Better Business Bureau is warning people to beware of calls from area code (876). The area code is used by scam artists claiming to be representatives of the Jamaican lottery.
How the Scam Works:
You answer a call from a number starting with area code (876). The caller tells you that you've won the "Mega Millions" Jamaican lottery.
Don't worry about collecting your winnings from overseas, assures the "lottery official." All you need to do is pay a few thousand dollars in taxes or fees, and the jackpot is yours. The lottery will even take a prepaid debit card, easily available at your neighborhood convenience store. You load the card up with money and share the number and PIN with the "lottery official." Of course, the caller is a scam artist. Once you give him your prepaid debit card information, he will drain the account and disappear.
So many people are falling victim to the con and losing large sums of money that both the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued alerts about the scam. Some victims are even reporting being threatened with physical harm if they don't agree to pay the fees.
Tips to Protect Yourself From a Sweepstakes Scam:
Lottery and sweepstakes scams are common. Here are tips to avoid them:
• You can't win a contest you didn't enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you've been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.
• Verify -- but not by using a source scammers gave you. Check if an offer is real, but don't call the phone number in the email or website you suspect may be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved too.
• Don't pay up to claim your prize. You should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.
• Put your number on a "do not call list." In the US, join the National Do Not Call Registry and in Canada the National Do Not Call List. This won't stop scams entirely, but it can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive..
For More Information
To find out more about scams or report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper.