BREWER, Maine — Maine businesses are targets for criminals and scam artists just as the state’s residents are, Attorney General Steven Rowe told a group of local business owners and managers on Tuesday.

Rowe spoke to about 100 people at the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Early Bird Breakfast at the Muddy Rudder Restaurant.

“Crimes and scams against businesses are some of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation,” he said.

Rowe offered tips from the Consumer Protection Division of his office and federal agencies. He said that businesses must be as vigilant as individuals in protecting themselves from the theft of electronic data and being scammed into paying for services they never received.

The attorney general said that one recent scam involved businesses being sent fake invoices from a publishing company seeking payment for ads in business sections of phone directories. The bills included a copy of the company’s actual advertisements in local phone books, Rowe said, along with an accounts payable statement.

Small seasonal businesses are not immune from being targeted, he said. A Maine restaurant owner recently received a letter with an out-of-state address demanding a $400 payment for clothing that the writer claimed had been ruined during a mishap with a restaurant employee.

“You don’t know if it’s real or not,” Rowe said. “You have to keep your antennae up all the time.”

He also urged business owners, especially retailers, to network with each other.

“The people who are out to get the retailers meet in jail, in bars and in each other’s homes and they educate each other,” Rowe said. “We need to speak to each other about the very same issues.”

In answer to a question about coordination between law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and foreign countries where many online scams originate, the attorney general said that cooperation has improved slightly.

“We’re limited in what we can do from Maine,” he said, “and the chances of the victims getting their money back is not real great.”

Rowe’s term as attorney general will end in December. Term limits prohibit him from seeking re-election. He has said he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.