MILLINOCKET, Maine — Police are investigating the theft of $5,000 from a local man apparently caught in a bad-check scam of some complexity, officials said Monday.
The 64-year-old man reported on April 18 that he had tried to cash a check on Feb. 18 for $30,000 sent to him by the scammers and sent $5,000 to an address provided by the thieves, per their instructions. But the check for $30,000 bounced within a few days, while the victim’s check was cashed, said Detective Jerry Cox. The man’s name is not being released because he is a victim.
In the scam, Cox said, the victim received a telephone call from a man claiming to be an FBI agent saying that he had some money coming to him by way of a check. After that call, a woman claiming to be an attorney working for the FBI called and told him that he had a $30,000 payment coming to him from the Internal Revenue Service.
The check arrived, had the name of a legitimate bank on it, and the woman said he had to send her $5,000 to cover expenses. The victim cashed the $30,000 check and mailed a $5,000 check from his own account, Cox said.
“He sent it [the $5,000 check] out to a fraudulent connection, and within the next day or so the $30,000 check came back as fraudulent,” Cox said.
Cox said he was unaware why the report came to police months after the checks were processed. A spokeswoman from the victim’s bank, Bangor Savings Bank, declined to comment Monday on the matter, citing client confidentiality.
Such scams are occasionally run in Millinocket, particularly against the elderly, and more often statewide. Cox said he knew of three within the last few years. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills during a talk given at the Bangor library in February estimated that millions of dollars are lost to scams in Maine annually.
Deputy Police Chief Janet Theriault encouraged residents who have information about this or other cons to call Cox at 723-9731. All calls will be kept confidential.
When he learned of the theft, the victim “was very shocked and taken aback. These people doing the calling know the words to pursue,” Cox said.
Cox warned residents that banks and other lending and credit institutions almost never conduct such business over the telephone. Anyone telephoned with offers of lottery winnings, estate settlements or IRS awards should hang up immediately and report the attempts to police. Residents should never give sensitive information such as credit card, social security or bank numbers over the telephone, Cox said.
Police can assist residents in verifying fraudulent telephone numbers. Fraudulent offers are also often posted as warnings on the Internet and can be accessed through search engines, Cox said.
“Be aware that anytime they start offering free money, especially from the federal government, this is how they [scam artists] operate,” Cox said. “More times than not the offer is not true, especially in cases where people are asking to send back money after the check is cashed.”