Regulator: Jamaicans scamming seniors with fake sweepstakes prizes

Robert Romasco, the president of AARP, said the organization has done studies that show that victims of lottery fraud are more likely to be women over the age of 70 that are either divorced or widowed and have less formal education, income and more “cognitive impairment than others their age.” They are therefore more susceptible to believing the claims of strangers promising large cash winnings and luxury vehicles.

The fraud works by calling seniors – sometimes 50 to 100 times per day – Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) explained, and telling them they’ve won millions of dollars.

All the senior needs to do, the caller says, is wire money as a processing fee and they will receive their reward. Scams can go on for years and the telemarketers allegedly go to great lengths to either develop a rapport with or threaten their victims – even going so far as to find satellite images of their homes to appear close by, Collins said.

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While the ICE official detailed a relationship with the Jamaica Constabulary Force to form the Project JOLT (Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing) Task Force to crack down on these issues, testimony from a sheriff from Maine said the federal government offered no help.

“We sought assistance from the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] FBI, ICE, and the Postal Inspection Service,” Chief Deputy Bill King said. “Nobody was interested, even though we had an opportunity to conduct a proactive enforcement operation.”

“Every law enforcement officer knows that [the Drug Enforcement Administration] handles big drug cases, the FBI handles counter-terrorism, and illegal immigration is handled by ICE. Where to go for this scam is not clear,” he continued.

“One police officer I spoke with from California was told by an FBI agent that JOLT task force has been dismantled. Many other police officers share in my frustration that our federal counterparts are not devoting the needed resources to address this problem.”

The hearing, which also heard several witnesses talk about watching close family members being duped, seemed to indicate that larger federal efforts could be on the way.

“Beneath the Jamaica of the enticing ads and the tourists’ dreams lurks another Jamaica, one that brings nightmares to elderly Americans targeted by Jamaican criminals intent on swindling them out of their life savings,” Collins said. “Every day, sophisticated Jamaican con artists place an estimated 30 thousand phone calls to the United States in pursuit of their elderly victims.”