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Jamaican phone scams return to Lewis County

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A group of Jamaican lottery scammers are starting to target residents in Lewis County with a tactic that’s a little different than before.

Popular scams inform victims they have won a cash prize and need to wire a fee before collecting it, with the person on the other end of the line being more than happy to tell you where and when to send the payment. Now, because of increased enforcement against such fraud, victims are being asked to call back a hotline for further instructions, which makes spotting the scams a little easier.

Toledo resident Gary Compton said he was targeted last Wednesday by a man who said Compton had won $5,000 and needed to call a Jamaican phone number for further instructions, which Compton said he knew indicated he was talking to a thief.

"It was darn sure a scam," he said, stating he was aware certain area codes, such as those identifying a Jamaican caller, were dangerous to call back. "I don’t buy it."

Compton was told the money was ready to be delivered by UPS that same day and all he had to do was call 1-876-582-523 to learn how to collect it. This was also a red flag, said Compton, stating UPS only delivers to his area on Tuesdays and Thursdays, supporting the idea the whole phone call was a ruse.

Though Compton didn’t call the number and instead sought to report the scammers, the typical next step they ask for is to wire a few hundred dollars as a "prize fee" to a Wells Fargo account in a place, or to a person, that has no earthly business collecting such a fee. Once the fee is collected, the prize money never arrives and the scammers move on to another victim.

Scams like the one attempted on Compton stand to become fewer and fewer as the Jamaican government is taking steps to break up and prosecute the organizers of such fraud, and are even hoping to provide an opportunity for restitution to past victims. Jamaica’s parliament passed the Law Reform Act of 2013 in recent months to redefine the laws surrounding fraud and the government’s ability to go after thieves, and this new request for victims to call back for more info may be an attempt to circumvent these new regulations.

But the best defense against these schemes is to keep your wits about you, such as the way Compton was able to find holes in the phone scammer’s story. Prizes that sound too good to be true very often are, and it is a good rule of thumb that any legitimate prize company will never ask for an advance fee prior to collection.

If you or someone you know has been the target of a scam, fight back and call your local law enforcement as well as the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Commerce, who keeps a running database of who is being targeted and where. These scams usually happen to groups of people in an area, so be on the lookout if you live in Lewis County and get a strange call about cash prizes.

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