In the original scam, originating from the 876 area code in Jamaica, callers falsely inform residents that they won millions of dollars, a new Mercedes Benz or other high-priced vehicle and, at times, a new high-definition TV.
Some calls are now also coming from numbers that appear to be from within the United States.
These scammers also claim to be affiliated with Publishers Clearinghouse, UPS or a government agency at times and informed residents they needed to send hundreds of dollars via a Green Dot MoneyPak Card or Western Union.
In a new twist of the scam, Jamaicans call residents claiming to be able to assist with loans and credit repair.
To further the scam, the scammers claim to have loan company websites, which often to not exist, and also say the fictional businesses are located within the continental U.S.
The Jamaican scammers tell consumers that in order to secure the loan, they must make up to three months payments in advance. But once the payments are made, loans are never issued to the customers.
The scammers also ask for banking information such as account and routing numbers to deposit the loan funds, which do not exist.
This opens residents to identity theft, as the Jamaicans can remove money from bank accounts without authorization.
During the call, the scammers tell the residents that they won the prizes or were approved for the loans, then tell them they need to send money by either Western Union or a cash card in order to collect their winnings or bank loan.
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.
The sweepstakes and bank loan scams are both generally outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement, as they are operating from foreign soil, requiring vigilance on the part of U.S. consumers.
BBB offers the following advice to avoid being taken by these scams:
- Be very suspicious of advance fee loan calls. Even if the loans are real, interest rates can be extremely high or the business can be an outright scam. Always do business with local companies with brick and mortar locations when possible.
- Try to avoid payday loans or other high interest loans at all costs, especially from online companies. Try to find other means to meet financial obligations, such as short-term financial help from family or friends.
- Don’t let the promise of extra cash or lower monthly payments get in the way of your good judgment about whether the cost you will pay for the loan is really worth it. (Know how much the loan will cost you at the date of pay off.)
- Be extremely cautious when giving out any personal information online such as Social Security and bank account numbers. Be alert for websites that force you to give that information before even telling you whether you qualify for a loan.
- 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.
- 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.