As treasurer of the state of Maine, I have an obligation to protect Maine’s finances from economic downturns, poor investments and sometimes, fraud.

It is important now more than ever that individual Mainers take steps to protect their own finances from fraud. As more of us rely on online shopping and financial management, fraud has become more severe even while digital security has grown stronger. Along with Maine’s attorney general and our federal counterparts, we do all we can to stop scammers, but the best way to protect yourself and your family is by staying vigilant and paying attention to warning signs.

Fraudsters want to elicit strong emotions that make you override your logical instincts. If someone is using fear or urgency and wants you to act fast to prevent something drastic from happening, it is often a scam. Your instincts are often right — if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one gives away money or items of value for free. Retailers and consumers alike should be vigilant about the use of unusual payment methods like pre-paid gift cards, or the use of wire or couriers to transfer money.

Remember, if you are asked to keep it a secret, or you feel too ashamed to tell someone, it is a good sign that the transaction is not legitimate. Always talk to someone you trust before you take any action.

Everyone is vulnerable to fraud, so make sure you never share your personal information, including financial accounts or passwords with anyone. No government agency — including our office and the Internal Revenue Service — will contact you out of the blue and ask you to verify your Social Security number, date of birth, address, PINs, or account numbers; neither will your financial institution or credit card company.

Your financial institution is a reliable source for more resources to fight fraud. Talk to your local credit union or bank and make sure you are regularly reviewing your account statements, credit, and transaction history for accuracy. Always use caution when making transactions with individuals you have not met in person and remember to be suspicious of payment methods to ensure you do not send money or gift cards to fraudsters abroad.

Fraud also takes place digitally. Do not open attachments or click on links in texts or emails from people you don’t know, especially if they claim to be your financial institution. When using an ATM terminal, gas pump, or credit card reader, closely examine it before inserting your card. Criminals might sometimes install “skimmers” on ATMs, so if you see anything loose, crooked, damaged, or with obvious adhesive/tape residue, it is a sign to avoid inserting your card. Always protect your PIN by blocking the keypad from the view of any potential hidden cameras.

The Maine State Treasurer is here to ensure the financial well-being of all Mainers. Organizations like the Maine Credit Unions and others have more resources on what you can do to stay vigilant and stop fraud in its tracks.

By working together and educating ourselves about how to look out for and fight fraud, it’s our hope we can continue building Maine’s economy with pride rather than fear.

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