(AUGUSTA) Tax season may just be getting started, but tax scammers have been hard at work already. The Maine Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have gotten thousands of complaints about one kind of scammer in particular — IRS imposters.
Here’s how they work: Scammers posing as IRS officials call and say you owe taxes. They threaten to arrest you, or deport you, or revoke your license, or even shut down your business if you don’t pay right away. They may know your Social Security number — or at least the last four digits of it — making you think it really is the IRS calling. They also can rig caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Washington, DC.
You are the instructed to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the number — something no government agency would ask you to do. Once you do it, you find out it was a scam, and the money is gone.
“This scam has become one of the most commonly reported phone scams that our Office has received. No governmental agency or legitimate business will call you up and demand an immediate payment by pre-paid debit card,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “If you receive one of these calls, do not answer any of their questions. Hang up the phone immediately.”
If you owe — or think you owe — federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. The IRS doesn’t ask people to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and doesn’t ask for credit card numbers over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by mail, not by phone.
Report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. “Last year we also heard about a number of Mainers who when they filed with the IRS, discovered someone had fraudulently claimed their tax return already,” said Attorney General Mills. “People should file early, always take steps to protect their private information and review their credit report yearly to see if there has been any unusual activity.”
One Maine resident recently recorded his interaction with a scammer claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The call illustrates several tactics used by phone scammers. They claimed to be from an entity that the target is familiar with and who he has the potential to owe money to. When challenged about his authenticity, the scammer tried to reassure the target by giving a badge number in order to sound official. And finally, the payment could only be made by “Green Dot Money Pak,” available at places like WalMart or drug store chains, and not by other means. The scammers are also not easily dissuaded; different people called repeatedly making the same claims in order to make him think they were legitimate.
Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to the FTC.
Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. Learn more at ftc.gov/taxidtheft.
If you have questions about these or other consumer matters, please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office at 1(800) 436-2131 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
January 26, 2015
Attorney General’s Office
The National Weather Service is warning of cold temperatures for much of this week. Wind chills will be below-zero for an extended period this week and could be as low as 50-degrees below zero in Northern Maine. Those temperatures pose a danger to health and property.
Some steps are listed below to take to keep yourself, your family, your pets, and any elderly or homebound neighbors safe during this period of very cold weather:
Monitor weather reports. Be a good neighbor. Check with elderly or disabled relatives, neighbors, and friends to ensure their safety.
Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also, consider your pets and limit their time outdoors.
Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissue that is frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.
When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions. Keep a fire extinguisher handy; ensuring everyone knows how to use it properly. Test smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors.
If you lose power or heat, try to keep pipes from freezing. Leave cabinet doors around them open to allow as much heat as possible to reach them. Wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water (if available) to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.
Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields [sic] scraper and brush, shovel, sand, towrope, and jumper cables.
January 5, 2015
Maine Emergency Management Agency
AUGUSTA – Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the presence of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in three additional mosquito pools in York County, bringing the total number of positive tests to four in 2014. In addition, an emu from the Sebago Lake region in Cumberland County tested positive for EEE, according to the Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The animal was not vaccinated.
Regionally, all of our surrounding states have also identified EEE. Thus far, the only human case has been reported in New Hampshire.
EEE, which is carried by mosquitoes, is usually a fatal viral disease in horses, llamas, alpacas, emus and ostriches, according to State Veterinarian Dr. Michele Walsh. “It is important for people to understand that the only way a human can get EEE is from a bite of an infected mosquito.” “EEE is a very serious illness in humans” said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of Maine CDC. “Mainers must be aware of the risks and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and protect against EEE and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”
Mainers can take steps to protect themselves and their equines by:
- Wearing long sleeves and long pants
- Using an EPA approved repellent on skin and clothes and always following the instructions on the label
- Taking extra precautions at dusk and dawn
- Using screens on your windows and doors
- Draining artificial sources of standing water where you live, work, and play
- Vaccinating horses, llamas and emus
EEE virus is carried by mosquitoes, which pick it up from infected wild birds. The virus replicates in birds, which act as natural reservoirs for the disease.
Horses, llamas, and emus can be protected from EEE through vaccination, said Walsh. There is no vaccine or treatment for humans, so preventing mosquito bites is very important.
The Maine CDC will continue to update information on mosquito-borne disease surveillance in Maine on a weekly basis. These reports are posted every Monday from May through September at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/arboviral-surveillance.shtml Future positive tests will be announced through this report.
