HOULTON, Maine — The Police Department is warning residents to be wary of two new scams that have surfaced in the area.
Police Chief Butch Asselin said Friday that one of the scams tells recipients they have won a great deal of money if they send money to a company in order to collect it, and the other involves the sale of puppies that never actually arrive once they are purchased.
According to Asselin, two residents of southern Aroostook County recently received letters purportedly from Maple Leaf Lottery Corp. out of Richmond, British Columbia. The chief said a check in the amount of $4,250 is included with the letter, which states that the recipient has won $520,000. The money reportedly is being held at the Canadian Payment Center. The company tells the recipient it is submitting all the necessary paperwork so the “winner” can receive a certified check from the affiliate bank, which is not named in the letter.
Asselin added that the letter states that funds have been sent to the Canada Tax Revenue Office. In order to receive the winnings, however, a cashier’s check in the amount of $4,250 must be sent to the Canada Tax Revenue Office. Since a check for $4,250 is enclosed in the letter, recipients are told that the amount of the check will be deducted from their total winnings. The letter lists the name of an individual to assist with the necessary procedures to claim winnings. Those who receive letters are asked not to tell anyone they have won the cash until the claim has been processed and the funds sent. A claim form also is included with the letter as well as a fax number so that the “winners” can send along the completed form.
Asselin said that one check is drawn from the First Commercial Bank in Los Angeles, Calif., even though the bank does not have a branch in that city. The other check is drawn from Fleet National Bank in East Hartford, Conn. The bank has no branch in East Hartford.
Asselin said that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been contacted. The chief said there are no private lottery companies in Canada and that the address listed for the Maple Leaf Lottery Corp. on the letter is bogus.
The other scam involves a classified listing placed in the Houlton Pioneer Times. In the Sept. 24 edition of the paper, someone advertises teacup Yorkie puppies for adoption. The person includes a hotmail.com address for inquiries. When residents e-mail the owner of the puppies, however, the owner says he lives in Nigeria. Asselin said that the owner e-mails a “very cute” picture of one of the Yorkies and requests $350 for help in shipping the puppies to the U.S., adding that the puppies should arrive in two to three days.
“First of all, whenever you see something with the word “Nigeria” in it, red flags should automatically go up,” said Asselin.
He added that the seller subsequently informs those that send the money that the $350 is never received. In the end, the buyer does not receive the dog and is not refunded any of the money.
The two latest scams come on the heels of a scheme that bilked a 90-year-old Houlton woman out of $6,000. In that case, the perpetrator, who was involved in similar scams across the nation, was captured and is facing prosecution on multiple charges. The victim has yet to receive her money back.
Asselin said the department will be providing links and listing scams that are surfacing in the area on its Web site, www.houltonpolice.com.