Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

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.

State Consumer Protection Officials Announce ‘Top 10’ New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Financial Health

PRESS RELEASE

GARDINER – With a New Year approaching, it’s time for resolutions.  While most people think of resolutions related to their physical health, such as eating better and getting back in shape, staff at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection are encouraging individual and families to also resolve to improve their “financial health” in 2017.

Bureau Superintendent Will Lund announced a Top 10 list of Financial Health New Year’s Resolutions, based on the agency’s discussions with hundreds of consumers who called the Bureau’s hotline (1-800-DEBT-LAW) for assistance and advice during 2016:

1) I resolve to check my credit reports with each major credit reporting agency (Trans Union, Equifax and Experian) at least once this year, which I can do for free by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

2)  I resolve to reduce or eliminate credit card balances, and to use cash or a debit card whenever possible. I resolve to consider doing business with banks or credit unions that have offices here in Maine, because then if a problem arises I can go visit a real live person to resolve it.

3)  I resolve to be suspicious of offers that involve romantic relationships with individuals I have “met” only online, and offers involving Nigerian finance ministers who claim to need my help moving large amounts of money out of their country.

4)  I resolve not to send funds in order to claim foreign “sweepstakes” winnings when I didn’t even enter the sweepstakes contest.

5)  I resolve to purchase a telephone Caller ID and an answering machine for my elderly relatives who are bothered by too many junk calls, and teach them how to use the system, reminding them that “real” friends and family who call will leave a message.

6)  I resolve to stay in touch with elderly relatives, encouraging them to tell me or their friends if they are presented with investment opportunities. Further, I will remember that investments are governed by the Maine Office of Securities, whose helpful staff can tell someone whether the investment they are being offered has been properly registered with the state.

7)  I resolve to take my time when making a big purchase like an automobile or major appliance, learning all I can about the product beforehand, visiting more than one retailer, negotiating the best price, getting all aspects of the deal in writing, and walking away if the sales pitch becomes pressured.

8)  I resolve not be intimidated by collection calls demanding payment for debts I do not owe. I will remember that debt collectors must be licensed by the state, and that the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection stands ready to provide assistance and to enforce the laws.

9)   I resolve to be suspicious of any phone call I receive from someone I don’t know, including callers who tell me that a virus has been detected on my computer and that I must turn on my computer and give the caller access in order to fix the problem.

10)  If I find myself providing credit card numbers over the phone to someone I don’t know on a call I did not initiate, or if I find myself at the Western Union window or purchasing prepaid cash cards to send money to someone I don’t know, I resolve to recognize that I am likely being scammed, and I will seek advice and assistance.

 Superintendent Lund urges people with questions about items in this Top 10 list, or any other issues related to consumer credit or financial concerns to contact the Bureau.  The website is www.Credit.Maine.gov and the phone number is 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine) or 624-8527.

Consumer complaints helped bust bogus call center with 700 employees

Posted Oct. 31, 2016, at 6:54 a.m.
FMI check press release, October 27th

FMI check press release, October 27th

You are likely one of the thousands of Maine consumers who have received phone calls from someone wanting a “delinquent tax payment.” We’ve written over the years about crooks posing as Internal Revenue Service agents or other officials who try to coerce people into paying money they don’t owe.

These days, you might hang up quickly and dismiss the attempted ripoff without another thought. However, you might help slow the scammers by taking the time to report the attempt.

Consider the action by police in Mumbai, India, a few weeks ago. Raids on nine call centers resulted in 70 arrests. Investigators allege that employees were trained to speak with American accents as they pressured people to pay phony debts by wiring money that couldn’t be recovered. Each call center raked in an estimated $150,000 per day, usually from retirees and other older Americans.

The Indian Express reports that authorities are still questioning some of the 700 employees of the fake call centers. They’re also hunting for the alleged mastermind of the scheme, who apparently fled a lavish lifestyle in India for a new home in Dubai.

