YORK COUNTY — Has anyone called to say you’ve received an award from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services? 

All you need to do, the caller advises, is pay a $200 fee for an access code to get the award.

Wrong. Don’t fall for it, advises Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. It is a scam.

Mills said she’s been informed of at least one individual who received the call.

“If you receive a similar call, don’t be fooled,” said Mills. “The government will not call you to ask for your credit card information over the phone.”

She said folks also need to be aware that a similar scam is being perpetrated through social media.

“Recently, many Mainers have encountered similar scams via Facebook messenger, where someone they ‘know’ has heard of some grant and wants to share their good fortune with you,” said Mills. “Often, the person you know is a spoofed profile of your friend, and it is a scam.”

And if that weren’t enough, sometimes the scammer poses as a government official and may have an account with a name and photo that matches that of a real office or public official, Mills said.

“The scammer tells the potential victim that they have qualified for a free monetary grant from the government that does not have to be paid back,” the AG’s office spokesman, Andrew Roth-Wells, said in a news release. “All the victim has to do is pay a small processing fee and the larger sum of money will be released. No matter how much money is sent to the scammers, no grants are ever released.”

“Scammers are always coming up with new ways to convince you to part with your hard-earned money,” said Mills. “If any one tells you that you can have something for nothing — they are lying to you. No governmental agency conducts business or financial transactions via Facebook or instant messenger and they will never demand that you wire money or make a payment by a prepaid money service or any card you can buy in a convenience store. If you receive one of these offers, ignore it, delete it or block the sender. If you send them any money, you will never see it again.”

Mills advised those receiving messages like the ones she described should report it to the service provider — for instance if you are using Facebook, report it to Facebook —  as they may be able to shut down the suspect account.

Consumers can contact the Maine Attorney General’s Office with questions or concerns about these kinds of scams or other issues they have had with a business.

They are encouraged to contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at State House Station 6, Augusta, ME 04333-0006, email: [email protected] or call, toll free: 800-436-2131.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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