Archive for the ‘Department of Motor Vehicles’ Category

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.


How to spot dirty tricks when buying a used car


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, 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.


Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap Alerts Public of Potential Phone Scam

06/09/2014 09:27 AM EDT
AUGUSTA, Maine-Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is notifying the public of a potential phone scam. Detectives within the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) received complaints from citizens who have received phone calls claiming to represent the “Maine DMV.” The callers say they are soliciting collection of alleged unpaid fines, and threatening the recipients with suspension of their driver licenses if fees are not paid.

“The Bureau of Motor Vehicles would never make solicitation calls to collect fine money or reinstatement fees,” said Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s Secretary of State. “The citizen is given notice by mail, either from our office or the courts that they are pending suspension. Then it is up to them to take care of their situation. If they don’t, the consequences do become compounded, but we count on our citizens to do what we already know they do very well-respect the law.”

Caller identification technology shows the calls to originate from the “Department of Motor Vehicles Bangor” (with the actual BMV Bangor branch phone number 207-942-1319). The caller states that failure to pay the fine money will result in license suspension and a warrant issued for their arrest.

Maine BMV officials, law enforcement, and the Secretary of State are strongly urging citizens to avoid falling victim to what appears to be a financial scam being perpetrated through these phone calls. The Department of the Secretary of State, including BMV, does not call citizens to collect money.

Anyone who has received such a call is encouraged to contact the main office of the Secretary of State at (207) 626-8400. If you would like to inquire about the status of your driver’s license, please contact the BMV at 624-9000 Ext. 52100.

Online driver’s license scam happening in Maine, secretary of state warns – Bangor Daily News

Posted Oct. 01, 2013, at 7:26 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles — the only place where Maine drivers can get or renew their driver’s license — has received complaints recently about websites scamming people out of money by claiming they can provide the same service.

“These websites charge customers, but do not actually issue credentials,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a press release warning residents about the scam. “The company implies that a credential can be ordered through the website for a fee; however, once payment is made the customer is simply directed to the BMV website.”

A new Maine driver’s license can only be obtained through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles at its various offices and mobile units or through AAA New England locations.

“It’s very important that people know the only valid website for renewing a Maine driver’s license is and the service is only available to customers who have already established proof of residency and legal presence,” Dunlap said. “Some of these sites may look like they are affiliated with state government; however, they usually have a disclaimer somewhere on the page noting that they are privately owned and are not operated by any government agency.”

Those who believe they have been a victim of a driver’s license scam should contact the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ investigations unit at 624-9000, ext. 52144, or visit the state’s Attorney General’s consumer protection website at


Maine Insurance Superintendent Alerts Consumers and Businesses to Flood-damaged Vehicles in Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

 GARDINER – Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa cautioned consumers and businesses on Monday to be alert for the possibility of flood-damaged autos in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Although the October superstorm did not result in significant damage in Maine, many Northeastern states experienced wide-spread storm surges and flooding.

“According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s estimate, more than 250,000 vehicles were damaged by the storm,” Superintendent Cioppa said. “This estimate includes only insured losses, so many more autos may have been impacted. Damaged vehicles could be for sale in Maine right now.”

The Superintendent emphasized that it’s more important than ever to do research when buying a car or truck. Vehicles suffering storm damage, even after repairs and cleaning, can pose safety risks and may require substantial repairs down the road.

If the damage is great enough, an insurance company will “total” the vehicle and pay for its actual cash value, less the policy’s deductible. Alternatively, if the insurance company agrees, a vehicle owner may choose to keep the auto and receive its value less the salvage value.

Maine law requires an insurer to obtain a salvage title when it declares a vehicle a total loss, and the vehicle may not be operated on the road until it has been repaired, inspected, and rebranded with a title indicating “rebuilt salvage,” “rebuilt,” or “repaired” by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. However, sellers can sometimes conceal damage by moving a vehicle and its title to other states, a practice known as “title washing.”

“Severely damaged vehicles may appear for sale in Maine without any indication that they were affected by Sandy,” added Cioppa. “Even new cars could have sustained flood damage.”

Cioppa offers the following tips for consumers to reduce the risk of unknowingly purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle:

 * Thoroughly inspect the vehicle for signs of water damage. Look for mud, stains, or musty odors in the interior, the trunk and the spare tire storage compartment.

 * Check the undercarriage for rust or flaking metal.

