Archive for the ‘State Treasurer’ Category

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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How to avoid scams hiding behind unclaimed property lists

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted April 06, 2014, at 12:47 p.m.

After seeing a recent news release from the Maine treasurer’s office, a Northeast CONTACT caseworker told a friend that his name was on the treasurer’s list of unclaimed property owners. All that he had to do was call the treasurer’s office, identify himself and give his Social Security number to verify his identity. The friend was indignant. “I’m not revealing my Social Security number,” the friend said. “Don’t you know what could happen?” The caseworker replied, “You don’t think the state of Maine knows your Social Security number already?” The friend was being cautious, perhaps overly cautious. We urge consumers to claim property, cash or other valuables that are rightfully theirs. And we urge them to do so in an orderly manner, so as not to fall victim to a number of scams that are out there. First, we’ll define unclaimed property as lost or forgotten assets. Funds in idle bank or credit union accounts, uncashed payroll or dividend checks, unredeemed money orders, even gift certificates may be unclaimed property. These and other abandoned assets total over $41 billion waiting to be claimed, because the rightful owners could not be located in a specified span of time. Among the things that do not constitute unclaimed property are real estate (see appropriate municipal officials); abandoned animals (animal welfare laws apply); and abandoned vehicles (Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles can advise on these). Let’s look at the Maine state treasurer’s website at www.maine.gov/unclaimed. There, you can search for unclaimed property you may own or report unclaimed property. A fact sheet puts total unclaimed funds in Maine, from 1979 to 2013, at more than $191 million. During fiscal year 2013, the state paid more than 16,000 claims averaging a bit over $1,000 each. The largest single payout was over $130,000. To claim your abandoned property, complete an online form on the state treasurer’s website at www.maine.gov/treasurer; or print out a blank form, fill it out and mail it to the treasurer’s office (39 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04330). There is no fee to file a claim, and there’s no need to pay anyone else to help you. For assistance, call 624-7470 or toll-free in Maine at 888-283-2808. The federal government does not have a single website to search, so you’ll need to search individual states if you have unclaimed property outside Maine. The feds do have leads to finding property that may have been subject to federal regulation (failed financial institutions, savings bonds no longer earning interest and so on) at www.usa.gov (search for “unclaimed property”). State treasurers across the country maintain a National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website at www.unclaimed.org. You can find links to other states where you have lived to search for unclaimed property. You can also report suspicious unclaimed property email messages and websites to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. And, yes, the scammers are out there. Here are some tip-offs of frauds: They may pose as National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators officials when sending fraudulent emails (which real unclaimed property officers never do). They might try to refer you to someone other than a state official (this work is not outsourced). They could demand a fee (there’s never a charge). And they’ll likely want bank account information (although you might have to supply personal information such as your Social Security number, you’ll never be asked for bank account info).

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.

The ins and outs of using gift cards safely — Bangor Daily News

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted Dec. 24, 2011, at 1:13 p.m.

Oops.

There you were, about to head home on Christmas Eve, thinking you had all your shopping done. Then you remembered: Aunt Matilda, the toughest challenge on your list.

You probably made the choice millions of shoppers did: a gift card. It’s the ideal solution when you feel like you’re out of options; give a gift card and leave the decision-making to the recipient. In addition, the move gets that lucky person back into the world of shopping, which gives our battered economy a boost.

When you made your selection of a gift card, here’s hoping you did several things smart consumers do. The first is to choose a card that has not been sitting on a display rack for several weeks. Thieves can copy the account number that’s usually printed on the back of each card, wait until a card is activated and make purchases. Having a clerk scan the gift card to verify its value is wise, at the time of purchase and before its first use.

The theft scenario probably works only if the thief provided the appropriate personal identification number, usually found on the back of the card. These security numbers are covered, so smart consumers check to make sure these haven’t been tampered with.

As a thoughtful gift-giver, you may have included the sales receipt along with a copy of the terms and conditions attached to the card. These are handy in case a card is lost or stolen.

Now, a few tips for recipients. Maine’s Unclaimed Property Act contains several provisions affecting the useful life of gift obligation or stored-value cards. They can’t expire, and the issuer can’t routinely apply fees that diminish the value of the card; it’s not a matter of “use it or lose it.” Fees can be applied only on issuance of the card or when a card holder adds value to it.

That said, cards can be considered unclaimed property in Maine if they’re not used for two years (the language of the law is more precise, but two years is a good working number). The amount that becomes unclaimed property is 60 percent of the card’s value. Also, if you make a purchase and there’s less than $5 left on the card, you can ask for that small balance in cash.

You should handle cards the way you do cash. It’s wise to write down all account numbers and any toll-free numbers you may need to report the loss or theft of a card. Keep spent cards until you’re sure you won’t return an item you’ve bought; stores may insist on seeing the card before accepting a return.

Experts advise using cards sooner rather than later. If you put off using them, you’re more likely to misplace them or forget you have them. Also, it’s possible a business that honors the card today might be out of business next week.

The downside of using cards quickly is the tendency to overspend. A Consumer Reports survey in 2009 showed 65 percent of the people who received gift cards the year before spent more than the value of the card. More statistics from that survey: Forty-one percent of those with unused cards had not found anything they wanted to buy.

Electronic or digital gift cards are increasingly popular. These can get caught by your computer’s spam filter, so you may not even know you’ve received one. Watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers, which may include phony links or “free” cards, which can harvest your personal information if you access them online.

Another option is to skip the “middle man” and give cash or a check.

For tips on gift cards, visit http://www.snopes.com/fraud/sales/giftcard.asp.

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 more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to necontact.wordpress.com, or email contacexdir@live.com.

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