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Financial Crimes
09/01/2015

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Upstate New York victim of Jamaican lottery scam receives $15,000 in funds recovered by ICE

ALBANY, N.Y. — An elderly Watervliet, New York, man defrauded by Jamaican scammers for nearly $150,000 received a $15,000 check for funds recovered on his behalf by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Postal Inspections Service. 

The man, in his late 80s, received information in the fall of 2013, that stated he had won a lottery prize. He was later contacted by a man who told him he owed taxes and other expenses ranging from $5,000 to $80,000 to receive his prize. The fraudsters cheated him out of nearly $150,000 before his son reported the scam to law enforcement.

HSI special agents, along with U.S. Postal Inspections Service, Pioneer Bank, and Bank of America, identified a bank account where a portion of the illegally obtained funds had been deposited. Working with bank representatives, HSI special agents were able to freeze the funds while establishing they were part of an illegal scam.

The man received a check on Aug.17 for $15,000. The criminal investigation into the fraudsters behind the scam is ongoing.

"Our sincere hope is that the recovery of these funds can begin the healing process for him and his family," said Michael Kennedy, acting special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo. “It should also serve as a warning to the fraudsters, who prey on the elderly, that law enforcement is actively engaged in combating these schemes.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has warned that 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.

Perpetrators will victimize consumers of all ages, backgrounds and income levels, but the elderly are disproportionately targeted. Perpetrators take advantage of the fact that elderly Americans may have cash reserves or other assets to spend on these deceptive offers.

A survey conducted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that 90 percent of respondents reported awareness of consumer fraud, yet two-thirds said it was hard to spot fraud when it is happening. The survey also shows that elderly victims find it difficult to terminate telephone conversations, even when they say 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.

Consumers should report any incidences of telemarketing fraud to the FTC at 1 (877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or online at http://www.ftc.gov. Click on "Consumer Complaint? Report it to the FTC."

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/02/2015