March 1, 2002

MARCH 1, 2002

CONTACT: CHARLES DOW, Director, Communications And Legislative Affairs 207-626-8577

Attorney General Steven Rowe issued a warning today to all Maine residents concerning a sweepstakes scam purporting to be from Canada that is becoming more and more prevalent in Maine. "Many Maine residents have complained to my office, reporting that they have received calls from Canada that informing them that they have won a Canadian sweepstakes," said Attorney General Rowe. "The caller typically states that the money will be shipped immediately upon payment of a several hundred dollar processing fee. These calls are scams."

The callers give various reasons why the so-called "winners" must first pay money in order to receive the sweepstakes bonanza. They state that the fees are necessary to pay Canadian taxes, or are required due to the difference in exchange rates between the United States and Canada, or are necessary to pay bank expenses, etc. Such explanations are part of the scam and are all bogus.

In fact, it is a violation of both Maine civil and criminal law to call Maine residents and tell them they have won a prize but that in order to get the prize they must first pay money up front. The AG's Office is hopeful that public awareness of the scam will avoid consumer losses and the need to file lawsuits.

When members of the Attorney General's office hear about these solicitations, they immediately attempt to contact the Maine resident and warn against sending any money to the scammers. The office tries to respond as quickly as possible because the callers are very persuasive and make it seem that if the Maine resident does not immediately forward them the money then the sweepstakes winnings will be given to someone else. "Unfortunately," said Attorney General Rowe, "we were not able to immediately get in touch with one consumer who thought she had just won a Canadian sweepstakes. When we finally got in touch with her, she had already sent — and lost — several thousand dollars."

The Attorney General stated that this scam is becoming very widespread and offered the following advice: Never send money to another country because someone tells you that you have won a sweepstakes.