 * Always test drive a vehicle and have it carefully inspected by a mechanic you trust.

 * Contact the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to request a title search. For additional information on titles and title searches, including applicable fees, contact BMV at (207) 624-9000 or visit

* View a detailed title history and damage report from a national database such as CarFax, Autocheck, or Consumer Guide Automotive. There may be a fee to view these reports.

Additionally, consumers can download useful checklists and learn more about flood and salvage vehicle scams, and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, by visiting the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website ( The site’s VINCheck allows free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies, which collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today.

Maine consumers and business operators with questions about auto, home, business or other lines of insurance are encouraged to contact the Bureau of Insurance by calling 1-800-300-5000 or sending an e-mail to

The Bureau of Insurance is part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation ( which encourages sound business practices through high quality, impartial and efficient oversight of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment providers, and numerous occupations to protect the public.



What to do when you lose your wallet


By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director, Northeast CONTACT

Posted June 10, 2012, at 3:59 p.m.
 You’re having one of those days when you don’t think things could get any worse. Then, you realize you don’t have your wallet.

Whether it was lost or stolen, it’s now gone, along with whatever cash was in it and a number of other items. Those are the focus of this article; much of the following information comes from Recovery Kit, a website allowing customers to search for and compare credit card offers.

Deal immediately with any credit cards that were in the wallet. If a thief took it, he or she won’t hesitate to forge your signature. That’s the bad news; the good news is your losses, if any, are limited by law, as long as you report the loss promptly.

Call your credit card company right away; if you had not written down the account number somewhere (more on this later), you can find the number on your most recent statement or go online, searching for the card company name and “report stolen card.” Since most companies have fraud detection specialists at work, you may actually hear from them before you realize the card is missing.

Give the representative your account number and the time frame the card went missing. If you didn’t write down your account number, you will have to answer some questions about your financial life to prove you are who you say you are. Then the customer service person will check recent account activity and ask you if the charges were really yours.

If your card has been used without your authorization, you’ll need to fill out a fraud report; that will require a police case number, so report the loss to your local department as well. Whether it’s been misused or not, the company will likely cancel the card and issue you a new one. Any reward points should be transferred to that new card.

Next, you’ll need to remove the stolen card’s data from any online accounts or automatic bill paying programs. A new card should arrive in the mail in about a week; until then, you’ll need to rely on checks or another card you may have.

Most steps are the same in the case of a missing debit card, except you report the loss to your bank. Liability limits are a bit different, too. Report the loss within two days and you’re liable for up to $50 of fraudulent purchases; after two days you may have to pay up to $500, although the bank may forgive all or part of that amount; it’s worth asking.

Your driver’s license is another high-risk document; with it, a thief can give a correct address when using your stolen cards and apply for new credit. Report the loss to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. You’ll need some identifying documents (birth certificate, passport, etc.) and documents proving your legal residence to apply for a replacement license; an online search can help you determine what you need.

Losing your Social Security card poses the greatest risk; with that number, a thief can be well on the way to stealing your identity. For that reason, DO NOT carry it routinely in your wallet.

Prepaid gift/credit cards, insurance cards and roadside assistance cards represent other, lower-risk losses. These should be reported, even if you’re not expecting to lose money as a direct result of the loss of a card.

Earlier we talked about writing down card information, and the reasons are pretty clear; replacing lost items takes time, and having your information organized where you can find it makes the process easier. Get forms for recording that data and other helpful tips at If you don’t have a computer, a friend or relative can print the forms for you.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit or email

Agency focuses on vehicle complaints – Bangor Daily News

Agency focuses on vehicle complaints – Bangor Daily News.

For a long time, Northeast CONTACT has advised people with complaints involving legal issues to notify the Maine Attorney General’s office. While that’s still good advice in many cases, there is one category of complaint that might better be referred elsewhere.

That category is related to the sale and operation of motor vehicles. The Secretary of State’s office — which operates Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles — has its own investigative arm.

The Office of Investigations deals with a range of issues. These include licensing, regulation and enforcement of laws concerning types of vehicle dealers, title fraud, odometer fraud and automobile identification, auto theft investigations, registration evasion, insurance fraud, driver license and state identification card fraud and consumer complaints.

It’s the only agency that concentrates solely on such matters, and it is busy. The office investigates about 4,000 cases each year and recovers close to $300,000 in restitution for consumers.

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