Franchot Releases FY 10 Closeout Numbers

-Urges caution and fiscal restraint in light of historic negative growth-

Annapolis, MD (September 1, 2010) – Emphasizing the need for fiscal caution during these turbulent economic times, Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office today released the final closeout numbers for Fiscal Year 2010. General fund revenues totaled nearly $12.6 billion in the fiscal year, which was $183.7 million above the official state forecast. Reflecting the ongoing impact of the national recession, the state’s baseline revenue collections declined by 3.7%, the third worst performance in more than 40 years.

After final transfers and revenues were counted, the State of Maryland closed the fiscal year with a fund balance of $344 million. By law, this money will be returned to the state’s Revenue Stabilization Account (Rainy Day Fund).

“These final numbers confirm that while Maryland is better positioned for long-term recovery than many other states, we are by no means insulated from the effects of our nation’s recession,” said Comptroller Franchot. “While I am obviously pleased that the State has managed to outperform our conservative forecasts, it is important that we put these numbers into their proper context. We have just finished a year with negative revenue growth of 3.7%, one of the worst performances in recent generations.

Furthermore, the nation’s economic climate remains highly volatile, with obvious evidence to suggest that our anticipated recovery has lost momentum. Home sales have plummeted to historic lows, unemployment and underemployment remain at historic highs, and consumer confidence is shaky at best. As we move forward, we need to manage taxpayer dollars more carefully and efficiently than ever before. At a time when families and businesses are reexamining their spending habits and finding ways to do more with less, the State of Maryland will be required to do the same in order to maintain a fiscally sustainable course in the challenging times that lie ahead.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Contact: Joe Shapiro, 410-260-7305, office
443-871-2244, cell

Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week Kicks Off Today!

-Consumers Get a Break on 6% Sales Tax For Qualifying Clothing, Footwear-

Annapolis, MD. (August 8, 2010) – Just in time for back-to-school shopping, Comptroller Peter Franchot today kicked off Shop Maryland, the state’s tax-free week. Starting today and running through next Saturday, Marylanders who purchase clothing and shoes costing $100 or less will be spared the states 6 percent sales tax.

Resulting from legislation passed in the 2007 special session of the Maryland General Assembly, a tax-free week will now occur every year during the second week in August, until the legislature decides to revisit the issue.

“This legislation was passed in an effort to help consumers and give a boost to retailers. While the state will take a slight tax hit, Marylanders have been devastated by the national recession and deserve this break as they prepare to send their kids back to school,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Each qualifying article of clothing or footwear selling for $100 or less is exempt from sales tax, regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time. For example, two $60 sweaters purchased at the same time are both exempt even though the total of the purchase is greater than $100.

“In these tough economic times, Tax-Free Week will provide some help to families as they shop for back-to-school clothes,” said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “In addition this year, some Maryland merchants may also be willing to pay the sales tax on behalf of customers on products not covered by Shop Maryland. We hope that many, many consumers will take advantage of this opportunity and shop at Maryland’s merchants.”

Unlike previous tax-free periods, businesses selling other items not eligible for inclusion in the tax-free week can participate in Shop Maryland. Under regulations dubbed “Sellers Privilege,” other merchandise besides apparel can be sold tax free but with the retailer paying the sales tax.

During the last week-long tax-free period held in 2001, Maryland saw a 5 percent decrease in sales and use tax collection. While the state lost approximately $5.1 million in revenue, retailers saw close to a 10 percent increase in sales. The state also held a shorter tax-free period in 2006. Analyst project this year’s tax-free week will result in a $19 million dollar loss in tax revenue.

For more information visit the Comptroller of Maryland’s Web site, www.marylandtaxes.com, e-mail shopmaryland@comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980, toll-free, 1-800-MD-TAXES.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lisa Lester (410) 858-7868, cell

Franchot Sends Unexpected Checks to Thousands of Marylanders

Comptroller Delivers More Than $1 million to Working Families

Annapolis, MD (July 16, 2010) – As Maryland takes steps to recover from this historic economic recession, Comptroller Peter Franchot today provided a boost for thousands of taxpayers in announcing that his office recently mailed refund checks to taxpayers who qualified for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) but did not claim it on their 2008 tax returns. In total, the Comptroller’s Office sent out 2,397 checks totaling $1,098,231.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is the most effective anti-poverty tool that we have and I am firmly committed to ensuring that every qualifying Marylander takes advantage of it,” said Comptroller Franchot.

