THE Jamaican Government has reacted with concern to a report out of the US that a Senate Special Committee on Ageing will investigate the Jamaican lottery scam, under which hundreds of US citizens have been defrauded.
US Republican Senator Susan Collins, according to a story posted yesterday on the online version of the Kennebec Journal, said the panel plans to hold hearings on scams targeting senior citizens, including the Jamaican lottery scam that has victimised elderly person in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Collins' announcement came on the same day that the Federal Trade Commission was in Maine to hold two fora to help Maine residents avoid falling victims to scams.
Yesterday, Jamaica's junior minister of science, technology energy and mining, Julian Robinson, said the news comes as no surprise.
He said, however, that the Government was not resting on its laurels and had taken a number of steps to up the ante against the perpetrators of the lottery scam.
"It is a matter of deep concern to the Government and the Jamaican people. The Government has recognised the problem and has taken a number of initiatives, including the passing of the Evidence Act, to allow persons to give evidence remotely, as well as plan to pass the advanced legislation which covers a number of crimes related to the lotto scam, that will be done before the end of the financial year in March," Robinson told the Jamaica Observer.
The lottery scam has fleeced a number of people, mainly in the US, of more than US$300 million since it came to prominence almost a decade ago. Unsuspecting individuals are told that they have won the lottery, a car or other exorbitant prizes. But to claim it, they must pay a fee. The scammers then gain the victim's trust. Most victims are pensioners or retirees.
US authorities estimate that scammers from Jamaica are making as many as 30,000 calls a day to the United States.
Robinson said a joint select committee of the House of Representatives yesterday agreed to pass the Cyber Crimes Act.
"The act will allow the police to prosecute persons engaged in cyber criminal activities," he said.
The lottery scam has been blamed for dozens of murders in the western section of the island. Police reported this week that some scammers have relocated to eastern parishes due to increased police activities in the west.
Two murders were blamed on the scam in St Thomas last year.
Last year, the police arrested 367 persons of which 25 were charged for lotto-related offences and 74 charged for other offences, including possession of illegal firearm.
At the same time, a total of 121 vehicles, allegedly acquired with money from the scam, were seized by the police, seven of which have since been turned over to the State.
The police also confiscated $32.6 million, 731 communication devices, including computers, magic jacks, and other items, two illegal guns and lists containing 22.6 million names of potential lottery scam victims.