While most people were taught to use good manners when answering the telephone, not everyone who calls you necessarily has good intentions.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a recent spate of lottery scams and advance-fee frauds originating in Jamaica are targeting seniors and other Americans via telephone.
While the Jamaican and U.S. governments have teamed to tighten laws and combat the problem, it is important to guard against becoming the next victim.
Knowing the difference between legitimate telemarketers and scammers is crucial. Protect yourself by taking the following precautions.
• Never pay money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. Legitimate operations won’t require you to pay to collect winnings. It’s against U.S. law to play foreign lotteries. If you get a call saying you’ve won one, it’s probably a scam.
• Never wire money to anyone you don’t know.
• Ignore unsolicited calls from anyone, even charities and companies with whom you already do business. You have no way to confirm whether the caller is legitimate. Even caller ID can be faked. When in doubt, just hang up.
• Place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s fast and free. Visit DoNotCall.gov or add your number to the registry by calling (888) 382-1222 from the phone you wish to register.
• Check unfamiliar area codes before returning calls. Be aware that there are many three-digit area codes that connect callers to international telephone numbers.
• If you don’t make international calls, ask your telephone provider to block incoming and outgoing international calls.
• Never provide anyone with personal information, such as bank accounts, PIN numbers or Social Security numbers.
• Prevent criminals from accessing your money. Contact your bank, brokerages and the Social Security Administration to add a password to your accounts.
• If callers insist on speaking with you, tell them that you’ll call them directly. Don’t take a number offered by a potential fraudster. You’re safer looking up the number independently.
• Scammers often create false deadlines. If you feel pressured, hang up. You’ve spent a lifetime earning your money. You deserve time to choose how to spend it.
• Help others from falling victim to scammers by warning friends and family. If you’ve received a call, mail or email you think might be from a scammer, contact local authorities or report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) 382-4357.
“The Jamaican government is resolved to successfully combat this scourge,” said Peter Bunting, Jamaica’s minister of national security, who is collaborating with U.S. officials to stop new Jamaican lottery scams. “We have put in place both legislative and operational measures that will ensure that persons who prey on vulnerable seniors are held accountable.”
You don’t have to live in fear to avoid being a victim. By becoming informed of the latest tactics used by scammers to defraud consumers, you can protect yourself and your finances.