BBB Warns Of Predatory Jamaican Lottery Scams

By Steve Abel – President-BBB | March 1, 2013

With seniors in Texas falling victim to Jamaican lottery thieves at an alarming rate, the BBB urges residents to be alert for signs that friends or family members have been trapped by the notorious schemes. Victims can become so embarrassed or frightened by the scams that they may be hesitant to share information even with their closest relatives. Because of that, BBB advises area residents to watch for subtle signs that a loved one may be involved. Tip-offs may include references to a lottery or sweepstakes, unusual or increased phone activity especially area code 876, questions or talk about unusual cash transfers, or sudden, unexplained bouts of paranoia or secrecy. {{more}} Many victims have been described as lonely, easily manipulated or extremely trusting of strangers, but not necessarily mentally compromised. Law enforcement officials say the thieves can be extremely cunning and convincing. The Federal Trade Commission reports that lottery and sweepstakes scammers from Jamaica and elsewhere may be stealing more than $1 billion a year from Americans. The FTC is aware of several recent lottery or sweepstakes fraud cases that have bilked seniors and others of amounts ranging from $40,000 to as much as $5 million. The scammers use pre-paid cell phones to call Texans from Jamaica. These crooks tell their victims they have won large prizes in a foreign lottery. To claim the prize victims must pay a fee to claim their winnings. Remember if you have won a legitimate prize you never have to pay in advance. Threats and intimidation are being reported nationwide. Last month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging agreed to investigate Jamaica-based phone scams, including lottery scams. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said some residents of her state had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. BBB offers these additional tips to determine whether a friend or family member is being victimized by a lottery or sweepstakes scam: Raise the topic as part of a normal conversation. If the friend or family member is not being victimized, the conversation could serve to educate them about the issue. If they are being victimized, they might agree to share information about the scam. Be concerned about phone calls that your loved one either does not answer or dismisses with general, vague comments. Many Jamaican calls come from an 876 area code. If a friend or family member who has been financially comfortable suddenly becomes concerned about money issues, it could be a sign that he or she is a fraud victim. Be alert to persons purchasing money orders, pre-paid cards or wire transfers when they have no history of similar purchases. It may be a sign that they are dealing with a scammer. If a person admits to being victimized, ask him or her to discuss the matter with law enforcement or contact BBB 325-691-1533