NEW PROVIDENCE(Independent Press) -- Police are looking for additional victims of a mail lottery scam being perpetrated by individuals believed to be in Jamaica, but also using phone numbers from the Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands and Turks & Caicos. This it's not just about the money, it's about getting people to call what seems to be a number in the United State, but is actually one overseas.
The first known victim, an elderly New Providence resident received a letter in the mail notifying them of a possible sweepstakes lottery win. The recipient was instructed to send money to the suspect in order to claim the lottery prize. The victim initially sent a small amount of money to the suspect via Western Union but the victim's family found out about it and was able to prevent further attempts at transferring money.
According to police, the scam is not just about wiring money to claim a prize. The scam works in two ways, they said.
First the suspects send a letter or email claiming you have won a prize. They ask to be contacted by phone so they can have a small fee wired to them so the prize money can be transferred. They actually pick up the phone and talk to the victim advising them of how legal the action is. With this initial contact they usually succeed in having a small amount of money transferred but the victim can end up losing thousands of dollars.
The second part of the scam involves the phone number itself. The scammers usually use a phone number with an area code that appears to be a normal USA long distance phone number. In this case the phone number was listed outside of Jamaica with an area code that operates the same as a 1-900 phone number does in the US. That is, the numbers do not fall under the guidelines or authority of the FCC so the international operators have the ability to charge exorbitant per minute charges from the initial call.
Usually the victim has to listen to a pre-recorded message which makes them stay on the phone longer and incur higher call costs as a result. The costs are not even known until they show up on the victim's phone bill a month later.
Police have identified the following area codes as being used in the scam: (809) Dominican Republic; (284) British Virgin Islands; (649) Turks and Caicos; (876) Jamaica. They are advising residents if they are asked to call a phone number in any of these area codes about lottery winnings, they are being scammed.
Anyone contacted by phone or mail regarding similar lottery winnings should report the matter to their local police department and/or the US Postal Inspection Office. An online complaint can also be filed with the FCC at fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/809.html if you are billed for the international calls.
Anyone who believe they may have fallen victim to the same scam are asked to call Police Officer Michael Hand at 908-665-1111.