FairPoint Partners with Law Enforcement to Raise Awareness about Telephone Scam

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Seniors are Targets of Lottery Scam Originating from Area Code 876

We are committed to working with local, state and federal officials to shed light on this issue,” said Mike Reed, FairPoint Maine state president. “Our seniors do not deserve this abuse and we all must do our part to protect them.

FairPoint Communications and the York County Maine Sheriff’s Office are warning the public about a telephone scam that originates from the Jamaican area code 876.

The scam has victimized elderly residents throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, resulting in losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars. FairPoint and York County Sheriff officials have launched the “Beware: Scams from Area Code 876” campaign and are directing people to http://www.bewareof876.com for tips on preventing phone scams.

“We are committed to working with local, state and federal officials to shed light on this issue,” said Mike Reed, FairPoint Maine state president. “Our seniors do not deserve this abuse and we all must do our part to protect them.”

According to FairPoint Senior Manager of Security Larry Caruso, the specific scam works as follows:

  •     Seniors receive a call from an 876 area code, which is often mistaken for a toll-free number.
  •     Victims are congratulated for winning the Jamaican lottery or a new car and then are directed to send a fee of up to $4,000 to process the lottery winnings.
  •     Victims are told that once the fee is received, money will be wired to their bank account and the car will be delivered to their home.
  •     Many times the caller will tell the victim that a representative of the lottery is in the area and as soon as the process fee is received, someone will deliver a check to their home.
  •     A key to the scammer’s success is convincing victims to promise not to tell their family members and to make it a big surprise. If the scammers feel they have a potential victim, the calls will increase in frequency, resulting in hundreds of calls.
  •     The money is requested through a wire from Western Union, Green Dot Card or in a creative way such as putting $100 bills in each page of a magazine.

“In many cases the scammer befriends the victim, going as far as professing their love, intent to marry or even praying with them,” said Caruso. “Once a victim is scammed out of money for the first time, the scammers work to get more and more money, including access to bank accounts and credit card information.”

“Some victims feel they have no choice but to continue to send money in the hopes of recovering what they already lost. There have been cases of victims turning to home mortgages, high-interest credit cards, selling valuables and even borrowing from friends and family to pay the scammers.”

Similar cases have been reported in New Hampshire and Vermont.

FairPoint and the York County Sheriff’s Office noted that they have had many instances of victims not wanting to stop sending money to the scammers because they believe the scammer is their friend.

“These people are cruel and relentless in the way they deal with a senior. They threaten, lie and coerce, while at the same time, they act like a friend and say they are just trying to help,” said Sandra Raymond of Arundel, Maine, whose relative sent more than $140,000 to the scammers. “We have been very fortunate to have Officer Mark Dorval of the Cape Elizabeth Police Department helping us. He has taken an active role in helping us work through a very tough situation.”

In extreme cases, a scammed victim actually turns into a “go-between” for the money transaction. The new victim will be directed to send the money to someone here in the United States, a scammed victim, and that person keeps 10 percent to help offset the money they lost and rest is sent to the scammers.

In many cases, the “go between” has no idea they are doing anything wrong because they think the person they are doing business with is the only one who can help them recover the lost money.

“Unfortunately these scammers are very persistent and in some cases verbally abusive, threatening to harm victims if they do not send money,” said Major Bill King of the York County Sheriff’s Office. “Even after realizing they’ve been deceived, some elderly victims are embarrassed or afraid to tell their family, friends or law enforcement.”

“It is critical to inform our seniors about the dangers of phone scams and the 876 area code,” continued King. “FairPoint has been a key partner in our effort to educate the public and more importantly, develop a case against these scammers. They have provided invaluable support and information to a federal task force coordinated under the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Consumer Litigation.”

FairPoint works closely with victims and their families to help end this cycle of abuse, Caruso said. “Our security software signals us when there is suspicious international activity on an account, allowing us to contact customers to ensure they aren’t being victimized. Occasionally we come across a situation where we have to locate relatives and notify them of strange phone activity. We then work with the customer or their relative to add a call-intercept feature that will block inbound calls from specific area codes, block outbound international calls or even help change phone numbers.”

FairPoint created the website, http://www.bewareof876.com, which provides an informational video, directions on how to report a scam and simple tips, such as:

  •     Asking seniors if they’ve received suspicious calls
  •     Encouraging seniors to beware of calls from the 876 area code and other international numbers
  •     Adding caller ID to an elderly relative’s phone lines which will allow for the call-intercept feature that will screen calls and offer the option to reject suspicious international calls

FairPoint and the York County Sheriff’s Office have a simple message “Beware of calls from 876.”

About FairPoint Communications, Inc.
FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NasdaqCM: FRP) is a leading communications provider of high-speed Internet access, local and long-distance phone, television and other broadband services to customers in communities across 18 states. Through its fast, reliable network, FairPoint delivers affordable data and voice networking communications solutions to residential, business and wholesale customers. FairPoint delivers VantagePointSM services through its resilient IP-based network in northern New England. This state-of-the-art network provides Ethernet connections that support video conferencing, e-learning and other broadband based applications. Additional information about FairPoint products and services is available at http://www.FairPoint.com. You can also connect with FairPoint on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/myfairpoint) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/myfairpoint).

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Jeff Nevins
FairPoint Communications
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