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Jamaican Scam Artists Target Elderly to Pay “Taxes” on Phony Lottery Winnings

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking warns District residents of telephone scams, many originating in Jamaica, aimed at gouging the elderly for as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars in what the scam artists claim are taxes on phony lottery prizes.

The Federal Trade Commission reported 30,000 complaints about Jamaican lottery scams last year, as hucksters on the Caribbean island increasingly target elderly Americans, claiming to be lottery officials and saying their victims have won prizes but need to pay taxes in advance to get the prizes. Or they make threatening calls to victims, claiming to be American IRS agents demanding taxes on the supposed winnings.

And the number of complaints may be almost twice as high, the Federal Trade Commission estimates, since many scams go unreported because victims are ashamed.

So far, the District’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking hasn’t had any complaints.

“But you can be sure the scammers are targeting people in a relatively affluent area like the District,” said Stephen M. Perry, the associate commissioner in charge of the department’s Enforcement and Consumer Protection Bureau. “So we warn people to be extra-careful about someone calling and saying you won a lottery you didn’t enter. And please be sure to report these calls to us.”

To report any financial scam, email the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at [email protected]; go to disb.dc.gov/service/file-complaint-or-report-fraud; or call (202) 727-7108.