The Federal Trade Commission issued an alert on Thursday (May 11) warning consumers that fraudulent telemarketers based in Jamaica are targeting consumers in the U.S., telling them they won a sweepstake or a foreign lottery in an effort to get people to part with some of their money.
In a press release, the FTC said most of the promotions the telemarketers are cold-calling consumers in the U.S. about are fake and are aimed to get money out of the unsuspecting person. The fake telemarketers will pretend to be lawyers, customs officials or lottery representatives, telling people they’ve won vacations, cars or thousands — even millions — of dollars. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties or taxes before they can claim their prizes, the FTC said.
The government agency noted fake telemarketers are going after citizens in the U.S. because they think they won’t get caught if they target victims in different countries.
“They assume that their country’s law enforcement officials aren’t interested in building a case when the victims are in another country. They also believe that officials in the victims’ country won’t have the authority to investigate fraud calls from outside their borders. But U.S. authorities say these assumptions are dead wrong,” the FTC wrote.
That’s because partnerships among law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Jamaica are making it tougher for cross-border scam artists to scam people. The organizations are cooperating in an initiative called Project JOLT (Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing), sharing information, investigators and other resources; gathering consumer complaint information and contributing to the legwork involved in building a case, including surveillance and interviewing victims. As a result, fraudulent telemarketing operations in Jamaica are being exposed and shut down, the FTC said.
So if a telemarketer informs you that you won a prize but requires upfront payment for shipping, taxes, customs or other fees, it’s likely a scam. Also, unsolicited calls alerting you that you won something is also likely a scam, the FTC said.