The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents of a new scam going around the area in which a caller poses as a Central Maine Power employee and threatens to cut off power if the homeowner doesn’t pay a bill immediately over the phone.

It’s the latest report in a series of similar scams to sweep the area the past couple of years.

Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton and a CMP official said the utility company doesn’t call customers to ask for bill payments.

Trafton, in a news release, said that anyone who gets such a call should inform the local sheriff’s office or police department.

“That scam has been going on for a number of years,” CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said Thursday. She said the utility will not call a customer and threaten to turn off power within a matter of hours, but instead sends a letter 14 days in advance of disconnection for residential customers and seven days in advance for business customers. CMP also makes two attempts to reach a customer by phone before it disconnects power.

The power company’s security personnel are working with phone service providers to cut off some numbers for scammers, Rice said.

If customers want to check on their accounts, they can call CMP at 800-750-4000, and commercial and industrial businesses can call 800-565-3181, she said.

In February 2014 a similar scam was reported in the Augusta area. Scammers called local businesses and threatened to cut off power if owners didn’t pay hundreds of dollars immediately. In one call, the scammer had a restaurant owner buy a prepaid debit card and give the numbers over the phone.

Prepaid debit cards, like Green Dot MoneyPaks, have numbers hidden on the back behind film that the buyer has to scratch off. If someone knows those hidden numbers, he or she can take money from the card.

Other areas of central Maine have fallen prey to scammers this summer too, but it’s not uncommon for those complaints to pop up every few weeks.

Scams seem to come “in waves,” said Chris Ross, a dispatcher for Somerset County.

“We’ll go a couple weeks without taking complaints, and then it’s almost like they send out a new batch of scammers and we’ll get a few calls every day,” he said.

In February, scammers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service called dozens of people in Somerset County telling them they owed the IRS money and had to send it immediately or get arrested.

Somerset County Chief Deputy Sheriff James Ross said that, while he hasn’t heard the most recent CMP scam complaint, the department complaints about scammers claiming to be from the IRS are frequent.

A scam in June involved a Benton woman being told by someone purporting to be a Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy that there was a warrant out for her arrest if she didn’t pay her taxes. The scammer demanded she pay with iTunes cards.

Ross said the Somerset County department has also heard that one.

“No agency operates with iTunes cards,” he said. “That’s just bizarre.”

Another scam in March in the Waterville area involved a man posing as a Kennebec Water District employee calling businesses and telling them they had to make a payment over the phone by credit card or their service would be disconnected within the hour.

Also in March, two men posing as federal agents went to an Industry man’s house and told him he had to send $1,000 to an address in Jamaica to claim sweepstakes money.

Chris Ross also has gotten complaints that scammers are calling people and saying the call recipients’ loved ones are in jail, and they need to send money to bail them out.

“The most important thing, really, is don’t give out personal information over the phone,” he said. He said people should call the police if they get any suspicious calls.

Catching the scammers themselves is “virtually impossible,” James Ross said. Most operate outside of the United States, in countries in the Caribbean and Africa or in Canada. The scams’ perpetual metamorphoses don’t help, either.

“They’re constantly, constantly changing what they do,” he said.

If police in Maine do discover where a scam is based in the United States, it’s usually too late to catch the people involved because they’ve already moved or changed phone numbers.

People must be aware and protect themselves, he said.

“No legitimate government agency or corporation will ask you for money over the phone,” Ross said. “People, just hang up. That’s what they need to do.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

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Twitter: @madelinestamour