US wants to triple call centre employment in Jamaica

US wants to triple call centre employment in Jamaica

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor -- publications

Friday, June 19, 2015

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UNITED States Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno sees call centres as a growth industry for Jamaica and, as such, wants to triple employment in the sector, hopefully within a year.

That target, though, has one obstacle -- the lucrative and destructive lottery scam. However, Moreno and his Government have pumped a lot of resources into efforts to eradicate the illegal practice.

"US call centres employ nearly 10,000 Jamaicans right now, if I'm not mistaken," Moreno told the Jamaica Observer in an interview two Wednesdays ago.

"We would like to double or triple that within a year, and we've taken some measures to help smooth the road for that. One of those is the arrest and extradition of some major lotto scammers who employ the same tactics that call centres use," he said.

At least one accused lottery scammer -- 28-year-old Damion Barnett of Hendon, Norwood, in St James -- has been extradited to the United States to stand trial.

Last month, two Jamaicans -- 25-year-old Sanjay Williams of Montego Bay, and 34-year-old Fabian Winston Parkinson of Margate and Homestead in Florida, were found guilty in US courts on charges relating to lottery scamming. Parkinson was sentenced to just under five years in prison, while Williams could face up to 40 years.

Since the anti-lottery scamming law was passed in Jamaica in 2013, police have arrested more than 500 persons and seized billions of dollars in assets.

The scammers usually prey on senior citizens, mostly in the United States, a fact that Moreno pointed to in the interview.

"It's not really rich, cool Americans living in Beverly Hills, sitting by a poolside and with two Jaguars in the garage who are being ripped off," he said. "It's people who are on public assistance, people who are retired, people who have problems paying medical bills. As a matter of fact, a woman committed suicide in the west a couple of weeks ago because she lost her life's savings to these scammers."

The lottery scammers, Moreno said, have been so bold as to bring people to Jamaica to open bank accounts here.

"So we are involved in an educational campaign to demonstrate to Americans, to warn them about this," he said, adding that the campaign also informs Jamaicans that the people being ripped off are "not millionaires who have money to burn".

He said he was recently in Miami speaking to US attorneys and people from the Department of Homeland Security, postal inspectors, as well as FBI agents.

"I said 'Look, we have to find people who are willing to put their face on TV and explain to people in Jamaica that hey, I'm just a normal guy who lost my entire life's savings, I might lose my house, I might lose everything because I got ripped off. I'm not a rich guy'.

"If you put a human face on that, maybe it won't convince a real hardcore scammer, who's been doing it for years, who's got it down to a science, but maybe it'll discourage that young kid who he's trying to train... So I really think we have to make an effort on that," said Moreno.

He said that Jamaicans, by virtue of their warmth and willingness to help people, are perfect for the call centre industry.

"The way I've been received here is just marvellous and sincere and open. By nature Jamaicans are just so wonderful. I mean, who would you rather speak to, someone in some country far away who really doesn't understand you, or someone here in Jamaica who is gonna honestly try to help you out. I'd rather speak to a Jamaican person who's nice, warm, open and friendly. So I think there's tremendous potential for call centres," he said.

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