Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

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

New development could cause scammers to capitalize on potential confusion

Senator Collins Cautions Consumers of IRS’s Use of Private Debt Collection Companies

PRESS RELEASE
April 14, 2017

Click image for more information

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, is cautioning consumers to be aware of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) new policy of using private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes.

Under the new protocol, the IRS has authorized four private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes. They are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, IA; Conserve of Fairport, NY; Performant of Livermore, CA; and Pioneer of Horseheads, NY. Only one of these companies will contact you in the event you owe money to the IRS.
Here is what you need to know about this new development:

  • If you have an overdue balance on your account, the IRS will first send you a letter informing you that it is giving your information to one of the four companies listed above, providing the company name and contact information.
  • The debt collector will then send you a letter confirming the account turnover prior to contacting you by phone.
  • Upon calling you, they will be able to discuss payment options, but the only way you can pay your tax debt is electronically or by check payable to the US Treasury.

“The IRS’s use of private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes is in the spirit of efficiency, but may create confusion for those already susceptible to the IRS impersonation scam, like our nation’s seniors,” said Senator Collins. “I urge consumers to remain vigilant and protect themselves from potential scams that could stem from this new development.”

If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.

To read more about this change from the IRS, click HERE.

Never give personal information, such as bank account or credit card numbers, to someone you do not know. If you suspect fraud, please contact the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470

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.

Information for Maine JobLink Account Holders

More than 12,000 resumes in the database

America’s JobLink (AJL) Data Incident

Press Release
TOPEKA, Kan., March 21, 2017 – America’s JobLink (AJL), a multi-state web-based system that links job seekers with employers, has been the victim of a hacking incident from an outside source. AJLA–TS is developed and maintained by American’s Job Link Alliance–Technical Support (AJLA–TS). AJLA–TS has been in business for almost 50 years; this is the first known intrusion AJLA–TS has experienced.

On March 21st, AJLA–TS confirmed that a malicious third party “hacker” exploited a vulnerability in the AJL application code to view the names, Social Security Numbers, and dates of birth of job seekers in the AJL systems of up to ten states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma, and Vermont. Upon discovery of this activity, AJLA–TS immediately intervened and deployed its technical team to assess and stop the incursion, disabling the hacker’s access to the AJL systems.

AJLA–TS is working diligently with law enforcement officials to identify and apprehend the perpetrator. An independent forensic firm is completing work to determine how many job seeker accounts may have been viewed and where those individuals are located. The firm has verified that the method of the hacker’s attack has been remediated and is no longer a threat to the AJLA–TS system.

AJLA–TS also develops and maintains ReportLink, a workforce program data management system, and CertLink, a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) management system. The forensic firm has concluded that the code vulnerability did not affect those systems.

Media and individuals with additional questions should contact Christine Bohannon, Director, AJLA–TS at christineb@ajla.net.

Information for Maine JobLink Account Holders, Especially Those Containing Valid Social Security Numbers

New accounts created on or after March 16 are not affected.

Job seeker accounts that include a valid Social Security Number are potentially at most risk. To check this please log into your JobLink account; as long as you were not actively filing for unemployment benefits you can delete your Social Security Number from your JobLink account. You can do this online without calling the department.

Additional information will be sent to the email on file in Maine JobLink to individuals determined most at risk in accordance with state law.

The department recommends that you put a freeze on your credit report if you had a valid Social Security Number in your JobLink account. Maine law allows you to freeze your credit report for free.

A credit freeze will prevent unauthorized parties from accessing your credit report unless you give them specific permission. Freezing your credit will not affect your credit score. The three Credit Reporting Agencies are Equifax, https://www.freeze.equifax.com ; Experian, https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html ; and Trans Union, http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze .

It is possible for you to place a free, 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting organizations, and to extend the 90-day alert by calling for an extension after the initial 90 days.

Under Maine law, you are also entitled to a free credit report from the three reporting agencies each year. Detailed instructions for taking these steps are available on the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation’s website, http://www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/consumer/credit_report.htm .

Questions can be addressed by calling the Maine Department of Labor at 1-888-457-8883. Due to an expected high call volume, your patience is appreciated.

 

In First Move on Student Loans, Administration Announces Fee Hike on Struggling Borrowers

Education Department to Allow Debt Collectors to Charge 16% Default Penalty

The Consumer Federation of America press release

Washington, D.C. – In its first major policy decision on student loan issues, the U.S. Department of Education took action to give agencies collecting on certain defaulted student debt the right to charge a 16% fee to borrowers who promptly seek to back their loans. The action reverses previous guidance that forbid fees that lead to ballooning borrower costs.

“The Administration’s first move on the student loan default crisis will do nothing to stop the tidal wave of defaults that is sweeping across the nation,” said Rohit Chopra, Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and the former Student Loan Ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “With more than 3,000 Americans defaulting on a student loan every day, this just adds insult to injury.”

Current guidance forbids the guaranty agencies that collect on defaulted debt to tack on large collection fees if the student loan borrower makes – and honors – a repayment arrangement within 60 days of the notice of default. Federal student loans typically enter a default status when borrowers are 270 days late on their payments. Due to servicing mistakes, many borrowers may be learning about problems with their loan for the first time. These agencies are entitled to “reasonable” collection costs under existing law, but hefty fees were considered inappropriate for borrowers who promptly seek to address their default.

The action applies only to borrowers who took out loans from banks and other institutions, not Federal Direct Loans.

One of these agencies, USA Funds, fought the Education Department for the right to charge large collection fees to these borrowers who quickly make arrangements to get out of default.

Last week, the Consumer Federation of America released an analysis that showed that 1.1 million Americans defaulted on a federal student loan in 2016. Americans are now in default on $137 billion in federal student loans.

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

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Link for managing student loans

Maine Ranks Among Most Affordable States for Personal Auto and Homeowners Insurance

PRESS RELEASE – Bureau of Insurance, 2/10/2017

The State also has the nation’s second lowest percentage of uninsured drivers at 4.7%, and continues to have the lowest average homeowners premiums in New England

GARDINER –Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa announced that Maine continues to be among the top states in the nation for most affordable homeowners and personal auto insurance rates.

For the fourth year in a row, Maine ranks 3rd for lowest average auto insurance premiums, nationally, and for the third year in a row the state ranks 10th for lowest average homeowners premiums nationally, according to recently released reports by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Maine continues to have the lowest average homeowners premiums in New England.

  • The NAIC’s Auto Insurance Database Report provides the average costs associated with personal automobile insurance and includes state-by-state auto insurance data and analysis for insurance regulators, consumers and lawmakers.  The types of auto insurance coverage included in the report are bodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist, medical payment, collision, and comprehensive.
  • The NAIC’s Homeowners Insurance Report provides data on market distribution and average cost by policy form and amount of insurance.  Data is collected from insurance statistical agents or reported directly to the NAIC and includes national and state-specific premium and exposure information for homeowners policies, as well as non-commercial dwelling fire insurance policies.

“Despite having coverage requirements that exceed those in most other states, Maine continues to have consistently low average auto premiums,” Superintendent Cioppa said.  “And our State also remains among the most affordable for homeowner’s insurance.”

According to the Insurance Research Council, Maine also continues to have one of the lowest percentages of uninsured motorists, at 4.7%.

More information is available from the NAIC (www.naic.org).  Maine consumers and business owners 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 a message to Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.

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