The Comptroller asked the IRS to send his office a record of those individuals and families who received the federal EITC credit but did not claim it on their state return. The Comptroller’s Office reviewed each of the 4,914 returns identified by the IRS and determined if and how much of a credit was due each identified taxpayer. Those eligible for the refundable portion of the EITC were then sent checks.

For tax year 2008, the Comptroller’s Office processed over 2 million personal income tax returns with nearly 256,000 accounts claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, an amount exceeding $125 million. However, many Marylanders still did not know to take advantage of this program.

“Taxpayers receiving this unexpected refund did not have to fill out any additional paperwork,” continued Comptroller Franchot. “This is money going directly to those who earned it and whose lives will be improved thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

For more information on the Earned Income Tax Credit, please go to the Comptroller’s Web site at www.marylandtaxes.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937).

MEDIA CONTACT: Caron Brace, 410-260-7438 (office), 410-212-9414 (cell)

Comptroller Recognized for Efforts in Financial Literacy

-Receives Award from Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy, Council on Economic Education-

Annapolis, Md. (June 24, 2010) – Noting Comptroller Peter Franchot’s outstanding commitment and contributions to financial literacy in Maryland’s public schools, the Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy and Maryland Council on Economic Education presented him with a certificate of appreciation Wednesday. The award was given at a financial education summit for 200 teachers sponsored by the two groups.

“Comptroller Franchot is a friend of personal finance and financial literacy,” said Dr. Allen Cox, head of Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy.

Comptroller Franchot believes all high school students should be required to take a financial literacy course prior to graduation. Currently, only three counties (Talbot, Allegany and Carroll) require a standalone course in personal finance for all students.

“We made great progress on this issue last session, got a bill through the Senate calling for a mandated course in all high schools and formed a huge statewide coalition of teachers, parents, students, private businesses and non-profit advocacy groups,” said Comptroller Franchot. “I will continue to fight for the important passage of this bill.”

Maryland State School Superintendent Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick says Comptroller Franchot’s leadership in financial literacy is “wonderful and refreshing.”

Since taking office in 2007, Comptroller Franchot has traveled across Maryland visiting schools and meeting with educators and students to discuss the need for financial literacy.

MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Feldmann at 410-260-6346

Comptroller Wraps Up Statewide Listening Tour

-Stops in all 24 Maryland Jurisdictions Provide Valuable Feedback-

Annapolis, Md. (June 23, 2010) –Comptroller Peter Franchot concluded his statewide economic listening tour Tuesday in Carroll County after making stops in all 23 counties and Baltimore City to hear directly from business leaders, government officials and private citizens about current economic conditions.

“Through this tour, I was able to hear from Marylanders from every sector,” said Comptroller Franchot. “The feedback across the board was both pragmatic and practical, which confirms my belief that governments at all levels should reach out and be as inclusive as possible. There is a lot we can learn from our citizens and from our diverse and dynamic private sector as we continue to climb our way out of this historic economic recession.”

Since early May, Comptroller Franchot has met with representatives from vital Maryland industries including agriculture, labor, life sciences, information technology, health care, mining, wineries, real estate, banking, military contracting and hospitality. Additionally, he heard from senior citizens, students, clergy, small business owners and municipal government leaders.

While listening was the main focus, Franchot had a brief message that was consistent at each stop: develop a stronger partnership between government and business communities, end partisanship contention, reform state spending, avoid the introduction of new taxes, and emphasis on financial literacy.

Since taking office in 2007, Franchot has fostered a stronger working relationship between the Comptroller’s Office and the business community. Along with creating the Comptroller’s Business Advisory Council to meet quarterly, he also established the first Economic Advisory Panel, consisting of business leaders across the state, to advise the Board of Revenue Estimates on economic conditions. The listening tour was another step toward embracing all Marylanders in the state’s economic recovery.

