Mainers are among those being targeted by scammers who pressure people over the phone to pay debts immediately using wire transfers or pre-paid debit cards, Attorney General Janet T. Mills said.

“The names and the details of the scams vary,” Mills said. “Typically the caller pretends they are from a business that you know and are attempting to collect an old debt. Perhaps they say you have won a lottery. Sometimes they even claim to be from the state or federal government. The caller has just enough information about you that you believe they are legitimate. The red flag, however, is that they want you to make an instant payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.”

Mills said in a news release Friday that Mainers should be suspicious of anyone calling out of the blue and demanding immediate payment, especially if the instructions are to use a Green Dot MoneyPak or a wire service such as Western Union to send the money quickly.

She said scammers can get information about people from the Internet or may have access to personal information from a data breach. That allows them to be convincing about calling from a particular company that a person does business with, Mills said.

She said one Mainer recently recorded a call from a scammer who claimed to be from the Internal Revenue Service. When the caller was challenged about his authenticity, the scammer provided a “badge number” to seem legitimate. Several different people also called the Maine man to make it seem more legitimate that a large agency was seeking payment of a debt.

The IRS has also warned people about similar scams, Mills’ office noted.

The use of pre-paid cards like Green Dot MoneyPak, which can be purchased from more than a dozen chains stores, is often a tipoff, Mills said. A person can buy the card and load it with funds. If scammers are able to get a victim to read them the card account number, they can withdraw the money from the card account from anywhere, and it’s usually untraceable.

“When in doubt, hang up the phone. If you have questions, call the entity they claimed to be from to see if you have a debt to pay and never, ever make a payment over the phone,” Mills said.

“No legitimate business, governmental entity or genuine debt collection agency is going to call you without having first sent you mail. They will not demand an immediate payment. They will not require that you wire cash or use a pre-paid debit card service, and they will not threaten you with arrest if you do not comply.”

Maine consumers with questions about phone scams or other consumer protection matters can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-436-2131 or by email at [email protected]