NEVER send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap Issues Alert to Maine Residents about Drivers-Licenses.Org
04/16/2014 10:23 AM EDT

AUGUSTA - Numerous Maine residents have contacted the Secretary of State's Office regarding the website, . Residents have used this website to attempt to renew their driver's license online. After providing the website with personal information and being charged a fee, users receive information on how to renew their licenses but fail to receive a new license. This website is not associated with the Maine Secretary of State's office or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The website correctly states that it is not a government agency, nor is it associated with any government agency. However, the form of the website and the way the information is presented may create the impression that this is an official government website.

To renew your driver's license online through the State of Maine's Rapid Renewal, please enter directly into the address bar on your web browser and not into a search engine bar.

Please contact the Secretary of State's office at (207) 624-8400 should you have any further questions or concerns.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a sweepstakes telephone scam that has already cost an elderly local woman thousands of dollars.

"If she's getting the call, more people are getting this call," said LCSO Lt. Michael Murphy.

The scam started with a call to the woman informing her she had won a sweepstakes in New York.

The caller went on to make a "high pressure sales pitch," Murphy said, to convince the woman that, in order to collect, she would have to pay various fees and taxes in advance.

A legitimate sweepstakes would never ask for prepayment, Murphy said. "You don't have to pay to win," he said.

The caller instructed the woman to buy a type of prepaid card for use at websites like PayPal, Murphy said. The cards are readily available at local retailers and can be used like cash.

The woman bought the cards and, per the caller's instructions, read the card numbers to the caller.

The requests for money continued. The caller informed the woman that she would have to pay a fictitious "special tax" imposed by the state of Maine and that she would have to pay for a U.S. government stamp necessary to certify her winnings.

"In a few weeks, several thousand dollars went out," Murphy said. "They're very good at what they do."

Eventually the caller asked the woman to transfer funds, which she did.

Finally, when she attempted to initiate a "substantial transfer" at a Damariscotta bank, a bank employee contacted law enforcement.

Murphy credited the bank with helping stop the scam and said banks, in general, are growing more aware of and more likely to watch out for similar suspicious activity.

"The banks are looking out for their customers' best interests," he said.

LCSO is investigating, but in cases like this one, however, investigations rarely result in the recovery of the victim's money. "Even if we prosecute someone, the money's gone," Murphy said.

Murphy encourages anyone who receives a similar call to hang up and contact their local police department or sheriff's office.

Lottery and sweepstakes-style scams are familiar to local law enforcement, he said. The prospect of winning thousands or millions of dollars often cloud a person's judgment.

"If you didn't enter the lottery, how could you win the lottery?" Murphy said. "It all comes down to common sense."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation offers advice regarding what it calls "advance fee schemes" or "telemarketing fraud" on its website.

Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won't pressure you to make a snap decision.

Don't pay for a "free prize." If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.

If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local or federal law enforcement agencies.