MEDIA CONTACT: Caron Brace, 410-260-7438 (office), 410-212-9414 (cell)

Dozens Discover Unclaimed Money at African American Heritage Festival

Visitors Find More Than $12,000 at the Annual Event

Annapolis, Md. (June 22, 2010) – Nearly 30 people found more than $12,000 in unclaimed funds at Comptroller Peter Franchot’s booth at this years African American Heritage Festival. Comptroller employees participated in the festival this year as part of a statewide initiative to help reunite Marylanders with money they are owed.

“In these tough economic times, it is our duty and our pleasure to return unclaimed property to its rightful owners,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Everyday, we work vigorously to locate the owners of the unclaimed property and to make sure they get what they are owed. This is just one of the ways we strive to serve the people of Maryland.”

This year, 309 fair attendees searched for unclaimed property, with 28 discovering they had money in their name. One individual found $2,163 with the help of Comptroller Franchot’s staff. In total festival goers were reunited with $12,067 in unclaimed funds.

Financial institutions, utilities, insurance companies and other corporations are required to report to the Comptroller any bank accounts, security deposits, wages, insurance benefits and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been unclaimed after three years.

In addition to his booth at the festival, the Comptroller searches for owners of unclaimed funds by advertising in local newspapers and matching files with IRS and the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles.

Staff of the Comptroller’s unclaimed property unit will be at the Allegany County Fair from July 19-24. The Comptroller encourages everyone to log onto his Web site, www.marylandtaxes.com, to search the agency’s records for unclaimed funds, or call the office at 410-767-1700 in Central Maryland, or toll-free 1-800-782-7383 from elsewhere.

Contact: Lisa Lester (410) 260-7210, office (410) 858-7868, cell

Comptroller Franchot To Get Real-time Fiscal Conditions in Statewide Listening Tour

-To Talk with Businesses, Local Government, Citizens About Regional Financial Issues -

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 6, 2010) -Comptroller Peter Franchot will launch a statewide economic listening tour Tuesday with stops in all 23 counties and Baltimore City designed to hear directly from business leaders, government officials and private citizens about economic conditions.

“Too often, as state officials, we fail to really ask residents what is happening in their corner markets, in local government offices and at hometown churches,” said Comptroller Franchot. “This listening tour will allow Marylanders from all walks of life to tell me the conditions of their communities and share ideas for ways to improve our state,” he added.

During the initiative, Comptroller Franchot will meet with representatives from key Maryland industries including agriculture, labor, life sciences, information technology, health care, mining, wineries, real estate, banking, military contracting and hospitality. Additionally, he will talk with senior citizens, students, clergy, small business owners, municipal government leaders, and watermen.

Since taking office in 2007, Franchot has fostered a stronger working relationship between the Comptroller’s Office and the business community. Along with creating the Comptroller’s Business Advisory Council to meet with him quarterly, he also established the first Economic Advisory Panel, consisting of business leaders across the state, to advise the Board of Revenue Estimates on economic conditions that will affect revenue performance in the near-term future. The listening tour is another step in involving all Marylanders in the state’s economic recovery.

Franchot’s tour begins in Prince George’s County on May 11 and runs until the end of the month.

CONTACT: Christine Feldmann, 410-260-6346

Cha-Ching! $42 Million Up for Grabs in 2010 Unclaimed Property Supplement

144-page Insert Featured in 30 Newspapers Starting Tomorrow

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 26, 2010) Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that his office will issue a 144-page advertising supplement over the next three weeks to find 60,000 recently-identified owners of more than $42 million in unclaimed funds. The supplement will appear in 30 newspapers throughout the state, beginning tomorrow and running through Wednesday, May 12.

“Our number one job at the Comptroller’s Office is to serve the people,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Part of that service is to connect people with unclaimed funds so they get what they are owed.”

Financial institutions, utilities, insurance companies and other corporations are required to report to the Comptroller any bank accounts, security deposits, wages, insurances benefits and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been unclaimed after three years. Funds remain the property of the owners or their legitimate heirs and can be claimed anytime. There is no statue of limitations.

