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:
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