As a member of the Maine House of Representatives, I strive to be as available as possible to my constituents whenever they have questions or concerns about state government. So when I receive calls from numbers with 207 area codes, I do my best to pick up the phone in case it is a constituent from Windham on the other end of the line.

However, despite having local area codes, many of these calls are not coming from Maine. Instead, they are oftentimes automated solicitation calls asking me for money and personal information. These days, telemarketers are able to disguise their out-of-state or out-of-country phone numbers with a Maine area code so that folks like me are more likely to answer the incoming call.

These calls usually begin with promising or urgent messages, such as “You’ve won a free cruise” or “You must act now to avoid losing your insurance,” and then proceed to ask you for personal information or credit card numbers. More often than not, these messages are misleading or downright false.

We need to call out these telemarketers, because regrettably these scam phone calls have become part of our daily lives. I receive dozens of calls like this every month, and so do most of my friends, family members and constituents in Windham.

It is annoying, to say the least. But it can also be harmful if the recipient of the call doesn’t realize it’s a scam. The FBI has recognized that people age 60 or older are often specifically targeted by telemarketing frauds, and it sickens me knowing that older Mainers are being exploited in this manner.

As the percentage of Maine’s adults over age 65 continues to increase, it has become increasingly important that we pay critical attention to issues that are negatively affecting our state’s older residents. That’s why I was pleased that, this year, my colleagues and I in the Maine Legislature passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, to ban certain types of telephone solicitors from using recorded messages and misleading caller identification. This law, which will go into effect next month, is an important step toward protecting Mainers, especially older Mainers, from these bothersome and predatory telemarketing frauds.

When this law goes into effect, we will have the opportunity to assess its success at protecting our community members from telemarketing fraud. However, I believe that we still have a lot more to do to protect Mainers from these scams, and I look forward to returning to the State House to continue this work.

In the meantime, there are resources available to you and your family to protect you against these telemarketing scams. You can use the Federal Trade Commission’s free “Do Not Call List” to make it easier for you to stop getting telemarketing calls. Register online at www.donotcall.gov or by phone, toll free, by calling 1-888-382-1222, TTY 1-866-290-4236 from the telephone number you wish to register.

The Maine Attorney General’s website offers a long list of common consumer scams in Maine and how to identify them. Among other pieces of advice, the attorney general advises Mainers against sending money or personal information to unknown sources and “to be slow to say yes and quick to say no” to sweepstakes offers telling you that you have to act immediately to collect your winnings.

If you believe you have been scammed, you can contact the Maine Attorney General at 1-800-436-2131 or the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation at 1-877-624-8551. Maine Legal Services for the Elderly also provides free legal help to Maine residents over age 60 at 1-800-750-5353.

 


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