Comptroller Franchot urges anyone who finds their name in the ad to contact his office at 410-767-1700, in Central Maryland, or toll-free at 1-800-782-7383, to find out how to make a claim. The Comptroller also noted that anyone can check the agency’s complete unclaimed property records for free, online, at either www.marylandtaxes.com or www.missingmoney.com. The agency has records on approximately 800,000 accounts worth more than $900 million.

In addition, numerous property items held by the agency that remain unclaimed are now eligible for auction on eBay. Since this program began in July 2006, nearly 3,300 items have been sold, totaling more than $820,000. These items can be viewed and bid on by clicking the eBay icon at www.marylandtaxes.com.

Along with newspaper advertising, the Comptroller’s Office also searches for owners of unclaimed funds by matching files with Internal Revenue Service and state Motor Vehicle Administration records and setting up computers at the Maryland State Fair and other events to allow people to check the agency’s files of unclaimed funds.

In fiscal year 2009, which ended on June 30, 2009, the Comptroller’s Office honored nearly 43,000 claims totaling more than $42 million.

UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ADVERTISING SCHEDULE FOR SPRING 2010

Central Maryland
Baltimore Sun, April 28 & 29
Baltimore Sun, Howard Co.,April 30
Carroll County Times, May 4
The Aegis, April 30
The Capital, April 27
Maryland Gazette, April 28

Capital Region
The Sentinel, Prince George’s County, April 28, May 5 & 12
The Gazette, Montgomery County, April 28, May 5 &12
The Sentinel, Montgomery County,April 29
The Gazette, Prince George’s County, April 29, May 6 & 13
Frederick News Post, May 4

Eastern Shore
The Times Record, May 5
Bay Times, May 5
Kent County News, May 6
Record Observer, May 6
Dorchester Star, April 30
Star Democrat, April 29
Cecil Whig, April 30
Wicomico Weekly, April 28, May 5 & 12
The Daily Times, Worcester, April 28, May 5 &12
The Daily Times, Wicomico, April 28, May 5 &12
The Daily Times, Somerset, April 28, May 5 &12
The Ocean Pines Independent, April 28, May 5 &12

Western Maryland
The Republican, May 6
The Herald – Mail, May 4
Cumberland News Times, April 28

Southern Maryland
Calvert Recorder, May 12
Maryland Independent, Charles County, May 12
The Enterprise, St. Mary’s County, May 12

CONTACT: Lisa Lester 410-260-7210 (office), 410-858-7868 (cell)

Franchot Applauds General Assembly for Support and Hard Work

Important progress for state’s wine industry, consumer protection and tax enforcement highlight Comptroller’s productive and successful session

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 13, 2010) – Citing the passage of historic legislation that will help foster growth in the state’s burgeoning wine industry, new regulations to aid in the enforcement of tobacco tax laws, legislation to protect consumers from predatory refund anticipation loans and an innovative law to help crack down on delinquent child support payments, Comptroller Peter Franchot today thanked the members of the Maryland General Assembly for their support during the 2010 legislative session. He also expressed particular appreciation for the General Assembly’s commitment to provide his agency with the resources and budget it needs to continue to be a national leader when it comes to tax collection and providing efficient and effective services to the taxpayers of Maryland.

“At a time when the state of Maryland is facing extraordinary fiscal and economic challenges, the Comptroller’s Office must have the tools to reward those taxpayers that are dutifully paying their taxes on time, and identify and collect from those who are not. By supporting our budget request and passing legislation to ensure efficient regulation of all tobacco products, the General Assembly has once again proved to be a supportive partner in our efforts,” said Comptroller Franchot.

“I applaud the General Assembly for passing numerous bills that provide important consumer protection as well as bills that will help strengthen Maryland’s future economic development in growing industries such as our wineries and technology companies.”

As the state’s regulator of alcohol products and as the chief fiscal officer of Maryland, the Comptroller has been a strong advocate of the state’s blossoming wine industry. Senate Bill 858, sponsored by Senator Joan Carter Conway, provides a statewide framework for wineries to market and sell their products more effectively, which in turn will allow them to expand and create new jobs. For the first time, Maryland wineries will be able to host events and create a more memorable consumer experience, thus attracting more repeat customers and more tourists to Maryland.

