In 2009 alone, Americans sent over $30 million to Jamaica to claim winnings in this lottery scam. These people were scammed out of all this money.
Scam artists are making Jamaica an even larger scaming center than the previous scamming hub of Nigeria. Jamaicans speak better English and are more familiar with the American culture and way of life. This makes it easier for them to try and scam Americans. Many scammers try to be extremely polite and speak professionally.
Most of these scams are run by groups out of Montego Bay, some of the groups operate out of Kingston.
It’s still quite easy to recognize their accents. They will refer to you as “Mr. Dave” or “Mrs. Sarah” instead of by your surname which is common in Jamaica, but not in the United States. They may also tell you to “go to THE Moneygram at THE Wal-mart” instead of “go to Moneygram at Wal-mart”.
876 is the area code in Jamaica. Some will call you without blocking their number so that you can return the call. Many make these calls from their cell phones. Others have gone as far as using services like MagicJack to obtain local phone numbers through out the United States which they can make or receive calls from over the internet using a phone number in the area code of their choice. If you hear an echo or feedback chances are that you are talking to someone using MagicJack and their volume is turned up too loud.
Calling an 876 number will cause your phone carrier to charge you international calling fees which seem to be between $0.35-1.25 a minute depending on your phone carrier.
Some Jamaican numbers who have called me with this scam:
I talked to a few of the scammers. Some of the scammers I sent on wild goose chases pretending to believe them, pretending to go to MoneyGram or Western Union, and then giving them false numbers or telling them I accidentally sent it to the wrong person. If you want to mess with them be aware that MoneyGram uses a digit number as follows and Western Union uses a digit number as follows.
After messing with them several times and even telling them that I knew it was a scam and going as far as giving them advice and tips. They began asking me if I was interested in helping them to scam other Americans for a cut of the money. I asked them what this would entail and they said basically:
1) They wanted me to identify a local casino or a place where people win money, phone number, address, etc.
2) Get lists of people who frequent this area with their contact info.
3) Help them to set up a MagicJack number with a local area code and telephone number.
4) Their call center would call these people up and ask them to send a processing fee to a local person (me) with a fake identity.
5) They would set me up with a false identity.
6) People would mail, wire, and send me money using snail mail, MoneyGram and Western Union and we’d split the profits 50-50.
Of course I didn’t agree to doing this since I’d be taking all the risks for the potential of minimal gains.
Life in Jamaica is rough. There is frequent violence and crime and the majority of people outside the major resorts live below the poverty level. These organized scams have provided additional ways for Jamaicans to make money. However they have also led to violence among different groups of scammers. One group of scammers was recently murdered by a rival group to eliminate the competition.
One group identified themselves as a call center with over 50 people operating out of the Freeport area of Montego Bay in Jamaica complete with a modern office using computers, Voice-over-IP calling devices, caller id spoofing, etc. This group claims to make thousands of calls a day resulting in hundreds of people sending them thousands of dollars a day. They told me that they had convinced one 82 year old man from Florida who had been in Jamaica 3 weeks prior that he had won a cash prize and needed to pay them $15k in taxes to collect the money.
The other group identified themselves as two seventeen year old high school boys from Montego Bay running the scam on their own using their cellphones and using the computers at their local schools. They were looking to expand their group to partners within the United States and they provided me with their Instant Message contact info and MySpace page. Below is a photo of one of the Jamaican scammers taken from his MySpace page. Look how tough he looks! Yeah right!
How the scam works:
Jamaican scammer groups obtain your name, address, and phone number from mailing lists purchased by legitimate Montego Bay Casinos from various American based casinos. These Jamaican casinos either sell these lists to or have these lists stolen by scammers.
They are also able to obtain lists of people who have visited Jamaica and stayed at local resorts.
The Scammers have call centers. A caller will call you up and say that you won millions of dollars in some sort of lottery, but you need to wire a small fee to the company to cover the processing or delivery fee. They ask you to go to your local Western Union or Moneygram and send a small amount of money to a person located either in Jamaica or in the United States.
If you send them money. This request will lead to future requests for money. These scammers may later even pose as the police or FBI and say that they need you to send additional cash to aid in their investigation. Leading to additional losses in money. These scammers work in groups and teams.
These scams look for people with compulsive impulses who are often elderly. Some of these victims are like gamblers, they send money to Jamaica regardless of knowing that it might be a scam with the slim chance that they would eventually receive some money. Some have lost their entire life savings. A 72 year-old retired bookkeeper from New Jersey named Ann Mowle committed suicide in 2007 after sending more than $248,000 to Jamaica over the course of a year.
This scam has grown dramatically over the past two years. Western Union and Moneygram deserve part of the blame for this type of scam. They allow so much money to be sent to Jamaica through their network. It seems that they could do a better job of investigating fraud and be skeptical about lots of small and large transactions going to people in Jamaica. But what do they care? They their own cut of the profits!