BBB warns of international phone scam operating in Lafayette area

  
     
January 03, 2013

The Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is warning the public of numerous scam phone calls coming into the Lafayette region, including all surrounding parishes and municipalities.

 

This urgent alert comes in the wake of BBB staff receiving hundreds of phone calls on this scam over the last several weeks from alarmed Acadiana residents either reporting the scam or inquiring about the legitimacy of the calls.

 

Many of these calls originate from the 876 area code, which is in Jamaica and outside of U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction. Other calls come from domestic phone numbers, but are actually originating in Jamaica or other overseas locations.

 

The scammers are falsely informing residents that they won millions of dollars, a new Mercedes Benz and, at times, a new high-definition TV. These scammers also claim to be affiliated with Publishers Clearinghouse, UPS or a government agency at times.

 

During the call, the scammers, who often speak with foreign accents, tell the residents that they won the prizes then tell them they need to send money by either Western Union or a cash card from a national retailer in order to collect their winnings, which is waiting for them at a local airport or will be delivered by a national carrier.

 

As of January, 2013, these scammers have also begun asking for credit card or checking account numbers, opening up local residents to identity theft as well as monetary loss.

 

Of course, once the money is sent, residents never receive the prizes and money they are told they won.

 

The BBB reminds everyone that it is illegal for foreign lotteries or sweepstakes to operate within the U.S. and it is also illegal for U.S. citizens to participate in these sweepstakes or lotteries, whether or not they are real or a scam.

 

BBB offers the following advice to avoid being taken by this scam:

 

  • You must enter to win. Remember lottery tickets must be purchased and sweepstakes must be entered to win. Sweepstakes usually involve application paperwork that you have personally completed and government grants have a thorough application process as well.

 

  • Never pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you’re not winning. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.

 

  • Never wire money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.

 

  • Phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows con artists to disguise their area code so it looks like they’re calling from your local area. But they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

 

  • Never provide personal information. Scammers can be very charming and charismatic and will lure or pressure for personal information, which could be used for identity theft.

 

  • Foreign lotteries and sweepstakes are illegal. Beware of lottery applications or win announcements coming via telephone or mail from outside the country. Foreign lotteries violate federal law and participation in any way is illegal.

 

The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please contact the BBB at www.acadiana.bbb.org  or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America.

 

The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.

 

Acadiana residents can now have BBB information in the palm of their hand with the official BBB Search app, a convenient, mobile BBB solution available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app can be found at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bbb-search-find-local-businesses/id440014505?mt=8