suggested that when he brings it in, he might be given a refurbished phone as a replacement.

Our consumer wondered how the swap would be covered by Maine’s implied warranty law.

Martha Currier, complaint examiner at the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Information and Mediation Service, said the standard is the same: The law applies from the original purchase date.

When he receives the refurbished phone, Currier said the clock does not restart.

“If something happens to the refurbished phone within the next two years we can still mediate under the implied warranty,” she added. Consumers with problems can write to the Attorney General’s Consumer Information and Mediation Service, 6 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

You may also call (626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131) from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays or email consumer.mediation@maine.gov.

During our conversation, our consumer related the story of his girlfriend’s mother, who purchased an extended warranty on a large, flat-screen TV. After he told her about Maine’s implied warranty law, she returned to the store, asked for and received a refund on the extended warranty.

Our consumer also said the Maine law has prompted him to rethink large electronics purchases. He said he refuses to shop for such items in New Hampshire, even though such a purchase might save considerable money in sales taxes.

“Buying within the state guarantees you that protection [of implied warranty], and that peace of mind is priceless,” he said.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewe, MEr 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Rogues tap holiday spirit, disaster relief to steal in the name of charity

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Dec. 26, 2016, at 9:11 a.m.
Your free directory of IRS-recognized charities and nonprofits: 9127 organizations. Search Maine or your town

Your free directory of IRS-recognized charities and nonprofits: 9127 organizations found in Maine.

When soliciting donations from 2008 to 2012, fundraisers for four now-defunct “charities” said they spent 100 percent of their money on services including taking patients to chemotherapy sessions, buying pain meds for children and hospice care.

Instead, the money went for meals, rides on jet skis and cruises to the Caribbean.

In a lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission called all four groups “sham charities.” Officials from all 50 states and the District of Columbia joined in the suit, which accused charity officials of spending most of the $187 million they raised on themselves and their fundraisers.

The legal action led to the shutdown of the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society. Only a fraction of the millions of dollars the groups took from consumers was recovered.

The amount of money fundraisers were able to garner shows how willing consumers are to donate to causes they believe are genuine. Scammers know this, and for that very reason they create names for their fake groups that sound like real charities.

At this time of year, when many of us make donations to our favorite causes, let’s make sure we’ve done our due diligence. Be skeptical of cold calls or bulk mailings that you may receive, seeking donations that supposedly will benefit veterans and military families, sick children or police and firefighters.

Scam artists follow the news closely, and they look for items that will make readers respond emotionally. In June, crooks reacted quickly following a shooting rampage that killed 49 people and injured 53 others in Orlando, Florida. They set up phony charities pretending to help the victims and their families; in fact, the money they scammed lined their own pockets.

Pretending to help victims of floods, earthquakes and other disasters is a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. Before you decide to donate, ask questions to find out how your money will be used.

If you’re responding to an online appeal and preparing to click to “donate,” look at the name of the organization in your browser window. If the domain name is hidden, is not familiar or is different from the one in the text, think twice about clicking.

Treat all pleas for your money with a healthy dose of skepticism. Real charities welcome the chance to send you literature by mail. They know that informed consumers will support them and tell others about worthwhile causes. Scammers want a decision right away, and some ask for payment through gift cards or wire transfers — these clearly are scams.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has tips on giving to charities and avoiding getting ripped off in the process. Visit maine.gov/ag/consumer/charities/index.shtml for those suggestions.

The Federal Trade Commission has additional information at consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0011-charity-scams.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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