“I salute all the members of the beverage industry that came together to craft a workable and meaningful piece of legislation that will truly make a difference for Maryland’s wineries,” said Comptroller Franchot, who commended both Senator Conway and Del. Mary Ann Love, who sponsored the cross-filed House Bill 921, for their leadership. “I am proud to have been a part of a collaborative effort that will create new jobs, economic activity and tourist destinations in our State.”

House Bill 88 is the Comptroller’s departmental bill that creates a licensure structure for Other Tobacco Products (OTP) in order to provide effective regulatory oversight and make collection of taxes even more effective and efficient. Included in the definition of OTP are tobacco products other than cigarettes, including chewing tobacco, snuff, and cigars. This new system will provide improved tobacco tax collection and efficiencies by making wholesalers the focal point of taxation. The state’s wholesalers will pay the tax on the product and proving monthly tax returns as they currently do for cigarettes. This streamlined process will allow for more focused oversight and is expected to help increase the revenue from OTP tax collections.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our tax compliance efforts and ensure everyone is paying their fair share,” said Comptroller Franchot. “We have a strong partnership with the state’s tobacco wholesalers and we are confident this will continue in the area of OTP. This legislation also frees nearly all of the state’s retailers from having to file quarterly OTP reports and will help make there lives easier as they work to keep their businesses afloat during this recession.”

The Comptroller was very pleased with the overwhelming support for House Bill 963, sponsored by Delegate Galen Clagett. The bill allows the Comptroller’s Office to regularly cross check its Unclaimed Property accounts with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) file of delinquent child support payers. If matches are found, the Comptroller’s Office will direct those funds directly to DHR, who will then make sure they get to the children and the families who are owed the money. Last year, spurred by Delegate Clagett’s bill, the Comptroller’s Office ran a test match through its system and uncovered 1,700 delinquent parents who, in total, owed their families more than $670,000. This mini-pilot program illustrated both the potential of this idea and the need for enabling legislation.

“This is a bill that will provide critical and overdue financial support for families throughout our State, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these difficult times, and I am personally grateful to Delegate Clagett for his leadership and persistence in fighting for its passage,” said Comptroller Franchot. “As we demonstrated last year, we have the technology to run these matches. My agency runs delinquent taxpayers through multiple databases on a regular basis and it only makes sense that we do the same with delinquent child support payments.

This is a perfect example of how our new, state-of-the-art technology, coupled with our investments in human capital, will help improve the daily lives for many Maryland families.”

The Comptroller also strongly supports the consumer protection provided by House Bill 1206, which was sponsored by Delegate Bill Frick. HB 1206 will reinforce the efforts of the Comptroller’s Office to educate Marylanders on the financial perils of participation in a Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) program. While promising to get consumers their money quickly, these loans come with hidden fees, incredibly high interest rates and potentially devastating penalties.

This new legislation is a major step forward by requiring those who sell these products to prominently disclose the terms, conditions, fees and attendant risks of the RALs. Furthermore, the legislation requires the sellers to inform potential borrowers of sensible alternatives – such as direct deposit of tax refunds – while reminding them that their anticipated tax refund will typically arrive in just a matter of days.

“We must do all we can to prevent Marylanders from entering into short-sighted commitments that could have devastating effects on their long-term financial well-being,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Particularly in these trying times, people are more apt to gravitate towards programs that offer them quick cash. The truth is, not only are these RALs not that much faster, if not slower, than getting your state refund, the costs are so high that they end up costing the consumer in the long run. This was an important piece of consumer protection and I applaud Delegate Frick and the co-sponsors of House Bill 1206 for their leadership, and the entire General Assembly for passing this legislation.”

One area where there is still room for improvement next session is the movement to ensure that financial literacy is taught and tested in Maryland high schools. Despite encouraging signs of support among lawmakers from both parties, the effort to pass statewide financial literacy legislation ultimately fell short this year. An amended version of Senate Bill 264 – which was co-sponsored by Senators Anthony Muse, Kathy Klausmeier, Rich Colburn, David Harrington and Mike Lenett – passed the Senate but was not voted upon by the House Ways and Means Committee prior to the end of session. Similarly, two House bills that were identical to SB 264 received hearings but were not voted upon in the Ways and Means Committee.

