Lottery Scam Victims Send $300 Million To Jamaica Each Year

We’ve shared warnings about lottery scams before, but the industry of scammers hurts people beyond the victims and their families. In Jamaica, lottery scams are a massive industry that’s a serious concern for law enforcement. Their victims? Elderly Americans, who send along money to cover taxes or fees on the money they’ve won.

Lottery scams in Jamaica have their roots in call-center offshoring in the late ’90s. Some large customer-service operations still have call centers in that country, but what the industry did was build a large population of adults who had been trained to build a rapport with callers from the U.S. and Canada.

Criminally-minded call center alumni began to call illicitly-acquired numbers, telling the people on the other end that they had won the lottery, and only needed to send money to cover taxes and fees. You probably know the drill and how this scam works by now, but its victims don’t.

One family who shared their story with CNN said that the scammers kept on calling even after their patriarch, an 81-year-old man with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and he kept sending them money.

He shot himself one Sunday while his wife was at church, leaving a note telling his family that he hoped the $2 million would come soon and vindicate him. The calls kept coming even after he died, and his was not the only suicide linked to lottery scams from Jamaica.

While Americans send $300 million every year to scammers in Jamaica, the country’s economy mostly depends on tourism. Violence between lottery scammers has killed people who aren’t involved in the industry, and it could seriously affect the tourism industry, destroying the country’s legitimate economy.

Driven to death by phone scammers [CNN] (Warning: auto-play video)