BBB Study Uncovers New Methods Used By Scammers

Report says more and more scam attempts are originating from Jamaica.

Brett Blume
June 05, 2018 - 12:59 pm

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

Categories: 

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  The Better Business Bureau held a news conference at its downtown St. Louis office Tuesday morning to unveil a new report focused on scams and those who perpetrate them.

The report "Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams: A Better Business Bureau Study of How 'Winners' Lose Millions Through Evolving Fraud" notes that scammers bilked $117 million out of more than a half-million Americans and Canadians in 2017, alone.

"The law requires you to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money to claim the prize," says St. Louis BBB President and CEO Michelle Corey. "It's heartbreaking that these fraudsters are continually finding new ways to prey on older people who are dreaming of a big financial windfall in their finals years."

Among those who spoke during the session was Robert Hoffman, whose friend "Ted" was told he had won $60 million.

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

Instead of handing over the prize, the scammers proceeded to siphon off "Ted's" bank account over a period of several years by demanding a series of $5,000 "transfer fees," and other fraudulent add-ons.

The people who contacted "Ted" had Jamaican accents, and BBB officials said that Jamaica is indeed a rising hot-bed of fraud schemes.

Hoffman recalled speaking with a postal inspector who agreed to look into "Ted's" case.

"He said they're fighting over Ted," Hoffman said. "There actually was somebody murdered in Jamaica for the right to rip off Ted. He said they're using the money to buy drugs and guns."

"Ted" eventually lost around $8 million trying to claim his $60 million prize and now lives in a nursing home.

The BBB said hearing somebody speaking with a Jamaican accent on the other end of the line, or noting that the call came from an "876" area code -- which is the code for Jamaica -- can be considered a major red flag that you are being set up for a scam.

In fact, one of the three fronts where the BBB report recommends stronger enforcement is in Jamaica, which has seen an upswing in violence related to lottery fraud profits.

In the U.S., the study suggests that law enforcers step up extraditions and prosecutions of overseas fraudsters operating within U.S. borders.

It also suggests that more should be done globally toward holding deceptive mailing organizations accountable and putting an end to fraudulent mail.

Facebook and other social media platforms are also urged to take steps to "weed out" fake profiles that camoflage fraud attempts.

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

Tips from the Better Business Bureau include:

*  True lotteries or sweepstakes don't ask for money.

*  Call the lottery or sweeptstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) conducts sweepstakes but will not call people in advance to tell them they've won. The PCH hotline is (800) 392-4190.

*  Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at (440) 361-7962 to see if you've won.

*  Do an Internet search of the company, name or phone number of the person who contacted you.

*  Law enforcement does not call and award prizes.

Contact the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org for more information.