Comptroller Franchot expressed disappointment over the bill’s fate but lauded the statewide coalition of students, teachers, parents and civic leaders that came together in support of this vital effort. He also thanked the Senate for its support of SB 264 and voiced optimism over the bill’s prospects next year. “The ongoing effects of our nation’s economic crisis, which has devastated so many Maryland families in recent years, is yet another reminder of the urgent need for mandatory financial literacy training in Maryland’s public schools,” said Comptroller Franchot.

“The fact remains that far too many Marylanders lack an understanding of the fundamental principles of personal finance, which in too many cases has led to a loss of homes, credit ratings and financial security. Since the stakes are so high, I am grateful to the statewide coalition of supporters that gave their time and voice to this vital education reform initiative, the sponsors of financial literacy bills in the House, and to Senate for recognizing that something must be done now.

“Given that Maryland is falling further behind many other states that have already adopted graduation requirements in financial literacy, I look forward to joining our bipartisan coalition of supporters and lawmakers in support of a statewide graduation requirement in 2011.”Overall, the Comptroller felt this was a successful session that saw many important issues addressed. He looked forward to continuing his work with the Governor and the General Assembly to keep Maryland moving forward on a sound financial footing as the year moves forward.

“The nation’s economic crisis has obviously taken its toll on our state’s finances, just as it has affected households and businesses throughout Maryland,” he said. “I look forward to working in partnership with our state’s leaders to address our long-term budget deficit in a fiscally responsible manner, one which will maintain a strong business climate without placing an undue burden on Maryland families.”

Additional bills the Comptroller supported this session are listed below. For more information, please visit the Comptroller’s Web site at www.marylandtaxes.com.

  • Senate Bill 1 – Military retirement Income
  • Senate Bill 2 – Task Force on Minority Business Enterprise Program and Equity Investment Capital
  • Senate Bill 64- Maryland Research and Development Tax Credit Sunset Extension
  • Senate Bill 65- Maryland Veterans Trust Fund- Income Tax Checkoff
  • Senate Bill 636 – Mental Hygiene Administration – Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center – Continued Operation
  • Senate Bill 1081- Rebate Programs for Retail Sales- Collection of Sales and Use Tax
  • House Bill 241 – Income Tax – Net Operating Loss Deductions – Loss from Criminal Fraud or Embezzlement
  • House Bill 464- Maryland Clean Energy Incentive Act
  • House Bill 1025- Baltimore City- Sale of Motor Fuel for Dirt Bikes Prohibition
  • House Bill 1325- State and Local Government Procurement- Banking and Financial Services
  • House Bill 1558- Commercial Law – Sales of Unpackaged Cigarettes Prohibition

Contact: Joe Shapiro, 410-260-7305 (office), 443-871-2244 (cell)

Comptroller Warning: Scam Artist Faking State Checks to Lure Victims

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 9, 2010) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has issued a warning to Marylanders of scams involving fraudulent checks that appear to be issued by the State of Maryland.

“We want to assure every Marylander that the State is not and will never be involved in any secret-shopper program. These checks are fraudulent and should be reported to the authorities,” said Comptroller Franchot. “I understand it is exciting to receive an unexpected check in the mail. However, depositing these checks will result in more debt, as the account holder will be responsible for covering the check once it bounces. So we urge Marylanders not to take the bait.”

The scammers mail the potential victim a fraudulent Maryland state check that appear to be signed by Comptroller Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp along with a letter from a fake company, in this case with an Annapolis address. The letter says the victim has been selected to conduct a secret shopping assignment.

The potential victim is directed to deposit the fraudulent check into their bank account and then to immediately wire a portion of the check proceeds to the scammers using Western Union or Money Gram. Please Note – the check will be returned as uncollected because it is counterfeit, and any money wired to the scammers cannot be retrieved.

Anyone with any questions or concerns should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline number at (410) 528-8662 or toll-free (888) 743-0023 or the State Comptroller’s Office at (410) 260-7801.

Contact: Joe Shapiro, (410) 260-7305, office; (443) 871-2244, cell