AUGUSTA, Maine — With the holiday shopping season drawing near, Maine officials are encouraging consumers to exercise caution when considering extended warranties when buying computers, flat-screen TVs, exercise equipment and other big-ticket items.

Bureau of Insurance Superintendent Mila Kofman issued a statement saying consumers should familiarize themselves with their current insurance coverage and fully understand the costs and benefits of store-offered warranties.

Kofman says it’s important for consumers to understand the differences between insurance, manufacturer warranties and extended warranties that are offered by retail stores.