Jamaican Lottery Scam Bilking Seniors Out Of Billions: AARP Illinois Reminds Older Illinoisans and their Caregivers to Be Aware and Take Precautions

Mar 14, 2013, 13:17 ET from AARP Illinois

CHICAGO, March 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Foreign lottery frauds is one of the fastest growing, most damaging forms of financial abuse targeting older individuals. The so-called "Jamaican lottery scam" could be bilking older Americans out of as much as a $1 billion a year, according to federal estimates. AARP, who is working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to fight foreign lottery fraud, reminds older residents and their loved ones and caregivers that they must be aware of take precautions against this crime.

"Older individuals are being scammed out of their life savings by unlawful schemes like the Jamaican lottery scam. We are teaming up with the Postal Inspection Service to fight back, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones," said AARP Illinois State Director, Bob Gallo. "Don't give your financial information to callers you don't know. Don't wire or send money to anyone, anywhere who says you've won a prize. Odds are – it's a scam."

The Jamaican lottery scam – like most foreign lottery scams – works like this: you receive stacks of direct mail inviting you to play an offshore lottery; or you receive calls from mysterious phone numbers claiming you won the Jamaican lottery, but demanding you pay foreign taxes or fees in cash. But there is no lottery, there is no prize – on the other end of the line there is a just a criminal pocketing whatever money you mail or wire in. And once you fall for the scam, you will be targeted by countless other attempts. Most participants lose a few hundred dollars, but others lose their life savings.

Earlier this month, AARP teamed up with the United States Postal Service and the United States Postal Inspection Service to reach out and provide information to older residents. The Post Office has also been delivering direct-mail pieces explaining how these scams work.

Here are some basic tips on how to protect yourself, or your elderly relatives, friends and neighbors:

  • Ask them what they would do if someone contacted them about winning a prize.
  • Emphasize that they should never wire or send money to anyone who claims to have a prize for them.
  • Remind them never to give a credit card or Social Security number to someone who calls.

For more information about foreign lottery scams, go to www.deliveringtrust.com. For more information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud, visit http://www.aarp.org/protectyourfinances.

You can also call AARP Foundation's Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-646-2283.