Eliza Martin, in Canyon County, felt all alone as she listened to the heavy accent man cursing her after she explained she had no more money to send.
“I hung up the phone in tears, knowing that I had been duped,” she told the BBB recently. “They had become so harassing, threatening and abusive that I unplugged my phone.”
When BBB called the number back, the man said that he would not do that sort of thing. He would not give his name or the lottery organization he worked for, but simply said, “I’m a good businessman.”
Mrs. Martin, not her real name, says she sent more than $1,200 to cover the insurance fee for the delivery of her lottery winnings. The promise was that once the insurance was paid in full, the delivery of a $2.5 million lottery prize would be made “tomorrow.”
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she simply thanked BBB for being there to offer support, recognized her moment of desperation, and pondered aloud how she let herself become of victim. “I just don’t someone else to be taken.”
Only days before Congressional Hearings on the matter (scheduled for March 13), U.S. postal inspectors and other officials report Florida, North East Coast, are targeted by the fraudsters due to its large senior population. But, the Federal Trade Commission reports the lottery schemes may be fleecing Americans out of as much as billion dollars annually. The commission said complaints skyrocketed from 1,867 to 29,000 between 2007 and 2012
Reports on CBS and Dan Rather Reports have drawn national attention on the increased number of calls.
Scammers tell victims that to receive their winnings they have to pay an advance fee, usually described as a tax, insurance or customs duty. The victims are instructed to send the advance fee via Western Union, Money Gram or other methods to Jamaica.
Jamaican law enforcement says telemarketing fraud makes money for local gangs for weapons smuggling into Jamaica and narcotics smuggling to the United States.
A survey conducted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found 90 percent of respondents reported awareness of consumer fraud, yet two-thirds said it was hard to spot fraud as it is happening. The survey also shows elderly victims find it difficult to end telephone conversations, even when they are not interested in continuing a conversation.
Also, the elderly may be reluctant to report the incident for fear of losing financial independence should their families discover the fraud, the survey states. Victims can feel embarrassed or frightened by the con artists and may be reluctant to talk to friends and relatives.
For Mrs. Martin, the embarrassment ends with telling her family members of the experience she has had to bear.