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Maine warns about pandemic relief check scams

Maine’s top law enforcement official is warning about internet scams targeting recipients of the state’s pandemic relief checks.

In an advisory, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said his office has become aware that scammers claiming to be the “Maine IRS” have been targeting residents and requesting personal information such as Social Security numbers and maiden names, claiming it was needed to process $850 relief checks authorized by Gov. Janet Mills and state lawmakers.

“Maine Revenue Services already has all the information it needs to issue these relief checks, so no one should need to share any information to collect this check,” Frey said in a statement. “As always, do not share any identifying information with anyone demanding such information over the phone without independently confirming their identity.”

Eligibility for the $850 relief checks is based upon the 2021 Maine individual income tax return, Frey said. The checks will be mailed by the U.S. Postal Service to address’ residents listed on their 2021 individual income tax return and will be redirected to any forwarding addresses, Frey’s office said

A $1.2 billion supplemental budget signed by Mills calls for spending more than $722 million in state surplus funds to provide one-time relief checks to more than 850,000 residents.

The Mills administration said it plans to mail out the first round of relief checks by June and other batches of payments on a “rolling basis” over the next several months.

Funding for the relief checks comes from surplus revenues backed by the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which diverted billions of dollars in federal aid to the state.

Like many states, Maine has also tapped into a windfall of federal funds to provide hiring bonuses or “hazard pay” for workers who toiled during the pandemic.

Last year, the state mailed out $285 one-time relief checks to 524,754 “essential” workers who remained on the job during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

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