Information on pesticides and repellents is available at the Maine Board of Pesticides Control website at: http://www.maine.gov/agriculture/pesticides/public/index.htm#mosquito
September 4, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced Wednesday the State of Maine is moving forward with its plan to conduct drug tests of convicted drug felons who are applying for or receiving welfare benefits.
Over the last several months, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has focused on designing its drug-testing measures to ensure privacy and fairness, while reinforcing accountability and integrity in the program. The tests will be required of drug felons who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
“Maine people expect their tax dollars to be spent supporting our most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly and the disabled,” said Governor Paul LePage. “We must ensure that our tax dollars do not enable the continuation of a drug addiction. “TANF is a short-term benefit that assists families and children with the basic necessities. If someone tests positive for drugs, they are clearly putting their addiction ahead of their family’s needs. Being drug-free is a critical aspect of moving away from poverty and toward self-sufficiency. We must do all that we can to make ensure children’s needs are being met and that the TANF recipient has the best possible chance at economic independence.”
When a person applies for benefits, the individual must report whether he or she has a prior drug-related felony conviction. If the answer is yes, the State will schedule a drug test and notify the individual 24 hours prior to the actual test.
“Our rules are drafted according to the knowledge we have gained over the last several months. As a result, our drug testing program is based on best practices and aligns with federal law,’’ explained Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
If a person tests positive, the individual will have the option to be tested a second time. At any time, an individual can avoid termination of benefits by enrolling in an approved and appropriate substance abuse program. Those who fail to disclose they are convicted drug felons will be found in violation of program rules and will face immediate termination of benefits.
The State’s rule will be published in August and must move through the rule-making process, which includes a public hearing.
August 6, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced Wednesday that the state ended the fiscal year with a surplus, which brings total revenue reserves to more than $90 million.
Improved fiscal management and reliable revenue forecasting are contributing factors for the flow of excess money. There is now a surplus of $39.1 million and an excess General Fund balance of $9.8 million.
“When I came to Augusta in 2011, I found that our state’s reserves had been cleaned out by the previous administration,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “We immediately went to work to pay our long overdue welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals, introduce long-term stability to the State’s finances and increase the balance of the budget stabilization fund, which is also called the rainy day fund.”
After the payments that are required as part of the statutorily required year-end “cascade” were made, the State concluded the most recent fiscal year with total reserves of $93.2 million.
The balance of the budget stabilization fund, a key focus of Governor LePage and rating agencies such as Moody’s Investor Services, has increased by more than $8 million after the year-end transfer, bringing the total balance to $68.3 million.
“My fiscal policy focuses on the next generation, not the next election,” said Governor LePage. “I campaigned on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, and my actions since day one have reflected a commitment to that pledge.”
After all year-end transfers, the State has $12.5 million in unappropriated surplus that will carry forward to be used in Fiscal Year 2015.
“With conservative cash management and reliable revenue forecasting, the State of Maine is in a sound financial position entering the new fiscal year,” said State Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen. “We still have much work to do. But under the leadership of Governor LePage, the State has made tremendous progress.”
July 30, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) have approved the Town of Fort Kent as Maine’s newest “Certified Business-Friendly Community.”
Fort Kent joins 26 other Maine cities and towns that have earned “Certified Business-Friendly” status. Qualifying for the certification requires that a community achieve a heightened level of distinction in its regular dealings with job creators, including such things as first-rate customer-service, effective business collaboration, efficient and affordable licensing and permitting and active public input.
“Congratulations to the Town of Fort Kent on a job well done,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Fort Kent is committed to building and maintaining a strong economic base. The town has taken proactive steps to becoming a better partner with private industry through streamlined regulations and an overall open for business attitude. This approach not only makes Fort Kent more competitive, but all of Maine as well.”
“I am honored that Fort Kent has received this business-friendly recognition,” said Town Manager Donald Guimond. “Our goal is to build on Fort Kent’s growth and development and show that this honor is, in fact, well-deserved.”