Back in the U.S., people who keep an eye on such things think the raids were made possible by reports from people the scammers attempted to target. Since March 2015, the Better Business Bureau has maintained a “scam tracker” website that consumers can use to file complaints about the IRS scam and other ripoff attempts. BBB officials say that following the raids in India complaints to that website dropped by 95 percent.

The sharp dip in complaints “validates our belief in the importance of using reports from the public to better understand the scam landscape,” program manager Emma Fletcher told the Washington Post. The Treasury Department welcomes information about these impersonation scams. File a report online at treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center also accepts reports at IC3.gov.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills warned consumers back in August about the IRS impostor scam maine.gov/ag/news/article.shtml?id=703353.

At the time, Mills said, “The IRS scam and others like it are consistently the top complaint we receive.” She urged consumers not to engage callers and not to divulge personal information.

The Internal Revenue Service will not call suddenly to ask for a payment, won’t demand a specific kind of payment (hoaxers specify paying by wire or gift card) and the IRS won’t threaten legal action if you don’t pay immediately.

If you do owe money, you’ll get a letter first, and there’s usually a period of time in which you can settle your debt.

The IRS has a rundown of recent hoaxes and steps consumers can take to avoid being scammed at irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

Scammers sometimes send emails to back up their phone call threats. They may have personal information about consumers, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. They may also spoof the number a caller ID shows to mimic a real IRS office. Don’t be fooled. If you have any doubts, look up the number of your nearest IRS office yourself, call that number and inquire.

A lot of scams originate overseas; in fact, posing as a government official ranked second on a list compiled by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, a joint effort by 35 organizations worldwide. Visit its site at econsumer.gov/#crnt.

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 , ME04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

State Consumer Protection Officials Announce New Publication:

Downeaster Common Sense Guide: Automobile Buying and Financing

Auto Guide 1st Ed Web

Click image to access booklet

GARDINER – Governor Paul R. LePage joined staff at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, in announcing the release of a new auto buying publication.  The Downeaster Common Sense Guide: Automobile Buying and Financing is a 32-page booklet available online or in paper copy free to Maine residents.

“Purchasing a car or truck can be an enjoyable experience, but it can also be complicated,” Governor LePage said.  “This new guide—the latest in a Downeaster series of consumer protection publications—provides important information and guidance to help individuals and families make sound financial decisions when considering a new vehicle.”

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection Principal Examiner David Leach, who coauthored the new guide, emphasized that an automobile purchase is a significant financial commitment that often involves a large number of issues and considerations.  He outlined the topics covered in the guide:

  • Determining how much vehicle you can afford;
  • Understanding how to conduct auto buying research;
  • Learning how to check your credit reports before applying for an auto loan;
  • Determining the lowest Annual Percentage Rate or APR for your vehicle loan;
  • Understanding why “No money down” financing can be an expensive mistake;
  • Learning how to negotiate the best price for your new vehicle and trade in;
  • Preparing yourself for the “closing room” at the auto dealership; and
  • Evaluating the pros and cons of add-ons like extended warranty programs and credit insurance.

“This publication will help consumers become more comfortable with auto buying and financing by clearly explaining the process in an easy to understand, step-by-step format,” David Leach said.  “The thought of buying a car or truck makes many people uneasy.  This booklet provides Mainers with the tools and tips to understand and succeed in the process.”

An online copy of the auto buying guide, and several other Downeaster Common Sense financial publications, can be found at www.Credit.Maine.gov by clicking “Publications.”  Copies can also be ordered by calling the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine) or 624-8527. 

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FTC Launches New Resource for Identity Theft Victims

IdentityTheft.gov Helps People Report and Recover from Identity Theft

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

May 14, 2015

The Federal Trade Commission has launched IdentityTheft.gov, a new resource that makes it easier for identity theft victims to report and recover from identity theft. A Spanish version of the site is also available at RobodeIdentidad.gov.

The new website provides an interactive checklist that walks people through the recovery process and helps them understand which recovery steps should be taken upon learning their identity has been stolen. It also provides sample letters and other helpful resources.

