AUBURN — With thousands of Mainers having to cancel credit or debit cards from the recent Target scandal, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills will offer tips on preventing fraud Thursday at the Auburn Public Library.

Her talk will be from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Androscoggin Community Room.

Consumers, especially senior citizens, should never give away personal information over the phone or in emails, Mills said Wednesday.

The bank, the government, Social Security Administration are not going to call you, she said. “They have your information. That’s a big red flag.”

Be aware, Mills said. “There are people trying to get your attention by email, asking you to wire money, asking for personal information or pretending to be friends. I get fake emails from people I know saying, ‘I’m in Spain. I got robbed.’ That’s a scam, scam, scam.”

Another way consumers can protect themselves is to check their charge-card statements, Mills said. “I always check. It’s never wise to pay a bill without looking to make sure they’re accurate. If you didn’t buy a Rolex watch in Alabama, for crying out loud, call the credit card company immediately.”

Criminals count on some people not checking their statements, she said. “That can give them lead time.”

Consumers are protected when using credit and debit cards, but credit cards bring some protections not available with debit cards, said Maine Bureau of Consumer Protection Superintendent Will Lund.

If an unauthorized charge is made on a debit card, state and federal law says consumers must contact their bank or credit union within 48 hours of noticing the charge, Lund said.

“With credit cards, consumers have up to two billing periods,” which can be nearly 60 days, Lund said. “In addition, with the debit card you’re fighting to get your money back, as opposed to the credit card” which has not yet paid the bill. As long as debit card users act immediately by contacting their credit union or bank, “the law provides pretty good protection for both credit and debit cards,” Lund said. “The money should be replaced in their account.”

Mills’ presentation will feature 10 things people can do to avoid fraud, with take-home brochures to help people learn about how some scams operate and steps people can do to protect themselves.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, common consumer scams have included seniors receiving calls claiming the caller is from Medicare, grandchildren in trouble, someone emailing a fake check and wants consumers to wire money, a letter in the mail saying you’ve won money in a lottery or sweepstakes and someone calling to say you can get a government grant if you give them your bank account numbers to deposit the check.

Mills’ invitation to speak was from state Rep. Wayne Werts, D-Auburn, who said he’s concerned about protecting consumers.

“If you’re contacted about an offer that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” Werts said in a news release. “I want citizens to have the knowledge and resources they need to avoid becoming victims of fraud or scams.”


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