Police caution public about scams targeting citizens, businesses
Searsport — In recent months the Searsport Police Department has fielded calls about two different kinds of scams, both of which can potentially deprive locals and businesses of hundreds of dollars.
Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye said the first scam involved a local woman who called police last week to report she received a phone call notifying her that she had won $250,000 in a contest sponsored by a national chain of stores. The caller then instructed the woman to send in money — LaHaye said the total was just shy of $1,000 — before they would release her winnings.
The woman didn't take the bait, LaHaye said. Instead, she hung up and called police. A resulting investigation revealed the call came to the woman from a location in New York, but LaHaye said the legitimate headquarters for the contest is located in California.
Highlighting a second scam that targets small business owners, LaHaye said two local businesspeople have told police about a phone scam in which the caller claims to represent Yellow Pages Online. One of the complainants brought the issue to police three months ago, and LaHaye said the second complaint came from a different Searsport business owner last week.
In this scam, LaHaye said the business receives a recorded phone call in which they are offered a year-long premium listing package for a cost of $849.99. The call also states if the business signs up immediately they will get a $250 discount on the deal.
Both business owners did not take the offer, but about a year from the time they received the initial sales call, LaHaye said the scamming outfit either calls the business or sends a fax indicating their account is past due and offers a chance to arrive at a lesser lump sum to settle the account and avoid collections.
LaHaye said the key in this scam is to wait long enough for the business owners to question their own memories as far as what advertising deals they entered and when.
"The wife of one of those business owners actually questioned it, and thought maybe they could have done this," said LaHaye.
LaHaye said the fax includes contact information for the person who sent the fax to the businesses as well as the name and number for a collection agent.
When he called the number listed for the collection agent, LaHaye said it put him in contact with a carpenter in Alberta, Canada.
When he called the number associated with Yellow Pages Online, LaHaye said he got an unfavorable response from the man who answered the phone.
"I told him I was the police department, and he swore at me and hung up," said LaHaye.
LaHaye advised anyone who has reservations about a phone call or mailing they receive to take no action and instead call police.
"Any money coming by way of a telephone call or through the mail, literally out of the clear blue, should be cause for concern," said LaHaye.
The same could be said of bills that arrive to your home or business that you do not recall incurring, LaHaye said.