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Jan 04 2013

Senator Collins Warns of Telephone Scam Targeting Maine Seniors

Mainers bilked of hundreds of thousands of dollars in scam originating in Jamaica

BANGOR, Maine—U.S. Senator Susan Collins has a warning for Maine residents—beware of telephone calls that originate from the Jamaican area code “876.”

“Our parents and grandparents worked hard their entire lives and saved for retirement,” said Senator Collins during a news conference today at the Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor. “They should be enjoying their “golden years,” and they should not be being targeted by criminals who want to rob them of their hard-earned savings and investments.”

According to law enforcement and FairPoint Communications, as many as 30,000 calls are targeted to senior citizens in the United States from an “876” area code each day. This number is often mistaken for a toll-free number. Those who answer the phone are congratulated for winning the “Jamaican Lottery,” or a new car. They are directed to send a “fee” of up to $4,000 to process their winnings. The victims are told that once the processing fee is received, their winnings will be wired to their bank account or the car will be delivered to their home.

“The scammers are unscrupulous and work hard to build trust and rapport with their targets,” said Senator Collins, who was recently named the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “In fact, local law enforcement agencies report many instances where, even after the scam is discovered, seniors do not want to stop sending money because they believe the criminal is their friend. Sometimes the scammers become verbally abusive, threatening to harm their victim or their family if they do not send money. Many victims feel that they have no choice but to continue to send money in the hopes of recovering what they have already lost.”

This scam has victimized elderly residents throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It is difficult for me to think of one that is more cruel, more sophisticated, and more persistent than the Jamaican phone scam," said Senator Collins.

"We very much appreciate Senator Collins' concern and her willingness to take an active role to increase awareness about these lottery scams that are targeting our seniors," said Mike Reed, Maine state president for FairPoint. "Senator Collins position as the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging puts her in a unique and strategic position to help address this serious and growing problem."

Joining Senator Collins and FairPoint Communications at today’s news conference was Major Bill King of the York County Sheriff’s Department which has dedicated substantial time and resources to fighting this scam, and Kim Nichols of Hermon, whose 77-year-old father was targeted and robbed of nearly $80,000.

FairPoint created the website, www.bewareof876.com, with more information on this scam.

The bottom line is—if you receive a call from an “876” number—hang up… or, as Senator Collins advised, don’t answer the phone.

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