The “Certified Business-Friendly Community” program, administered by DECD, encourages Maine municipalities to take a critical look at all areas of their business attraction strategy and examine ways the community interacts with businesses to promote new private investment. The Town of Fort Kent received its award based on some of the following factors:
• Adoption of a new comprehensive plan • Streamlined / more user-friendly permitting and regulatory process • Working collaboratively with business organizations, trade groups, educational institutions to promote economic development • Marketing of ‘America’s 1st Mile’ to attract new private investment and create brand identity • Successful use of revolving loan funds and tax increment financing to incentivize economic development
The “Certified Business-Friendly Community” program began in 2012. Since then, Maine’s list of “Certified Business-Friendly” communities has grown to include: Auburn, Augusta, Bath, Belfast, Biddeford, Brewer, Bucksport, Caribou, Cumberland, Ellsworth, Fairfield, Fort Kent, Guilford, Hermon, Kennebunk, Lewiston, Lincoln, Pittsfield, Poland, Presque Isle, Richmond, Saco, Sanford, South Portland, Topsham, Wells and Westbrook.
Each community is awarded a certificate of achievement, two MaineDOT road signs, and becomes a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy.
June 24, 2014
Department of Economic and Community Development
AUGUSTA – In a robing ceremony conducted at the Kennebec County Superior Courthouse this afternoon, Governor Paul R. LePage administered the oath of office to seven judges – five appointees to the District Court and two District Court judges appointed to the Superior Court.
The following individuals are those newly appointed to the District Court:
Judge Andrew Benson, Athens
Judge William Schneider, Durham
Judge Lance Walker, Falmouth
Judge Eric Walker, Belmont
Judge Barbara Raimondi, Auburn
These new judges received from Chief Justice Saufley at the ceremony a judicial robe symbolizing objectivity, neutrality, and the Rule of Law.
Governor LePage also administered the oath of office to Superior Court appointees Justice Daniel I. Billings of Bowdoinham and Justice Robert E. Mullen of Waterville.
“I commend you for your work to uphold a standard of integrity in our judicial system. I am confident in your character and have great faith in your sense of fairness,” Governor LePage told the judges and justices. “Thank you for your dedication to the people of Maine and to our Great State of Maine.”
May 2, 2014
Governor Paul R. LePage and a coalition of government, nonprofit and corporate leaders are announcing the 5th Annual “Fostering Financial Literacy in Maine Schools Conference”. The resource-rich learning opportunity will take place May 8, 2014 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Organized by the Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the Conference will feature state and national experts offering teachers, counselors, and community educators specialized resources and best practices designed to include financial education in the K-12 and post-secondary experience. The event is funded largely through grants and private contributions.
“Greater financial literacy among young people benefits Maine’s families, communities and economy,” Governor LePage said. “This annual statewide conference gives teachers valuable tools and resources needed to creatively share financial information and instill life-long money management skills.”
“The Office of Securities is proud to mark the fifth year of partnering with the Maine Jump$tart Coalition,” Securities Administrator Judy Shaw said. “Basic financial literacy is essential for young people to achieve their goals. We are excited to help Maine’s educators expand and enhance their financial literacy instruction.”
Workshops will be offered featuring financial literacy resources for Pre-K through college age groups. Other sessions will provide training on how to best utilize technology to advance personal finance education. Attendees will receive free financial education resources and materials from Conference exhibitors.
Organizers are offering financial support to schools on a first-come, first-served basis to cover the $25 Conference registration fee, as well as funds to meet other expenses, including a substitute teacher for the day of the event. To receive updates on the Conference and notification about registration, email email@example.com. For additional information about the event or funding, please call Maine’s Office of Securities at 1-877-624-8551 or e-mail Lindsay.J.Laxon@maine.gov.
The Maine Jump$tart Coalition was named 2014’s coalition of the year by the National Jump$tart Board. This is the first time any state in the northeast has received this honor. Maine Jump$tart Coalition members organizing the May 8 event include Maine’s Office of Securities, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), the Maine Credit Union League, and the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions.
The Office of Securities is part of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (www.maine.gov/pfr). Maine Jump$tart is the state affiliated chapter of the national JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth. www.jumpstart.org.
April 18, 2014
Professional & Financial Regulation – Securities
AUGUSTA – Under the leadership of Governor Paul R. LePage, Maine’s unemployment rate in February fell to its lowest level in six years. The February rate is 6.1 percent, down from 7.0 percent one year ago. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since October 2008.
“Maine’s economy not only is recovering, but it is getting stronger every month,” Governor LePage said. “This is good news for Maine families and our economy as a whole. Furthermore, this is evidence that pro-jobs, pro-growth, low-tax policies work to help businesses create jobs in our state.”
Workforce conditions in Maine continued to improve in February. The number of payroll jobs was up 6,300 from a year ago, driving the employment to population ratio to a five-year high and dropping the unemployment rate to a six-year low. Over the last year, net job growth was dispersed across a number of sectors.
Private-sector jobs were up 7,400, primarily in the retail trade, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare and finance and insurance sectors. Those gains were partially offset by a decline of 1,100 jobs in government. Since 2011, when Governor LePage took office, almost 16,000 private-sector jobs have been created.
Additionally, the share of the population that is employed reached 61.5 percent, the highest since December 2008, and remained higher than the 58.8 percent national average for the 77th consecutive month. The 61.5 percent employment to population ratio is the highest since December 2008, remaining well above the national average.
More Jobs Being Created
• Maine experienced positive annual job growth for 32 consecutive months.
• Maine job growth month-to-month has been positive for 8 of the last 12 months. (also 16 of the last 24 months)
• Maine has created 16,000 new private sector jobs since December 2010.
• Maine job postings compiled by the Maine Job Bank showed nearly 7,000 openings in March 2014.
March 28, 2014
AUGUSTA—Maine’s Job Bank, at www.mainecareercenter.com, has posted about 6,900 open positions, up around 1,000 positions since the beginning of March. The job bank, a service of the Maine Department of Labor, is an online job board that is free for both employers and jobseekers.
“In addition to the openings on Maine’s Job Bank, employers are hiring at job fairs all over the state,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The Department of Labor is coordinating or participating in 13 job fairs between now and June, and more are in development. Now is a great time to get a job in Maine.”
Three jobs fairs will be held the week of March 24 in Portland, Springvale and Machias. Hundreds of employers will be hiring for both permanent and seasonal positions.
“The Department of Labor’s network of 12 CareerCenters provide free, expert assistance to job seekers who are looking for a job or need advice about their career choices,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “They also host free networking events, workshops about financial aid for education and how to start a business. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help people learn how to use a computer, create a free email address, apply for jobs online and register with Maine’s Job Bank.”
“Maine’s economy is growing, and we can make sure that you are part of that growth,” she stated. “You do not have to look for work on your own, and if your job search has hit a rut, our staff can get you back on track. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh approach and some encouragement.”
People who need to update their resume or practice their interviewing skills should contact a CareerCenter for free help. To find more information about how to prepare for a job fair, update a resume, and other job-search programs and to locate the closest CareerCenter, visit the CareerCenter website, http://www.mainecareercenter.com .
Businesses interested in participating in these events and taking advantage of other free hiring services the department provides, such as the job bank, interviewing space, and referrals, should contact their local CareerCenter.
The following job fairs have been scheduled to date around the state:
- Portland: March 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Maine Sunday Telegram/Monster Spring Career Fair at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.
- Machias: March 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Lee-Pellon Event Center.
- Springvale: March 28, 4th Annual York County Regional Job Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nasson Community Center, 457 Main Street.
- Lewiston/Auburn: April 4,11th Annual Androscoggin County Job Fair, Friday, 9 a.m. to noon at Central Maine Community College, 1250 Turner Street, Auburn.
- Presque Isle: April 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Northeastland Hotel.
- Calais: April 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Washington County Community College Gymnasium.
- Lincoln: April 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mattanawcook Academy, 33 Reed Drive, Lincoln.
- South Paris: April 24, 9 a.m. to noon at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in the cafeteria.
- Augusta: April 24, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hiring Maine’s Heroes (general public welcome) at the Augusta Armory, 179 Western Ave.
- Pittsfield: May 14, Pittsfield Area Regional Job Fair, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Warsaw Middle School Gym and Cafeteria, 167 School Street.
- Farmington: May 22, Western Maine Community Job and Resource Fair, 9 a.m. to noon at the Fitness and Recreation Center at UMF, 152 Quebec St.
- Bangor: May 28, 9 a.m. to noon at the Spectacular Event Center, 395 Griffin Rd.
- Augusta: June 17, First Annual State of Maine Government and Maine Municipal Government Job Fair for Veterans at the Augusta Armory.
CareerCenters offer a variety of workshops and services to help people find employment or upgrade skills. Each center provides several public-access computer workstations with Microsoft Office software, resume writing and cover letter software, Internet access and O’Net software for skills assessment. All CareerCenter services are free of charge.
Maine CareerCenters are an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
March 24, 2014