Growing Number of Americans Being Bilked out of Retirement Money by Jamaican Lottery Scams
March 26, 2013
BBB Urges Caregivers to Discuss and Take Precautions 

Wallingford, CT – March 25, 2013 – Connecticut Better Business Bureau urges families and caregivers to take note of the growth of Jamaica-based lottery scams and take precautions.

Authorities say Jamaican scammers bombard the U.S. with at least 30,000 telephone calls a day in an attempt to defraud consumers, telling them they have won a lottery or car, and urging them to wire money to cover “taxes” before the winnings can be released.  

Some victims of the scams have lost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and report that if they stop paying, the scammers relentlessly bombard them with telephone calls and threaten to burn down their homes and hurt their families.   In some cases, the criminals use satellite or Internet-based street view photos of victims’ homes to frighten them into cooperating.

Officials say the perpetrators are intelligent, articulate, well-organized and technologically-savvy. A joint task force set up in 2009 by the Jamaican and U.S. governments has been unable to stop the schemes.  Complaints in the U.S about Jamaican scams continue to grow, with a conservative estimate of annual losses of more than $300 million per year.

The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging this month heard from victims, law enforcement, a fraud expert from the money-wiring company Western Union, the president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and a leading expert on fraudulent schemes affecting the elderly.

Jamaican authorities have been unable to make a dent in the sophisticated schemes, however, the island nation’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that Jamaican lawmakers say will result in a "vastly accelerated number of successful prosecutions of swindlers who have made the island a center for cross-border telemarketing fraud.”

Connecticut BBB offers the following tips to avoid losing money to these scams:

  • Beware of unsolicited calls from the Jamaican area code 876, which promise offers, deals or prizes that sound too good to be true. 
  • No legitimate lottery requires any kind of advanced fees in order to collect winnings.
  • Scammers sometimes use the names of well-known companies, such as Publishers Clearing House in an attempt to trick victims to send fees or taxes by wire service.
  • Never provide any personal or financial information to anyone who calls.

Additional consumer alerts and tips are available in the “For Consumers” at bbb.org.

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