In addition, the site offers specialized tips for specific forms of identity theft, including tax-related and medical identity theft. The site also has advice for people who have been notified that their personal information was exposed in a data breach.

Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint reported to the FTC for the past 15 years, and in 2014, the Commission received more than 330,000 complaints from consumers who were victims of identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook(link is external), follow us on Twitter(link is external), and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

State Electricians’ Board Issues Warning about Former Master Electrician and Offers Free Inspections

Press Release
April 8, 2015
Professional and Financial Regulation

The Electricians’ Examining Board within the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation announced that it has found former master electrician Craig Shores of Waterville in violation of statutes prohibiting unlicensed practice. He was also found to have committed permit violations and National Electric Code violations. Mr. Shores is required to pay $8,250 in penalties in the Decision and Order finalized March 20, 2015. Additionally, from a 2009 disciplinary order, he is required to pay a $6,500 penalty and $1,405 in hearing costs.

As outlined in the attached March 20, 2015 Decision and Order, the Board found that Mr. Shores, with a previously expired and suspended license, has continued to engage in dangerous wiring practices that present a threat to public safety and property. After notice and in Mr. Shore’s absence, the Board suspended his right to renew his expired master electrician license indefinitely.

The Board is concerned about potential ongoing, dangerous electrical installations being performed by Mr. Shores and encourages anyone who has had a recent electrical installation performed by Mr. Shores to contact the Board by calling (207) 624-8519. The Board is offering an inspection by a State of Maine Electrical Inspector to any home or business owner who has utilized the services of Mr. Shores.

 

Document prep offer isn’t illegal, but it’s still a scam

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted March 08, 2015, at 7:29 a.m.

Click image to read “alert to corporations and non-profits”

When people rip off businesses, all consumers end up paying. That’s a key reason why consumer advocates pay attention to alerts such as the one issued last week by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

The secretary of state’s office includes the Division of Corporations within the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions (CEC). Maine corporations have to file reports every year. Those reports may be filed online at icrs.informe.org/nei-sos-icrs/ICRS. It is important to note that the bureau does not mail out paper forms for this purpose.

However, some business owners have reported receiving official-looking documents in the mail from something called the Maine Council for Corporations. The document looks something like the CEC’s annual report form. However, it is nothing that’s authorized by the CEC, and filling it out does not meet that office’s reporting requirements.

The letter is a solicitation, offering to draw up “corporate consent records in lieu of meeting minutes” for a fee of $125. Although the letter states correctly that Maine Council for Corporations is not a government body, some business people have mistaken the form in the mailing for a government document.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the secretary of state issued a similar advisory last year. Mailings from a “Corporate Records Service” came from the same address (126 Western Avenue #338, Augusta, ME) and contained a similar offer. After learning of a mailing in April 2013, state officials sent emails to thousands of business owners, warning of the questionable offer.

Complaints about the misleading nature of the mailings elicit indifferent responses. The company told the Better Business Bureau, “Our order form does clearly state in bold print, we are NOT a government agency and that we do not have a contract with the government to provide our service.”

Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin have all had legal tangles with the owners of Corporate Records Service. The settlement in Indiana included an order to mail refunds to businesses that had paid for the company’s services; other settlements involved fines.

The principals in the company also operate The Mandatory Poster Agency, which offers for sale a copy of employer laws and regulations on a laminated wall poster. Experience suggests that, almost as soon as such a poster is delivered, regulations are updated or revised; the posters are available for free anyway (www.maine.gov/labor/posters/index.html).

Dunlap said of the Maine Council for Corporations offer, “There’s nothing illegal about this … but we don’t require these documents.” Dunlap said charging $125 to prepare unnecessary paperwork is “very much like a carnival scam.”

Maine corporations are required to make annual reports to the secretary of state’s Division of Corporations by June 1. Dunlap urges business owners with questions to call that office at 624-7752.

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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