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Financial Crimes
05/27/2009

U.S. and Jamaica launch international task force to combat telemarketing fraud

KINGSTON, Jamaica - U.S. and Jamaican officials announced the launch of the Project JOLT (Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing) task force on Wednesday. JOLT is an ICE-led, multi-agency, international task force established to combat Jamaican based telemarketing fraud operations that prey on U.S. citizens and others.

"The Jamaican Constabulary Force will work closely with our international partners in order to minimize and eventually eradicate the lottery scams," said JCF Commissioner Hardley Lewin. "We welcome any assistance and for our part will ensure that a calculated effort is undertaken to deal with the lottery scam."

As the Department of Homeland Security's largest investigative agency with special cross-border immigration and customs authorities and extensive international money laundering investigative expertise, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with its 54 offices in 42 countries, has significant expertise in transnational criminal investigations.

"Those operating telemarketing schemes prey on the vulnerabilities of others in their pursuit of wealth and power," said Scott Hatfield, ICE Operations Chief for the Caribbean and Canada. "ICE will continue to work with our partners in Jamaica as well as private U.S. firms and other U.S. federal agencies to devise plans to stop those who steal from U.S. citizens."

"Citizens in the United States as well as those of other nations are often left destitute by these schemes," said U.S. Charge d'Affairs James T. Heg. "The telemarketing criminals respect no race, age or level of income. Anyone with a phone is vulnerable. It is the hope of the U.S. government that the collaborative tasks forces such as Project JOLT will put a stop to this pernicious crime."

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.

Victims are told that they will receive a sum of money varying from thousands to millions of dollars as the result of an international lottery or sweepstakes win. The fraudsters tell the victims that in order to receive their winnings they have to pay certain advance fees such as insurance, customs duties or taxes.

"As fraud has gone global, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has worked extensively with law enforcement partners around the world in our work to protect U.S. consumers," said Director for the Midwest Region of the FTC Steven Baker. "We look forward to joining forces with the members of Project JOLT to battle these very serious problems."

More than 10 years ago, ICE entered into partnership with Canadian law enforcement to develop Project COLT (Center for Operations Linked to Telemarketing), an initiative aimed at cracking down on telemarketing fraud originating from Canada. Project COLT has been a tremendous success. Since its launch in 1998, the initiative has led to the recovery and return of more than $24 million to the victims of telemarketing fraud.

U.S. partners in Project JOLT include private companies like Western Union and MoneyGram as well as federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.