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Jamaican Lottery Scam Impacting Maine Seniors
Michaud secures commitment from FTC to hold Maine forum on fraud and strategies to prevent it
WASHINGTON, DC – Today in his Washington office, Congressman Mike Michaud met with Mainers concerned about the ongoing Jamaican lottery scam that is victimizing Maine seniors and others throughout New England. Michaud met with representatives of FairPoint, Major Bill King of the York County Sheriff’s Department, and a victim’s representative. They discussed the need to raise awareness of the issue and what actions the federal government could take against the fraud.
Following the meeting, Michaud reached out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the federal agency that collects complaints about companies, business practices, fraud, and identity theft. As a result, Michaud and the FTC will be hosting a forum on this fraud and what Mainers can do to avoid becoming a victim. Details of the forum, which is likely to be held early next year, will be announced when they are finalized.
“Mainer’s are being victimized by unscrupulous scammers, and it’s critical that we raise awareness of this issue,” said Michaud. “We must also make sure authorities take this seriously and do everything possible to bring this fraud to an end. I’m pleased the FTC has agreed to host a forum with me, and I encourage Mainers to spread the word on these crimes so that others don’t become victims.”
Due to its customers being affected, FairPoint has setup a website dedicated to raising awareness of these crimes. The FTC also has online resources specific to this type of fraud.
While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, complaints that are filed can help law enforcement officials detect patterns of wrong-doing and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide. Consumers can file a fraud complaint online or by phone. The FTC’s toll free hotline is 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); or 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338). The FTC has counselors fielding phone calls to receive consumer complaints and offer individual assistance from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Michaud also sent the below letter today to Attorney General Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano on the issue.
November 29, 2012
Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano;
It has been brought to my attention that a number of seniors in Maine and throughout New England have become the victims of a sophisticated phone phishing scam operating out of Jamaica. Scammers will call elderly victims claiming they have won a sweepstakes but need to pay a fee to collect the winnings. Often posing as federal agents from the FBI, Customs, or IRS, the scammers work to build victims’ trust, then use personal information to coerce them into sending large sums of money.
According to FairPoint Communications, the company that brought this scam to my attention, approximately 30,000 calls are made a day from Jamaica to the U.S. attempting to defraud Americans. As a result of these scams, U.S. citizens are defrauded out of approximately $300 million annually. Victims are harassed, threatened, and often left destitute by these schemes.
I understand the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice have established a multi-agency, international task force to combat this Jamaican based telemarketing fraud. Seniors in my district, however, continue to fall victim to these sophisticated con artists and I believe more can be done. I would encourage your Departments to use every available tool to combat and prevent these Jamaican telemarketing scams, and to bring these criminals to justice.
Member of Congress