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Financial Crimes

86-year-old Hall County resident defrauded out of approximately $200,000 warns the public about telemarketing fraud

ATLANTA - An 86-year-old Hall County resident who was defrauded out of approximately $200,000 in various telemarketing fraud schemes spoke out today at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters office.

Lois Morrow and her daughter Beverly Gillespie recounted how telemarketing fraudsters in Jamaica deceived Morrow into believing that she had won a $2.5 million lottery jackpot.

In November 2007, Morrow received a letter faxed from Jamaican fraudsters alerting her of her winnings. The letter stated that to receive the winnings, Morrow had to pay $3,395 to the lottery company to cover international regulation fees and insurance. The letter also stated that the 20.3% IRS tax would be waived by the company.

Morrow received calls and letters for several months asking for additional monies to cover additional fees. All in all, Morrow lost an estimated $36,445 from this scheme. She also lost an estimated $163,555 from a similar telemarketing scheme out of Spain.

"She often skipped vacations just to ensure that she had money for retirement," said Gillespie. "She is a good woman who believes in God and these people used her faith as tool to get her to believe them."

"Unfortunately, we at ICE, have seen these schemes all too often," said Kenneth A. Smith, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Atlanta. "We urge the public to remain vigilant and remember the old adage - if it is too good to be true, it probably is."

Just last month, ICE announced that it had teamed with Jamaican officials to launch Project JOLT (Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing), an international task force comprised of agents and officers focused on combating Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud operations.

Through the investigative efforts of JOLT, agents with the ICE Office of International Affairs were able to recover $7,500 for Morrow.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, consumers lose billions of dollars a year to cross-border financial crimes such as telemarketing fraud. One of the most common types of telemarketing fraud is the lottery or sweepstakes scam. These schemes typically involve fraudulent telemarketers identifying themselves as lawyers, customs officials or lottery company representatives to potential victims.

If you have been a victim of a scam and have lost money, do not be embarrassed. You need to contact ICE immediately by dialing its 24-hour tip line at 1-877-DHS-2ICE. You may not get your money back, but you may be key to the disruption of a scam that could potentially victimize many others.

The investigation into Morrow's case continues.