Feds prosecuted foreign national, but sweepstakes, lottery scams remain

wireless phone

photo wireless phone; dayontheday.com

Scams by foreign nationals have been prosecuted by the federal government only to surface again. I speak from personal experience.

Sweepstakes and lottery scams remain active. The federal government successfully prosecuted a Jamaican citizen arrested in Orlando, Florida in 2013 after investigating foreign lottery scams. Unfortunately that prosecution was a drop in the bucket.

If you know an elderly person, or anyone who is gullible when it comes to promises of freebies, please print this column and give it to him or her. If you blog, feel free to reprint it with a simple link to dayontheday.com

I am writing this column as a warning,  because these people are persistent, and the staggering cost of living we face at present in the US makes people more vulnerable.

Calls to my home began over the July 4 holiday. The calls came from cell phones and also from numbers beginning with the area code 876. That area code, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is used in the popular scam.

Some callers told me I had won a lottery. Others told me I had won the Publishers ‘Clearance’ House or ‘Clearing House’ sweepstakes. A couple of scammers called their operation the “MegaMillions” lottery. The script used by these scammers included telling me UPS would deliver my $2.5 million or my Mercedes once I gave them my address and prepaid certain fees and taxes.

At first, I did what I always do when someone calls to tell me I ‘won’ something. Told them to take me off their call list because I don’t want any prizes. That didn’t work.

These callers, however, are determined. The calls continued—my latest was yesterday—although the frequency declined.

The bait they toss you is the alleged prize that you will never receive. The switch is they want you to pay a percentage of the “taxes and fees” up front because of “the government.” One scammer told me to “go to Wal-Mart” and buy a prepaid money card to pay the upfront fees. Right.

Publishers Clearing House and the US government have attempted to inform people about these scams.

PCH does not call people to announce they’ve won:

“If someone calls you on the telephone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and says you have won, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam. Do NOT give them any personal information!  As stated above, the Prize Patrol awards all our Big Prizes in person and would never call you to update any personal information in our files.”

I personally listened to an elderly woman last year who phoned to ask me to help her get them to stop calling. I thought it was a fluke and I told her to just hang up on them. I still remember what she said. She told me, “They’re driving me crazy.” She said the people calling her wouldn’t give up and even got angry when she wouldn’t cooperate. I told her to phone her local sheriff. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to tell her.

Sad thing is many people will be fooled by these criminals. People who are suffering hard times often do things that make no sense, and if the scammers happen upon an elderly person struggling with increasing costs for medical care and costs-of-living in general, that elderly person might fall prey to some of the most despicable scammers on the planet.

Bottom line is, despite the 2013 prosecution, the lottery or sweepstakes scammers are still active.

Yesterday I decided to return a favor to the scammer. They’d wasted my time, so I decided to waste some of theirs.

I peppered him with questions at length. Asked for his business address, he said the company was in “Pan City, Florida.” He gave me a street address with a zip code of 45801. I’m not including the street address because for all I know, he may have used the address of an innocent resident. I asked him so many questions, the accent he was attempting to control finally broke. By the time I asked him if he’d ever seen someone fall off a turnip truck, he realized I wasn’t coughing up any personal info. After I convinced him I wasn’t going for his phantom prize,  he became angry and he broke into uncontrolled gibberish. He realized he’d been strung along.

A previous scammer told me their offices were in Washington, D. C.

After an extended interrogation, I didn’t let the scammer from yesterday get another word in. I told him I hope he and his fellow scammers burn in hell for the heartbreak they have brought upon innocent people.

Some will say people bring this on themselves because of greed. I would say don’t judge the victims, judge the criminals who are breaking federal—maybe even international law—and lock them up. Garnish their wages or assets for restitution to the victims.

What is the federal government doing about this which surely constitutes wire fraud and other legal violations?

The feds did prosecute the small fry in 2013, but the big sharks are still swimming. Help me get the word out about this. These people are persistent and they do not give up even when you stubbornly refuse to cooperate with them as I did. The scammers’ dogged persistence tells me there are victims  aplenty. Don’t let your loved one become a victim of this scam. Warn them about giving any personal information over the phone and remind them if something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is not true.

I’d love to know the source of the database these crooks use to make calls. I sincerely hope they’re not getting numbers from hacked tax, social security, or Obamacare Tax data the federal government holds.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/July 21, 2015)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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